To Bruce Barton
Oct. 22, 1913.
Mr. Bruce Barton,
416 West 13th Street, New York City. Dear Sir:
The American Federation of Labor as you are aware is as the name implies a federation of nationals, Internationals, central bodies, state federations and federal labor unions directly affiliated. The total membership of the affiliated organization is now over two million. This shows the impossibility of answering your questions in regard to church attendance.
In the other questions you use the terms "the Labor Union Man" evidently in the type sense in which some have used the terms the "economic man," the "political man," or the "average man" of statistics. In my opinion there is no such thing as a type of a class of men, what the term usually covers is something without reality or existence, of no use except for speculative purposes. There is no such thing as "the Labor Union Man." There are many men who belong to labor unions, and one man differs from another in nature, in convictions, in beliefs. As individuals but not as members of labor unions these men may have any relations that they desire with any church they may favor. If you go among the men who work you will find some individuals for whom the Christian church has comfort and aid; you will find others indifferent or skeptical; you will find others who regard the church as the embodiment of hypocritical cant.
Each man counts, but none too highly. It is therefore manifestly useless and misleading to formulate any generalization about "the Labor Union Man."
As to whether modern churches represent the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter, you find just as many opinions as you find thinking working men. What Jesus of Nazareth would think of modern churches is not a question of fact but of supposition. He is not physically living now and the church did not exist then. Any speculative question as to what would have taken place had history developed differently might be of dialectic interest to a few individuals but the labor movement finds its power and effectiveness must be devoted to the real present problems arising in the work of toil and practical affairs. There is so much to do for the misery and suffering in the world, that organized labor cannot afford to turn aside from these problems that only we can solve, to promote any other cause, however worthy, which might cause dissentions among our members and defeat our real purposes.
Very truly yours,
Saml Gompers. President. American Federation of Labor.
TLpS, reel 176, vol. 188, pp. 578-79, SG Letterbooks, DLC.