Their Failure by Richard King

Story type: Essay

It is so difficult for men and women, as it were, to really help the East-end while living in West-end comfort. It is so difficult for religious people to realise that the finest prayer of all is to “play the game.” But the poor understand the wonder of that prayer full well; it is, indeed, I rather fancy, the only prayer that they really do understand, the only one which really and truly touches them and helps them on their way. And, when I see among the very poor the simply magnificent human material which is allowed to run to waste, misunderstood, unheeded, I sometimes feel that the only hope of real lasting good will be found by those who work outside the Church, not among those who work within it. For those who have worked within it have let so many generations of fine youth run to seed, that the time has come for practical lay-workers to take on the job. The poor need more practical schemes for their guidance and their good, and fewer prayer-meetings and sing-songs from the hymnals. For, to my mind, the very basis of all real religion is a practical basis. It is useless to live with, as it were, your head in Heaven if you stand knee-deep in filth. Of what good is your own personal salvation if you have not done your best to make the world better and happier for others? To worry about their salvation is less than useless–if that be possible. Providing they have something to live for, something to make life worth living, surroundings which bring out all that is best and bravest and finest in their natures, their heavenly salvation will take care of itself. The pity is that there is so much magnificent youthful promise which prejudice and tradition and social wrongs never allow to be fulfilled. There is only one real religion, and that is the religion of making life happier and more profitable to others. You may not make them pray in the process, you may not make them sing hymns–prayers and hymn-singing are merely beautiful accompaniments–in a practical uplifting of the human state, the human “soul.” “Love”–that is the only thing which really matters, Love–with Charity, and Self-sacrifice, and Unselfishness, and Justice–which are, after all, the attributes of this Love.

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