Dissent is not an option, it is a duty.
A duty that confronts covenant youth wherever and whenever they see evil, injustice, and wrong.
A duty that has its motive not in hateful revenge, but the love of God and the neighbor.
A duty that is not bogged down in negative self destruction, but in the positive expression of the principles of one’s Christian faith.
A duty that is to be expressed not in lawlessness, but within the framework of the existing laws.
Since dissent is a matter of conscience and duty, we should address ourselves in this last article on this subject, to the question, how should covenant youth become involved in expressing dissent.
We must keep in mind the important distinction between the involvement of the institute of the church and the organism of the church.
It is especially true in our day, that the church as institute is getting much too involved in social-political issues. The modern church has virtually abandoned her calling to preach the Word of God, and instead adopted a program of social action and involvement. This takes on many forms, pronouncements by the official church bodies on social-political issues, sports programs for the underprivileged in the neighborhood, demonstrations on behalf of a certain cause, clergymen becoming so involved in civil rights organizations that they have no time for their duties as a minister of the Word of God.
This is not to say that the church institute has nothing to do with issues that are of a social or political nature. The calling of the church is to preach the Word of God and the Word of God speaks on many of these issues. The people of God need the guidance of the Word as it applies to problems relating to their daily lives. These include such subjects as labor unions and their evil, rioting and its corruption, the political implications of world government as it relates to the coming of anti-Christ, war and the Scriptures, lawlessness or obedience to those in authority, witnessing to our neighbors concerning our faith in God, racial unrest and what the Christian attitude toward his neighbor must be.
Besides this, the institute of the church must decide concerning issues of dispute between brethren, and sometimes these issues pertain to social and economic questions, or for that matter any aspect of our life. Hence in the past our assemblies have considered the issue of labor unions, of training the military on the Sabbath day, etc. If for example one of our young people would become involved in a public demonstration and be consequently thrown in jail, his consistory would have to take a position whether that was right or wrong of him.
Here, however, we deal with the organism of the church.
By this we mean that we are members of the church in living relationship with our living Lord through faith and that because of this we do not shut ourselves off from the world, but live in the world testifying by word and deed that we are partakers of the anointing of Christ. This we must do in every sphere of life. Within the most intimate circle, the home, covenant young people reveal their Christian identity by loving obedience to their parents, by contributing to the family bond as e.g. respecting the place of brothers and sisters in the home life, helping with the many chores that must be done in every household, etc. This same Christian identity carries over to school life. A Christian young person should reveal his identity by an eagerness to learn. Just think of the importance of these years for all of life. We have the opportunity not only to apply ourselves full time to learning, something which will perhaps never happen again, but to take advantage of the knowledge explosion under the guidance of instructors who will place these facts within the framework of the Word of God. Likewise, we must speak to the world outside our homes and schools. We are born as citizens of this country and thereby have certain rights, privileges, and duties. Since we are born in the sphere of a Republican form of government, we have the added responsibility to become involved in social and political issues. The voice of the people forms the basis for laws and policies in this country. As Christians we are part of that people and must exercise our calling to speak out as those who are influenced by the anointing of Christ. It is not first of all a question whether we will get anywhere with our influence; more than likely it will be very little. We who have our conscience bound to the Word of God may not use that as an excuse to remain silent. We must testify to the world that they err in the things they do contrary to the Word of God and they must be shown what the Word of God demands. It’s quite easy for us to criticize the American public and American government among ourselves, but it takes a great deal more courage to direct that criticism to those who are guilty and to tell them so.
We must be involved in dissent!
Must we go it alone or are there others with whom we can join in expressing this dissent? From our observations and conclusions in former articles, there definitely are organizations with whom we cannot join. All organizations that advocate “love” as interpreted by humanism or Christian brotherhood should be off-limits. Our joining with such groups would constitute a denial of the Word of God itself. All attempts on their part to assist the poor or those discriminated against leave the poor in their misery. Unless the atoning and saving blood of Christ for His elect Church forms the impetus of all dissent against evil and promotion of truth and justice, such attempts necessarily fail. Still more however, joining with these organizations will prove themselves an unequal yoke which will drag the “well meaning” Christian into the pit of anti-Christ. The Christian will not be able to steer such organizations to a right course; on the contrary he will soon be walking in the wrong direction with them. History speaks loud and clear of this fact.
Are there then organizations with which the Christian may very well cooperate? It is beyond the scope of this article to offer any conclusions on this score. It stands to reason that every organization would have to be carefully studied and evaluated. If there are some of our readers that have suggestions in this connection, it would be definitely advantageous to investigate this possibility and evaluate them in light of their purpose, basis, and methodology.
More importantly for now, we would like to propose to our covenant youth a method of getting involved in expressing dissent. This you understand is simply a suggestion and should be discussed thoroughly before followed.
Would it not be a good idea if the Federation Board of Protestant Reformed Young Peoples Societies would formulate a statement concerning any one of the moral, social, or political issues, as e.g. the racial problem of segregation or integration, war in this nuclear age, or such like and that such a statement be discussed in the societies during the year and then presented to the summer convention for consideration and adoption.
There are some problems with this, but also some advantages.
First, it seems to me this would avoid the problem of the church’s involvement in matters that are not her concern, since it would arise out of the organic church. Our young people would be doing this as covenant young people who also must act as citizens.
Secondly, this would give our young people a reason to become interested in issues that are vital to their lives, or if they are already interested, an outlet for expression. From all practical points of view it makes a great deal of difference as far as interest is concerned, whether one discusses a subject just to add his opinion to a lot of others, or whether they are discussing a subject in order to come to a conclusion.
Thirdly, this discussion would take place within the framework of responsible leadership. For the sake of all concerned, the greatest apprehension one might possibly have in going in this direction would be the real possibility of dissention over dissention. Not only this, but youth themselves can become rather far out at times. Yet, I am sure that these fears must not extinguish the zeal that is kindled in our youth for getting involved in issues that will affect their entire life. For the sake of an informed church of tomorrow and a church that is not lulled to sleep by indifference, our young people must become very much alert to these issues. For this reason I am sure that if this method could be followed, there are enough responsible people involved who can guide the youth in their thinking. Consider how this would add to the interest the society leaders would take in these discussions; the advisors to the Federation Board can guide in the formulation of any position, all our young people and ministers would be given opportunity to discuss any issue in the Beacon Lights. Only through free and open discussion can we ever come to any meaningful conclusions.
Fourthly, if after discussing an issue during the society season and after formulating a proposal to be considered by the convention, and the convention adopt such a statement of position this could serve as a guide for the conduct of our young people. This statement would be a well reasoned position based upon the Word of God which would show to our covenant youth how and why they are to act the way we expect them to do.
Finally, this same statement would serve the useful purpose of expressing before the world around us what and why we act the way we do. There are many organizations, social and political as well as religious who have a wrong position on important issues dividing our country. One often hears young people, and many adults for that matter, ask, how can we express our views to others? We do not feel right in simply letting the world go by and smugly criticizing the status quo among each other, but saying nothing to those who are in positions of leadership. It seems to me such a statement of position could be used very well in informing our congressmen, our President, or anyone else where we stand. If we believe that other organizations do not take a proper position we can forward our convictions to them.
As was said before, this idea is presented for discussion. To every issue there are pro and cons, so there must be many more than have been brought forth in this short article. May I suggest that if this idea warrants further consideration, it be taken up in our youth paper, the Beacon Lights.
In conclusion, the thought of expressing dissent against evil is a sobering one to say the least. Neglect of expression will guarantee to us, at least for a time, a place in the midst of this anti-Christian kingdom. The more we become involved in a proper form of dissent, the more we must be willing to bear the reproach of the world. Christ tells us, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell,” Matt. 10:28.
May God make our covenant youth fearless defenders of the faith.