Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Reflections on Rock Center

I had to visit NYC on business for a couple days. I stayed near Rockefeller Center, the elegant study in urban design built by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. as a real estate speculation. Although it was too cold this morning to stand outside trying to get seen in the crowd by the Today show camera crews, I did venture over there to see the famous Christmas tree and skating rink and watch some of the holiday hustle and bustle.

I found the hustle and bustle as expected. What I did not expect to find was a plaque in front of the rink with Rockefeller's personal credo. It reminded me that he was not only fabulously wealthy, but that he was also a deeply principled human being, whose generosity toward liberal religion, among other things, built and funded a new Chicago campus for our own Meadville-Lombard, and built and funded the Riverside Church in New York for Harry Emerson Fosdick after he had been dismissed from his previous pulpit for being too controversial.

Here's his credo:

I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.

I believe that the law was made for man and not man for the law; that government is the servant of the people and not their master.

I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.

I believe that thrift is essential to well ordered living and that economy is a prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business or personal affairs.

I believe that truth and justice are fundamental to an enduring social order.

I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man's word should be as good as his bond; that character -- not wealth or power or position -- is of supreme worth.

I believe that the rendering of useful service is the common duty of mankind and that only in the purifying fire of sacrifice is the dross of selfishness consumed and the greatness of the human soul set free.

I believe in an all-wise and all-loving God, named by whatever name, and that the individual's highest fulfillment, greatest happiness, and widest usefulness are to be found in living in harmony with His will.

I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might.


At December 15, 2005 at 7:08:00 AM EST, Anonymous Philocrites said...

This is great stuff!

Although Rockefeller gave a lot of money to launch the University of Chicago -- and the school's chapel is named after him -- I don't believe he directly aided Meadville. Does anyone know for sure? I always assumed that First Unitarian and Meadville moved into the university neighborhood.

At December 15, 2005 at 11:40:00 AM EST, Blogger fausto said...

My understanding is that it was a gift from the Rockefellers that financed the original M-L merger and relocation to Chicago, while JDR Jr. was running the Rockefeller foundation. His father had essentially founded the university, but the family wanted to continue to build not only U of C generally, but its divinity program in particular, into a much bigger force than it had previously been. At the same time he beefed up U of C's divinity faculty from other denoms as well.

He also did the same thing at Union and Columbia. Although there was no dedicated Unitarian or Universalist program at Columbia, building Riverside Church and moving the liberal Presbyterian Auburn Seminary to NYC were parts of that effort, and it was the twin crucibles of Columbia Teachers College and Riverside that produced our own (formerly Presbyterian) Sophia Lyons Fahs. (John Dewey, Humanist Ass'n founder Corliss Lamont, and Granddad Fausto were also part of the Columbia/TC scene of that time.)

The thing that especially strikes me about Rockefeller's credo is how close the principles he articulates are to Channing Unitarianism, even though JDR was a Baptist (as was Fosdick). It's almost as if Channing or James Freeman Clarke could have written it. It's so close, in fact, that I think it would be an instructive excercise to compare his statement with our current Seven Principles and ask what we have left out, and whether each omission constitutes a gain or a loss.

At July 20, 2006 at 9:57:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is noteworthy that a FREE copy of Rockefeller's Credo can be obtained IF a person has the desire to enter the Rockefeller Center and ask for it. Hardly a person ever ventures inside to obtain a copy. Everybody stands outside the Center and wishes to be as wealthy as Rockefeller, but nobody cares about his values. The money did not make the man, the man made the money, and the man is the mind of the man, not the sum of his flesh and bones.


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