One becomes more or less accustomed to expect the Reformed Journal to emit strange and rather “liberal” sounds for a paper which calls itself “Reformed.” Although, therefore, I was not surprised at the general tenor of the January issue of this magazine, with its “Statement on Fair Housing” and its “Supplement on Poverty in America,” I was indeed rather shocked, however, at the passive permissiveness, toward, if not tacit advocacy of violence in the racially tense situation in our country today.
It is not my purpose to discuss Dr. Henry Stob’s position on open housing, although I have my serious reservations with respect to his premises and conclusions on this subject and can find little Scriptural reasoning in his article. There is much talk in his article. There is much talk in his editorial about “the rights and freedoms of men” about which I have many questions, but especially one basic question, namely: what rights and freedoms does the natural man have, be he black or white or yellow or red? Is not natural man,—again, be he black or white or yellow or red,—a usurper, a rebel, in Cod’s creation? Or does this fundamental truth have nothing to do with the matter of “rights and freedoms of men” when we would discuss that subject Christianly?
What especially perturbs me, however, apart from Dr. Stob’s position on open housing is the following passage at the conclusion of his article:
. . .Let no one discount the threat that hangs over us. If a society will not give a man what is his due, he will eventually seize what is his due. A man must, in the name of God, assert his freedom. If society does not assert it with him, he must at length assert it on his own.
Let society then act. Violence is waiting in the wings. It ought to be averted. What will avert it is justice. And justice demands that an Open Housing Law be enacted—without delay.
These statements are made in the context of a statement which speaks of the fact that some are beginning “to turn to extra-legal means to secure their freedom and dignity.” The statement which immediately precedes the above quotation is this:
What it (an Open Housing Law, HCH) also does is this: it gives legal recognition to the fact that the Negro, like everyone else, is a free man under Gad, that his rights are presently nullified or restricted by a social prejudice which works intolerable evil, that the Negro’s patience is running out, and that some among them are beginning to turn to extra-legal means to secure their freedom and dignity.
Now it may be true that in these quotations Dr. Stob does not openly and forthrightly condone and advocate violence on the part of those who are supposedly trying to secure their freedom and dignity. But, in the first place, it is equally true that he does not condemn and warn against it. Nor, in the second place, does he warn that the threat of violence is nothing but attempted blackmail of the government, and the use of violence nothing but revolution. Nor, in the third place, does he warn that it is the calling and the authority of the government to employ the sword in the maintenance of law and order. Nor, in the fourth place, does he point out that it is the duty of the citizen to be in subjection to the higher powers, Romans 13:1ff.
Instead, what do we get? In the first place, Dr. Stob employs the euphemism: “extra-legal means.” Why does he not speak forthrightly of “unlawful'” or of “lawless” means? In the second place, Dr. Stob speaks of the “threat that hangs over us” and in the same breath, without a word of condemnation, of the fact that a man “will. . .seize what is his due.” Does he not realize that when men “seize” what they think is their “due,” you have revolution, anarchy? In the third place, in the same breath and in the very next sentence, he opines that “A man must, in the name of Cod, assert his freedom.” And he goes on to speak of a man asserting his freedom “on his own.” Now if words in their connection have meaning, then these statements mean to me that Dr. Stob equates seizing what is a man’s due by “extra-legal” (that is: lawless) means with assertingone’s freedom; and this a man must do, and he must do it, mind you, in the name of God. In brief, I can read nothing else in these statements but this, that Dr. Stob is telling us that it is a must, a necessity, an obligation before Cod that a man seize his freedom and what is his “due” by unlawful means if he cannot do so by lawful means.
Moreover, it seems to be the position of Dr. Stob that “society” (does he not mean the government?) must cater to this lawlessness or the threat of it, in order to avert it. Not a word is said about punishing it. Not a word is said about thwarting it. No word is breathed about the fact that he that takes the sword shall perish by the sword. I can overlook the fact that even from a practical point of view Dr. Stob’s remedy is not a remedy at all: for catering to lawlessness indeed will only avert it temporarily, but will eventually beget more lawlessness; and let no one think that an Open Housing Law will be the end of these demands that are backed by the threat of violence. But I cannot overlook what appears to me to be total ignoring of the government’s responsibility to use the sword in the punishment of those who take the law into their own hands, and of the citizen’s calling to be in subjection.
All this, it seems to me, is blatantly contrary to Romans 13 and its well-known demand that every soul shall be in subjection to the higher powers,—a demand that was penned, mind you, when there were much worse “social injustices” under the Roman tyrants than there are today. And all this I cannot harmonize with Article 36 of the Confession of Faith, which says, among other things, the following:
“We believe that our gracious God, because of the depravity of mankind, hath appointed kings, princes and magistrates, willing that the world should be governed by certain laws and policies; to the end that the dissoluteness of men might be restrained, and all things carried on among them with good order and decency. For this purpose he bath invested the magistracy with the sword, for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the protection of them that do well. . .Moreover, it is the bounden duty of every one, of what state, quality, or condition soever he may be, to subject himself to the magistrates; to pay tribute, to show due honor and respect to them, and to obey them in all things which are not repugnant to the Word of God. . .Wherefore we detest the Anabaptists and other seditious people, and in general all those who reject the higher powers and magistrates, and would subvert justice, introduce community of goods, and confound that decency and good order, which God hath established among men.”
This, to me, is language with which the conclusion of Dr. Stob’s article can hardly be harmonized. And it is language which can stand to be emphasized strongly in this age of rioting and lawlessness.