Read LETTING THE CROWDS BE GOOD - CHAPTER XIII of Crowds A Moving-Picture of Democracy, free online book, by Gerald Stanley Lee, on


We are having and are about to have notably and truly successful men who have the humility and faithfulness, the spiritual distinction of true and great success.

I want to interpret, if I can, these men.  I would like to put with the great martyrs, with the immortal heroes of failure, these modern silent, unspoken, unsung mighty men, the heroes of success.  I look forward to seeing them placed among the trophies of religion, in the heart of mankind at last.

I cannot stand by and watch these men being looked upon by good people as men the New Testament made no room for, secretly disapproved of by religious men and women, as being successes, as being little, noisy, disturbing, contradictions of the New Testament as talking back to the Cross.

These things I have been trying to say about the Cross as a means of expressing goodness to crowds have brought me as time goes on into close quarters with many men to whom I pay grateful tribute, men of high spirit, who strenuously disagree with me.

I am not content unless I can find common ground with men like these.

They are wont to tell me when we argue about it that whatever I may be able to say for success as a means of touching the imaginations of crowds with goodness, great or attractive or enthralling characters are not produced by success.  Success does not produce great characters.  It is now and always has been failure that develops the characters of the men who a truly great.

Perhaps failure is not the only way.

When I was talking with - a little while ago about Non-Gregarious’s goodness and how it succeeded, he was afraid that if his goodness succeeded there must have been something the matter with it.

I could see that he was wondering what it was.

Non’s success troubled him.  He did not think it was exactly religious.  “Real religion” he said, “was self-sacrifice.  There always had to be something of the Cross about real religion.”

I said that Non’s religion was touched at every point with the Cross.

It seemed to me that it was the spirit of eagerness in it that was the great thing about the Cross.  If Non would all but have died to make the Golden Rule work in this world, if he daily faced ruin and risked the loss of everything he had in this life to prove that the Golden Rule was a success, that is if he really had a Cross and if he really faced it-dying on it, or not dying on it, could not have made him one whit more religious or less religious than he was.  What Non was willing to die for, was his belief in the world, and scores of good Christian people tried in those early days of his business struggle to keep him from believing in the world.  There was hardly a day at first but some good Christian would step into Non’s office and tell him the world would make him suffer for it if he kept on recklessly believing in it and doing all those unexpected, unconventional, honest things that somehow, apparently, he could not help doing.

They all told him he could not succeed.  They said he was a failure.  He would suffer for it.

I would like to express if I can, what seems to be Non’s point of view toward success and failure.

If Non were trying to express his idea of the suffering of Christ, I imagine he would say that in the hardest time of all when his body was hanging on the Cross, the thing that was really troubling Christ was not that he was being killed.  The thing that was troubling him was that the world really seemed, at least for the time being, the sort of world that could do such things.  He did not take his own cross too personally or too literally as the world’s permanent or fixed attitude toward goodness or every degree of goodness.  There was a sense in which he did not believe except temporarily in his own cross.  He did not think that the world meant it or that it would ever own up that it meant it.

Probably if we had crosses to-day the hard part of dying on one would be, not dying on it, but thinking while one was dying on it that one was in the sort of world that could do such things.

It is Non’s religion not to believe every morning as he goes down to his office that he is in a mean world, a world that would want to crucify him for doing his work as well as he could.

Perhaps this was the spirit of the first Cross, too.  We have every reason to believe that if Christ could have come back in the flesh three days after the crucifixion and lived thirty-three years longer in it, he would have occupied himself exclusively in standing up for the world that had crucified him, in saying that it was a small party in a small province that did it, that it was temporary and that they did it because they were in a hurry.

It was not Christ, but the comparatively faint-believing, worldly minded saints that have enjoyed dying on crosses since, who have been proud of being martyrs.

Among those who have tried the martyr way of doing things Jesus is almost the only one who has not in his heart abused the world.  Most martyrs have made a kind of religion out of not expecting anything of it and of trying to get out of it.  “And ye, all ye people, are ye suitable or possible people for me to be religious with?” the typical martyr exclaims to all the cities, to all the inventors, to the scientists and to the earth-redeemers, to his neighbours and his fellow men.  It was not until science in the person of Galileo came to the rescue of Christianity and began slowly to bring it back to where Christ started it-as a noble, happy enterprise of standing up for this world and of asserting that these men who were in it are good enough to be religious here and to be the sons of God now-that Christianity began to function.  Religion has been making apparently a side trip for nearly twelve hundred years, a side trip into space or into the air or into the grave for holiness for the eternal, and for the infinite.

Doubtless very often people on crosses really have been holier than the people who knew how to be good without being crucified.  Sometimes it has been the other way.  It would have been just as holy in Non to make the gospel work in New York as to make a blaze, a show or advertisement of how wicked the world was, and of how inefficient the gospel was-by going into insolvency.

He has had his cross, but instead of dying on it, he has taken it up and carried it.  Scores of risks and difficulties that he has grappled with would have become crosses at once if equally good, but less resourceful men, had had them.  Letting one’s self be threatened with the cross a thousand times is quite as brave as dying on one once.  The spirit, or at least the shadow, of a cross must always fall daily on any life that is stretching the world, that is freeing the lives of other men against their wills.  The whole issue of whether there will be a cross or the threat of a cross turns on a man’s insight into human nature and his quiet and practical imagination concentrated upon his work.

Not dying on a cross is a matter of technique.  One sees how not to, and one does not.  It might be said that the world has two kinds of redeemers, its cross-redeemers and its success-redeemers.  The very best are on crosses, many of them.  Perhaps in the development of the truth the cross-redeemers come first; they are the pioneers.  Then come the success-redeemers, then everybody!