The “Ten Commandments of Good Will”

In our current fractious age in which we struggle to accept difference, it’s interesting to revisit some of my past research on North American Christian responses to the rise of Nazism, the persecution of the Jews, and the Holocaust. Antisemitism was a persistent problem in North American society at that time, and opposition to Hitler was not generally accompanied by concern for his Jewish victims.

One organization that worked against the grain of popular opinion was the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ), led by Rev. Everett R. Clinchy. Founded in 1928, the NCCJ soon created a Commission on International Justice and Goodwill, the aim of which was “to reduce anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, and racial prejudice.” With the rise of Nazism, its efforts increased. Starting in 1934, it sponsored a national Brotherhood Day (later, Brotherhood Week).

In 1938, to mark its 10th anniversary, the NCCJ circulated the “Ten Commandments of Good Will,” a pledge recited in about 2000 communities across the United States. This took place on 20 February 1938, as part of Brotherhood Week and in conjunction with George Washington’s birthday. The “Ten Commandments of Good Will” were prepared by Rev. Dr. Walter W. Van Kirk, Secretary of the Department of International Justice and Good-Will of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America (FCC).[1]

“Ten Commandments of Good Will”

I will honor all men and women regardless of their race or religion.

I will protect and defend my neighbor and my neighbor’s children against the ravages of racial or religious bigotry.

I will exemplify in my own life the spirit of good will and understanding.

I will challenge the philosophy of racial superiority by whomsoever that philosophy may be proclaimed, be these persons kings, emperors, dictators or demagogues.

I will refuse to join or be identified with any organization that has for its purpose the spreading of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, or anti-Protestantism.

I will protest against every manifestation of racial or religious prejudice.

I will do more than live and let live; I will live and help live.

I will, until my dying day, establish comradeship with all those who seek to exalt the spirit of love and reconciliation throughout the world.

I will not be misled by the lying propaganda of those who seek to set race against race or nation against nation.

I will be all things to all men; to the Jew I will be a Jew, to the Christian a Christian, nor will I be divorced from this purpose by threats of personal violence or of social ostracism, so help me God.

[1] “GOOD-WILL’ PRECEPTS BAR INTOLERANCE: ‘ TEN COMMANDMENTS’ ARE ISSUED BY RELIGIOUS GROUP TO MARK BROTHERHOOD DAY.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Feb 13, 1938.; “Topies of Sermons that Will be Preached Tomorrow in Pulpits of the City: Baptist Christian Science Congregational Disciples Ethical Culture Methodist Episcopal Pentecostal Protestant Episcopal TOPICS OF SERMONS IN CITY TOMORROW Reformed Roman Catholic Swedenborgian Unitarian Universalist Waldensian Salvation Army Miscellaneous.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Feb 19, 1938.; Lerond Curry, Protestant-Catholic Relations in America: World War I Through Vatican II (Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1972), n.p.,

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