This is no book of dry theory, it is a “how to” book. Jones believed that if we fail to deal with the tough issues, we essentially show Christianity and the Kingdom of God as a viable alternative to be weak, hesitant and hopelessly inadequate. Aside from the enormity of this subject, Christ’s Alternative also holds a message for you personally. It strikes at the inner thoughts we sometimes hold about the reality of the Kingdom of God and our place in it. Jones outlines our ontological relationship clearly and his reasoning is cogent and persuasive. See if you agree with his view that the Kingdom of God is the “vast, indefinable and defining, radical, redemptive, refining, transforming, enlivening and powerful key to everything else there is.” Jones writes that whether you recognize and embrace Kingdom principles or not, they will work for us, even if we “stumble” upon them. Prepare to be completely revolutionized and revived for authentic and real life.
In this book, written sixteen years ago, I said that this generation, or at the most the next will have to decide between materialistic, atheistic Communism and the Kingdom of God on earth. I thought it would take a generation for this issue to come to a head. In half a generation the issue has become acute. The book was written in 1935 before Russia had attacked Finland, had absorbed the Baltic States, and had turned imperialistic in general. The Russian experiment was apparently going to be demonstrated initially within Russia. That meant that at that time we were more interested in the Russian experiment than afraid of her imperialism. Along with many others, my attitude toward the experiment was more sympathetic than it would be today. I see Russia now as a world danger. Nevertheless, I find that the main issues I pointed out then have become intensified and the main prophecies fulfilled. I felt that force used in the means would persist in the ends, and it has been so. What Communists gain by force they must hold by force.
I felt that with no objective moral universe—the only morality being that which gets you to your goal of Communism—there would be a sense of expediency running through the whole. That has happened. We do not trust the word of Communists, on the whole, for they are ready to use truth or untruth if it, in their view, forwards the cause of Communism. I was sure that the dictatorship of the proletariat would become a dictatorship over the proletariat, and it has been so. The state has not faded out, as orthodox Marxism prophesied, but has become more ubiquitous and dictatorial. It has become a police state. But this book was primarily written not to emphasize the weaknesses or the strengths of Communism, but to present the Christian alternative to Communism. In rereading what I wrote I find myself holding to the main thesis of the book. That remains intact. There is a Christian alternative, and our emphasis should be to apply that alternative so that a soil might be created in which Communism could not grow. But our attitude of fear and hysteria has thrown the emphasis so strongly upon hunting out supposed or real Communists that we have forgotten almost entirely that our main defence is an economy so sound that Communism becomes irrelevant. Since this book was written, capitalism has shown signs of change. Profit sharing is modifying the system from being fiercely competitive to being fruitfully co-operative. That points in the right direction. The profit motive is legitimate and good provided the profits are shared widely. Communism as a system is not the answer. It will break down ultimately through inherent weaknesses. We must be ready with a demonstration of the Christian answer. The Christian answer is the Kingdom of God on earth. This book attempts to expound that answer and points to its application. I am gratified to know that the main plea is still relevant, and to my mind more relevant now than ever.
I had been reading a good deal on the great experiment in Russia for two reasons. One was the pressure I could feel in the whole of the East, and in the West, an indefinable sense of being pressed upon by an unseen and almost unknown something: that “something” was the fact of a new order in our world midst, with new principles and a different goal. This ‘sense’ rather haunted me. For I felt that its issues had not been fairly and squarely met. It gave one that sense of uneasiness that one has when he has a big, difficult, and unpleasant job on his hands, which he knows he has to tackle, but which he postpones by doing in the meantime various unimportant things, all the time knowing that, sooner or later, he must come to grips with the bigger thing. His absorption with the unimportant cannot quite make him forget the untackled task. It hangs over him. The sensitive minds in Christendom know that sooner or later they must come to grips with the issues raised by the Marxist experiment in Russia. But to do so would not mean a theological debate (had that been all there was involved, we should have been in the fray long ago), but the question of a new world-order. That is disturbing. Hence the hesitation. We read propaganda for and against the experiment, hoping that will settle it.
But it does not. For through the rifts of the clouds of controversy we see the fact of a new order emerging, different and challenging to the whole basis of present-day civilization. In spite of the clouds, we can see that the Russians are making amazing progress; for instance, their literacy has gone up from 35 per cent in 1913 to 85 per cent today; instead of 3,500,000 pupils in 1912, there are now over 25,000,000 pupils and students; the circulation of daily papers is twelve times what it was in the Czarist days. They have risen from the eighth nation in total industrial production in 1927 to second today. Only the United States now surpasses them in total industrial production. And they have accomplished this in five years. The total output of Soviet products, excluding the agricultural, is 334 times what it was in 1914. They are in the process of creating in Moscow what will be the tallest and perhaps the most imposing building in the world, the parliamentary building and memorial to Lenin—symbol of the fact that they expect to surpass all the material and cultural achievements of the rest of the world. And in doing this there is a repudiation of all religion. These two facts of accomplishment and irreligion put together make the problem of Communism in Russia the untouched task of Christendom. The Christian world is uneasy, because it knows that with all its absorption in many unimportant things, it must sooner or later face this question with an adequate answer. And it is dawning upon it that the adequate answer will not be the production of an argument, but the production of a better order. That pressure is the pressure of a veritable thorn in the side of Christendom. The second reason I had for reading all I could on Russia was that I was going to glimpse it for myself on my way back to India. I hoped to get the feel and the drift of the great experiment at first hand.
But all the books I read left me with a sense of incompleteness. Something had not been said. Many of the books were written from the Christian standpoint, and were able and incisive and moving. They were tremendous in letting us see what was happening in Russia, and moving in their appeal to the Christian world to do something about it. But when it came to putting up the Christian alternative the emphasis seemed weak or hesitating. They seemed to take it for granted that we know what the Christian alternative is. And that is not quite plain. Just as I had felt the pressure of Russia on the one side, I had felt a bigger pressure on the other— something vast and overwhelming and challenging and adequate—the Kingdom of God. Our Christian writers have come in sight of it and its interpretation, but haven’t interpreted it and presented it as a head-on and sweeping answer to Marxist Communism. As I sat one night reading on an ocean liner, the Inner Voice raised the question with me whether I should not attempt that interpretation. It was stronger than my words indicate—it was a call, almost a mandate. I shrank from the task for many weeks. Questions which Marxism raises involve social and economic specializations which are not in my field. I am a simple interpreter of Christ to the East, and I must stick to my task. But then the increasing realization came that I should be sticking to my task if I were to attempt to interpret the Christian message in the light of the Communistic challenge. For to interpret the Christian message is my field. Fortunately, when I returned from Russia I went straight to the Ashram at Sat Tal in the Himalayas where, with a group of about a hundred persons, we studied together for two months the Christian alternative to Communism. This gave me the immense advantage of getting the reactions and the corrections of the group to the message contained in this book. We emerged from those two months of corporate study with our hearts on fire. There was an open door before us. The Kingdom of God on earth was that open door. We had an answer, and we felt that it was an adequate one. But while we felt that we had an adequate answer in the Kingdom of God, we knew that our interpretation of that answer would be partial and incomplete. Our hope is that this interpretation may at least throw open doors for possible advance. If this rough-hewn attempt stimulates more skilled and painstaking workers to correct and to polish the program presented in these pages, the author will be grateful. We shall need an army of thinkers and workers who will pool their thought and plans before an adequate Christian alternative will clearly emerge. It is now in the process of emerging. But our time is short. The world mind is being made up and we must be ready with an adequate program. I take the announcement at Nazareth as the starting point of that program, but only as the starting point. If I seem to be putting more weight on it than it was intended to bear, which I do not believe to be the case, my inward justification is that I do not rest the program upon this announcement alone, but upon the sum total of the attitudes and teachings of the New Testament. The writing of this preface is being done at about the geographical center of India. It is Sunday morning and my missionary colleague calls to me that Moscow is broadcasting in English and that I must come. The intelligent and able speaker ends up his address by announcing that a prize of a book will be given to the best answer, sent in by the radio listeners, to the following questions: “Why is there no unemployment in the U.S.S.R.?” and “Is there individual liberty in the Soviet system?” Sunday morning, quiet and peaceful, in this ancient land of India— and those two questions intrude! No unemployment? In a world suffering the horrors of unemployment? There must be a catch somewhere. But whether there is or isn’t, the whole question of the Russian Experiment is intruding into the Sabbath-like but ominous calm of the East, and into the struggling strenuousness of the West. The Christian answer must be unmistakable and clear—that is, if there is any Christian answer.
E. STANLEY JONES
December 2, 1934
Leonard Theological College
Jubbulpore, C. P., India