We are all aware that in this present day unionism is on the increase, and growing even during the war. In our own city this is the case also. Although we believe that in more than one respect labor has just complaints against capital, we also believe that the organizations are such that it is impossible for the Christian to affiliate, with them and to do so out of faith. The latter is quite necessary for God’s Word teaches that what it not of faith is sin.
Since practically the very beginning of the separate existence of our Protestant Reformed Churches, we as Churches have taken the definite stand that membership in worldly organizations of all kinds is incompatible with the Christian faith and with membership in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Very definitely our churches have expressed themselves in regard to membership in the ungodly unions. Difficult as that stand may be for the flesh we believe it is the only possible one in the light of the Word of God and that it must therefore be maintained. We realize that this stand has practical consequences for our daily lives, that it will be increasingly difficult to secure employment if the present wave of unionism continues unabated, but we also believe that we may not because of practical difficulties close our eyes to the character of such organizations and for bread’s sake affiliate with them. Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceed eth out of the mouth of God. We shall not labor for the meat that perisheth but for the bread that cometh down from heaven. And the Lord God Almighty who has all things in His hand will certainly supply us with daily bread as long as we need it. He has said, Seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you. We shall not be anxious about our daily bread—for all these things the Gentiles seek, but your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of them.
We wish to set forth briefly the more serious objections to affiliation in these organizations, and why we earnestly believe that it is impossible to maintain membership in one of these worldly unions and at the same time in the Church of Jesus Christ. We believe that membership in the lodge is incompatible with membership in Christ’s Church and may not be condoned, and some of the reasons that obtain in regard to the lodge also obtain in regard to the unions, although in other respects there is a difference.
The following are some of the more serious objections we have to membership in the existing worldly unions of our day:
- These organizations stand committed to the principle of the closed shop, according to which only union members shall be employed and every one that refuses to join shall not be permitted to work in the shop. Also the Constitution of the United Furniture Workers of America (CIO) has this as its object. We quote Article II, Objects, Section 1 under d, “To reach and maintain agreements with employers as to wages, hours of labor and working conditions, and to seek through such agreements to establish closed shops and preference of employment for members of the United Furniture Workers of America”. This is equally true of all the existing organizations of the CIO, AFL and the Brotherhood of Railways. Their ideal is that unless he is a member of one of these unions, and that no one shall be able to buy or sell except it bear the union label. This is literally predicted of the power of the Antichrist in Revelation 13. We ask, how can a member of the church subscribe to such practices, and exclude from employment a fellow-brother who for conscience’ sake will not join and sit down at the Table of the Lord with him and promise that he will love the brother and not only show this in words, but in very deed?
- It is also evident that these organizations are committed to the principles of force and coercion, not only in gaining members but also in forcing their will upon the employer. All of them stand committed to the principle of the strike. It is true that they are willing to use the method of arbitration if this accomplishes their purpose, but it is equally true that all of them will take recourse to the strike if other procedures fail. And the strike is a method of force which cannot be approved in the light of Scripture. A strike is not the same as freely quitting one’s job. When a man quits his job, he thereby asserts that he gives up his claim to the job, that the boss may hire another. The strike on the contrary is an organized effort to. force the employer to accede to the will of the union—the members maintain their right to the job and will not allow the employer to hire others in their stead. This in an organized method of taking the law into one’s own hands, as much as lynching is, and stands condemned for the very same reason. We are all more or less acquainted with the “sit-down” strikes that swept our nation a few years back. Some of the men of our own church were called out as National Guards to Flint to help preserve law and order. This principle of strike the unions still maintain. Also the Constitution of the United Furniture Workers of America, Article XILIX, Section 2, “In the event of trouble arising in any of the shops which would necessitate a strike, or lockout be declared.” We ask, May the Christian commit himself to such a principle? On the contrary members of Christ’s Church have the injunction of II Cor. 6:14-18, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what accord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
- But is it not possible in order to keep or to secure a job that one merely affiliate with one of those organizations and pay the dues, yet refuse to attend the meetings or otherwise take an active part? We should remember that the unions themselves demand the signing of a card, requesting membership, which card is a signed pledge to uphold the union in question. How can a Christian then sign such a card and intend not to support the union? The union itself will not allow a member to agitate against his union. Besides, a yea must according to the Word of God be a yea. No more than one may affiliate with a church without sincerely doing so, no more may one affiliate with any organization without doing so in sincerity. The fact simply remains, then, that membership in a union remains our act, a free act, for which we are responsible before God and before the law. Everyone that joins thereby assumes a place in the organization, and becomes responsible for its official position and official acts. In many instances one signs the pledge card and submits to the yoke of the union, in some instances new members even take a formal oath. But even if one does not sign an oath, or even a pledge card, but yet joins, the mere fact that he does not attend the meetings, that he prefers not to be held responsible, does not relieve him of his responsibility. The fact still remains that he is a member, that he expressed agreement with its principles by joining, and that he is committed as long as he remains a member to abide by the principle of the union and by its official decisions.
- The oath or pledge which many organizations require is such that a Christian who by the grace of God has sworn allegiance to Christ and His cause and the principles of God’s Word cannot possibly take in honesty. We here literally quote one of those oaths from the Book of Laws of the International Typographical Union (A.F.L.) pages 15, 16, “I hereby solemnly and sincerely swear (affirm) that I will not reveal any business or proceedings of any meeting of this or any subordinate union to which I may hereafter be attached, unless by order of the union, except to those whom I know to be in good standing thereof; that I will, without evasion or equivocation, and to the best of my ability abide by the Constitution, By- Laws and the adopted scale of prices of any union to which I may belong; that I will at all times support the laws, regulations and decisions of the International Typographical Union in preference to others; that my fidelity to the union and my duty to the members thereof shall in no sense be interfered with by any allegiance that I may now or hereafter owe to any other organization, social, political, or religious, secret or otherwise; that I will belong to no society or combination composed wholly or partly of printers, with the intent or purpose to interfere with the trade regulations or influence or control the legislation of the union; that I will not wrong a member, or see him or her wronged, if in my power to prevent. To all of which I pledge my most sacred honor.” Notice: that by this oath one pledges himself: (1) To carry out the decisions of the union at all times, (2) To seek the wellbeing of a fellow member in preference to a brother in Christ if the latter is not a member of the union, (3) And in case of conflict, swears to remain loyal to the union rather than to Christ and the Church. How dare the Christian Reformed Churches take the stand that the AFL and the CIO are neutral organizations, and that one can belong to them. How can any living member of Christ’s Church possibly take such an oath!
Not all the organizations demand a formal oath. Some of them contain a pledge in the Constitution to which one consents by simply signing the pledge card. Such seems to be the case also with the United Furniture Works of America (CIO). The Preamble of this Constitution says among other things, “We pledge ourselves to labor unitedly for the principles herein set forth to perpetuate our union and work in concert and solidarity with other labor organizations.” Each new member is required to take the following pledge, or obligation, “I most solemnly pledge on my word of honor to abide by the constitution and by-laws of the United Furniture Workers of America and of this local Union N__________ to the full extent of my ability; at all times to regard the affiliation I hereby make, with pride, and will endeavor to aid in the success of my Union; I will never defraud or misrepresent the International Union and this Local Union, and will bear true and faithful allegiance to the officers and members. I will conduct myself at all times so as never to bring reproach upon myself, or any member or upon the United Furniture Workers of America and this local Union.” Notice that by taking this pledge one: (1) promises to abide by the constitution and by-laws of the union, which includes the principles of the closed shop and of the strike. (2) Pledges to regard his affiliation at all times with pride and will endeavor to aid in the success of the Union, which means active aid toward the closed shop, even if a brother Christian must be excluded from the shop because he refuses to affiliate, and even if a strike is called. One pledges to give preference of employment for members of the Union (Art. II) by consenting to the constitution. This pledge is not as definite as that of the Typographical Union quoted above, but primarily the same pledge is made.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, is it not our Christian duty to keep ourselves unspotted from the world? Should we not, as Daniel of old, purpose in our hearts that we will not defile ourselves. The higher wages and better living conditions that the Union promises ought not to confuse us as to the issue. Let us stand fast in the Lord, and put on the whole armor of faith that we may be able to stand in the evil day.
Surely there are many evils in the social-economic conditions of the world. Surely we may labor toward removal of injustices, but we must do so in a manner compatible with our faith. Otherwise we are no longer the salt in the earth, and if the salt have lost its savor wherewith shall it be salted. We may not be unequally yoked with the unbelievers. Let us be patient unto the coming of the Lord, and count all things but dung for the excellency of Christ. Let us testify against wickedness everywhere, and be faithful unto the end. He that shall endure unto the end shall be saved.
We might mention other things that clearly show that the ungodly labor organizations as they exist today are such that a Christian may not affiliate with them. But we think sufficient has been said, and the light Scripture sheds on our path is plain.
Stand fast in the Lord.
The Consistory of the Protestant Reformed Church
Done in Consistory Dec. 8, 1943