THAT RIGHT WING
Much in the news these days is the revival in America of the so-called “right wing movement.” The phrase refers to political and economic ideology. The extreme left wing is communism in the form practiced in Russia and Red China. The extreme right wing is capitalism in its purest form—capitalism without state intervention. The terms are sometimes misleading since a dictatorship such as in a country like Portugal is also sometimes labeled as “right wing.” There are variations of the extremes as well. There are tendencies towards the left called socialism. This socialism is found in various degrees in different countries such as the Netherlands, Britain, Austria, America. In fact it appears as if even Russia and Red China are locked in an ideological dispute about how far left Communism should really go. There are tendencies towards the right depending upon how much a certain individual or group resists government interference in the economic affairs of a nation.
The revival of “rightists” in this country has occupied the attention not only of politicians and news media, but also of church leaders. There is a growing fear among the citizenry that our country with its liberal administrations, favoring more and bigger government, is running down the road to socialism. This socialism is, so it is claimed, but a hop, skip and jump from communism as practiced behind the iron and bamboo curtains. Closely connected with this tendency towards socialism to be found in our country is also a growing tendency to placate the Communists at all costs, to compromise, to meet their demands, to retreat in the face of threats, to surrender one’s rights rather than offend, to be “red rather than dead.” It is this strong tendency that is being so strenuously resisted by the “right wing.”
There are, of course, degrees of “right wingism” also. There is the radical John Birch Society which called Eisenhower a Communist and demanded the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren. But there are many other organizations as well—the Christian Crusade under the leadership of Dr. Billy James Jargis, the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade of Dr. Fred C. Schwarz, the Christian Freedom Foundation which publishes Christian Economics and has as its motto “We believe in less government, the free market and the faithful application of Christian principles to all economic activities,” and others. The issues revolve for the most part around the liberal programs of Democratic leaders and Republican liberals who urge an increase of government interference in business, medical care of the aged, increasing welfare and relief payments, aid to schools aid to all kinds of projects and organizations throughout the country. Bat beyond this is the fear that the Communists are gaining in the cold war, and that the reason for these gains is the tendency to conciliate Communists, to adopt their methods, to retreat before their advances. The movement has attracted wide-spread attention partly because it has been denounced by such men as President Kennedy, former President Eisenhower, 1960’s presidential candidate Nixon. Even Timerecently devoted a lengthy article to ridicule right wingers. These men have condemned the extremists on the right as well as on the left arguing that both are a grave danger to our government and country.
The remarkable part of it is that this right wing movement has seized the churches and moved many church leaders to action. Evident from the names of the organizations listed above is the fact that the “Christians” are carrying a big part of the load of right-wing opposition. Even in Reformed circles many ministers and laymen have suddenly taken up the banner of Anti-Communism and Anti-Liberalism, spreading the gospel of conservatism and urging the people to take battle with Red infiltration and threat. The chief hero of right wingers is Senator Barry Goldwater from Arizona, although some extreme right wing groups denounce even him as “too much a liberal.”
The fact that the church is caught up in this movement makes it worth some consideration on our part.
It is not my intention in this article to argue the various virtues of “conservatism” vs. “liberalism” or vice versa. Nor is it my purpose to rise in the defense of any political or economic theory. This can better be done by those who have studied political and economic philosophy. It is evident to all that this country is rapidly drifting the way of socialism, that the capitalism of the last century and the early part of this century is a thing of the past. It is equally evident that socialism is but a road mark on the highway to Communism. It is furthermore beyond dispute that the communism of the iron curtain countries is materialistic and atheistic in the crudest possible form. Communism is therefore an enemy of the Church of Christ.
But the question remains whether or not that commits the Christian to the position of right-wing movements. This is highly debatable. I do not mean to say that the child of God need not evaluate the various political and economic theories of the day and come to some conclusions about them. If he is to understand his times as well as participate in the fulfillment of the obligations and responsibilities of citizenship, he must do so intelligently. But this does not alter the fact that there are evident dangers in “rightwingism.”
In the first place, the right wing movement is usually based upon the premise that democracy and capitalism as incorporated into our Constitution and developed in our land stand in the Christian tradition. The Constitution, so it is claimed, is based on Christian principles; the theory of Capitalism is supposed to come from Calvinistic theology. This is not true. The first leaders and political philosophers of our country who composed the Constitution and pushed the Republic down its rocky road were not Christians—surely not Reformed believers. Rather the political ideology which prompted the Constitution was based on French rationalism and Deism and influenced by the French revolution. With regard to capitalism—whether or not the principles of Christian stewardship imply capitalistic economic thought—it is, at least historically untrue that this economic theory is an outgrowth of Calvinism as is often maintained.
In the second place, although the people of God must come to their own conclusions about questions of political and economic theory, the Bible does not ever approve of one system over against another. And in doing so, the Bible does not command the believer to obey one government while giving the same believer permission to rebel against another. Always the calling of the faithful pilgrim is to respect, honor and obey all in authority over him for Christ’s sake. It is to be feared that Christians often forget this fundamental principle of the believer’s life.
In the third place, and by no means least important, it is becoming increasingly evident that the church is so preoccupied with the enemy across the sea and behind the iron curtain that the enemy at home is allowed to destroy the church without opposition. Anxious concern for communism all but closes the eyes of the church to the more insidious and frightening dangers of false doctrine and worldliness that eat as a cancer from within destroying the vitals of the church and robbing it of its right to be called “Christian.”
So it has been throughout the ages. The enemies that constituted the gravest threat to the well-being of the church were not the enemies of atheism and false religion, but the enemies of heresy and worldliness. In the Old Testament times already this was the case. The enemies of the true Israelites were not the heathen nations of Amman and Moab, and Philistia and Assyria-rather these enemies were the apostate seed born within the church. They were the real threats to the nation. But little has this changed in the New Testament. Christ was crucified by His brethren according to the flesh. The church that Christ left on earth has never been overly troubled by atheistic religion, by materialistic philosophies of one sort or another. They were not endangered by heathen nations who lived far away. Their enemies were the enemies within the church who sought to destroy her from within. They came not with weapons of physical warfare but with the far more dangerous weapons of heresy and worldliness. They came not from without; they were born within the ranks. This has not changed today. Supposing that through the efforts of many millions of right-wingers, Communism is halted; are we then to suppose that the church is safe? Much more likely it is that by that time the church will have been overcome with heresy and worldliness and will have lost its distinctiveness just as surely as if Communism had swept the land. The evidences of this state of affairs are sadly enough on every hand. What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?
PRAYER IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The United States Supreme Court plans to issue a ruling shortly on whether it is constitutional to say daily prayers in public schools. The issue came to the highest court from New York State. The New York Board of Regents for all public schools within the state recommended in 1951 that the following prayer be used in the schools:
Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon thee, and we beg thy blessing upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.
The use of this prayer was challenged by five families from Long Island sending children to four different schools. One family with three children are Unitarians; two families with four children are Jewish; one family with one child are members of the Society for Ethical Culture; one family with two children are unbelievers. The Regents argued that the prayer was in the public interest because it taught children “as set forth in the Declaration of Independence, that Almighty God is their creator and that by him they have been endowed with their inalienable rights.” The parents argued that the prayer is contrary to their beliefs; that it favors one belief over nonbelief; and that it necessarily results in coercion on the children.
The New York Courts rejected the pleas of the parents saying that although the Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” this was not an unconstitutional “establishment of religion.” Now the Supreme Court must decide.
I suppose the authors of the prayer made it as unoffending as it is possible to make a prayer. And in doing so they really never succeeded in composing a prayer at all—for a prayer this can hardly be called. Nevertheless, the question involves the courts once again in the dilemma of our state controlled public school system. Is any mention of the name of God 2 religion? It would seem that it is, according to the Constitution. Then the prayer will have to be banned. But this results in unbelief’s being promoted by the schools. And then the question is, Is not unbelief equally a religion? If “religion” is broadly defined as being “a man’s opinion of God according to which opinion he regulates his life,” then certainly to deny God is also a religion, for it is an opinion that governs his life. But then the court is favoring the religion of unbelief over the religion of the mention of Almighty God. Then other people have an equal right to object. From this dilemma there is no escape—except to give the schools back to the parents where the schools belong in the first place.