Editor of the Standard Bearer,
Dear Mr. Editor:
Will you please allow me some space in our Standard Bearer again to comment on the contributions concerning the C. L. A.?
I am convinced that the C. L. A. is not being fairly judged by too many among us. Because it promotes also the material interests of the laborer it is condemned as an organization that is interested only in the things of this world. Rev. Hanko has given extensive quotations from C. L. A. literature to try to prove that point. Personally I cannot see anything unchristian even in what he quoted, not if properly interpreted. The Rev. Hanko stated in his last article that especially the statement which he underscored, “It (the C. L. A.) is opposed to, and ready to fight oppression by employers and their agents” expresses an entirely different sentiment than that of the Christian who is not interested, first of all, in his material welfare, but in the will of God, whom he seeks to serve with all his heart and soul and strength. That is beyond me. I was always of the opinion that a full orbed Christian life meant that we must fight whenever we meet it. Surely oppression of workers by employers or their agents is also sin. Would Rev. Hanko really contend that to fight such sin, not with violence but through peaceful organization efforts, is contrary to the Christian life?
This quotation from a recent piece of propaganda literature of the C. L. A. is much more biblical, I believe:
“Basic to a proper understanding of Biblical principles of Social justice and their application is recognition of the fact that SIN is the cause of all the discord, strife and injustices in the relationships between employers and employees. The C. L. A. is pledged to fight this sin in order to establish proper, just relationships. It rejects the theory of the necessity of the class-struggle, because it conflicts with the Scriptural demands for love among men all created after the image of God, denies the Biblical conception of the organic unity of the human race, and is utterly materialistic. Christian principles demand that there be cooperation between individuals and various groups in society, respect for one another’s rights, promotion of each other’s and the general welfare, and recognition of divinely instituted authority. Application of these principles will bring social reform.”
“The C. L. A. organizes workers in trade and industrial unions for the purpose of propagating these principles and applying them through practical measures: for the elimination of injustices and the establishment and maintaining of righteousness. Because of the independence of workers and their responsibilities toward one another the C. L. A. believes that all workers should be organized, but contends also that those who confess Christian principles of life must establish their own independent unions, in order that they may collectively make the application of those principles effective.”
“The C. L. A. also takes the position that Christian workers should not be members of labor or other social organization which in their principles or practices violate Christian principles of life and do not recognize Scriptural precepts as the infallible rule for all of life, including organization activity. It holds that all workers who join such organizations thereby become responsible for what such organizations do, and guilty before God of the violations of Biblical precepts in which such organizations may engage.”
That, Mr. Editor, expresses a healthy Christian view. It is militant, well-balanced Christianity. I cannot escape the impression that Rev. Hanko and others are unbalanced in their views. Mr. Gritters in his article showed very clearly that for a Christian to be interested in the advancement of material interests, so long as these interests are not primary, is not wrong, necessary in fact. But Rev. Hanko comes back with the same old argument about the sinfulness of seeking material things as an end in themselves. Who has ever contended that that is right? I can assure you that the C. L. A. and those who give leadership to it are not first of all fighting for the cause because of material interests. I know better. If material things were first they would have given up long ago. They know that through other unions much more could be done, materially. No, they are fighting, against tremendous odds, for the right of Christian workers to work under just labor conditions, at their chosen trade, without membership in an ungodly union such as the C. I. O. and A. F. of L. They are spending large sums of money time and again, with no hope of financial return, simply to protect a few Christian men from those unions. And what are most of us doing to help? Sitting on the sidelines and criticizing!
One of the chief objections still seems to be that the C. L. A. in principle accepts the right of the Christian to strike. In doing so it very strictly circumscribed the conditions under which a strike might be called as a last resort. The conditions complained of must have been put forth to come to a peaceful settlement, including the offer to the employer to submit the dispute to arbitration. Then, finally, after an unjust employer has refused to meet just demands, spite of his ability to meet them, and has refused to submit the dispute to arbitration, the employees have the right to refuse to continue to work, to strike, so says the C. L. A. And then it goes on to say that in the strike no violence of any kind may be used. It must be a peaceful strike, entirely within the law.
Now anyone would say, it seems to me, that is a very conservative and Christian position. But no, some among us still find fault with it. It is still force they say. Rev. Better has already shown that that is debatable and that it is very difficult to state whether certain actions can be called force and whether or not it is proper to use it at certain times. I simply do not believe that there is anything unchristian in the calling of a strike under such conditions as set forth by the C. L. A.
It is of course more or less a dead issue anyway, as has been said before. The C. L. A. will perhaps never call one. Arbitration is the order of the day. The C. L. A. already before the government acted stated that strikes during the war were not to be tolerated under any conditions, and that all disputes should be settled by government appointed arbitration boards. We now have the War Labor Board for that purpose. And very likely after the war that Board will continue to function under a different name. The C. L. A. will not allow any strike if there is an arbitration board, appointed by the government, with final authority to settle disputes.
But appeal to such a board would undoubtedly also be wrong, according to the views of Rev. Hanko and others. Suppose that the C. L. A. were in a dispute with an unreasonable, unjust employer, who could afford to pay fair wages, but refused to do so. Finally the C. L. A. would appeal to the War Labor or some such body. That Board would look into the matter and order the employer to comply with the C. L. A. demands. That would be wrong too, I suppose. Why? Because that Board would have been used by the C. L. A. to gain the just demands which it otherwise could not gain. That Board would then be coercive means in the hands of the organization to gain its ends. And Rev. Hanko has said that a Christian may never use coercive means to gain his ends.
Now some may say that I’m carrying that too far. Perhaps. But no further than Rev. Hanko, Mr. Ten Elshof and others have carried it. This is what I want to bring out: that those men are emphasizing a truth to the extreme where they are losing proper balance. Basic to their arguments is this idea: that the Christian must be satisfied with whatever position he is placed in because that is the will of God. I challenge that. We cannot so easily determine what is the will of God. I do not believe that it is the will of God that men should work for wages that are not adequate to give their families proper care, to educate their children in the Christian School, to contribute to Kingdom causes, and, that he must be satisfied with that even though he knows that the employer is well able to pay adequate wages, etc. I do not believe that when a Christian fights against social injustices, against sin, he is then in revolt against the will of God. Witnessing, of which Rev. Hanko likes to speak, means more than talking: it also means taking action against sin, to remove it!
This is the danger that is threatening us: that we become passive entirely, that we simply sit down and say that things as they are going are going according to the will of God and that we may do nothing to try to change it, lest we fight against God. That is an unbalanced and dangerous position. Let us rather take this position: that whatever is sinful is contrary to the will of God, and that therefore we must oppose it with all that is in us. That is more Biblical Pm sure. When we take that position we will be more militant than we are today. Then we will not merely take negative action, against unchristian unions, but we will not stop there: we will then also take positive action to apply the principles which we confess. And then we’ll all be C. L. A. supporters.
Once more, Mr. Editor, let’s be on our guard against unbalanced views. Even Rev. Fetter, whose article I appreciated, is inclined toward extremism when he claims that the bread question is only incidental. I wonder whether that is the right word. We agree, of course, that the spiritual interests come first. But, the procuring of our daily bread is more than incidental to it. It is God’s will that His people shall have a sufficient amount of it. The patriarchs of old were men with large possessions, given to them by God. He gave to Israel of old a land flowing with milk and honey and gave laws to protect the poor against want. The whole creation, now lying in sin, is God’s. His people are called upon to be instruments in His hand to render the glory of it again unto Him. The real test of the Christian is this: to be spiritually minded, to place first things first, while enjoying a sufficiency of the material things. The bread question is more than incidental in the plan of God. The danger of falling into worship of the material is there, I grant. But, that danger must not cause us to fall into the extreme position of saying that to seek the advancement of material interests is wrong. That is not Scriptural.