Editor of the Standard Bearer:
Dear Mr. Editor,
May I reply to the article of Rev. C. Hanko, published in the September 1 issue of your paper? It is not a desire to have the last word that prompts me to ask for this, but concern about being misunderstood. I am wholeheartedly in agreement with the stand of the Protestant Reformed Churches that membership in the C.I.O. and A.F. of L. is, not compatible with membership in the Church of Christ. Therefore I am very anxious to gain the support of the members of those churches for the C.L.A.
I wish to state at once that it is the position of the C.L.A. that the relationship between employers and employees in our present day is one of mutual contract. They are equals in the sight of God. Both have rights and obligations.
It is not correct to do as Rev. Hanko did: place that relationship over against one of absolute authority, as two opposites, the one exclusive of the other, and then to state that the one is Scriptural while the other is not. That is all wrong.
Also in the relationship in which the employer and employee meet one another as, equals, in which they enter upon an agreement, recognizing rights and obligations on both sides, there is room for authority. Proper use of the authority which the owner has is recognized by the C.L.A. and in the labor laws of our land. But never the misuse of authority, to impose injustices! That we do not recognize. To that the Christian worker of our day does not have to submit.
I do not agree at all when Rev. Hanko makes the bold assertion that the relationship between employer and employee is essentially the same as between parent and child, husband and wife, citizen and magistrate. In the first instance the relationship has been established by agreement, either spoken or written, which can be terminated at any time without violation of God’s law. In the second the relationship has been established by divine institution, a relationship which cannot be broken at will without violation of divine precepts. The authority in the first is very limited, not the authority of government; in the second it is- Very definitely that. Surely the difference is so obvious that it needs no further explanation.
To bolster his position Rev. Hanko must again hark back to the conditions that existed in the early Christian churches. What were those conditions? A considerable number of the members of those small churches were slaves. They were often mistreated by masters who were not Christians. It is indicated that they were mistreated even for well-doing. There seems to have been hatred against those servants because of the expression of Christian virtues. To those mistreated servants the apostles, direct admonitions, to be patient, obedient, not only to the good but also to the froward. Does Rev. Hanko suppose ‘that I would contend that the apostles were wrong in their admonitions? I trust not. In their position those slaves had to do what the apostles demanded of them. They had no legal standing, no protection by law. They were under authority recognized by the Roman government. Revolt would have been contrary to the law not only but it would have cast an evil reflect on upon the Church. It would have led to persecutions far worse than they had experienced up to that time. Those slaves were admonished to be patient until deliverance was brought by the hand of God. That deliverance from bondage did not come in their day, nor by the return of Christ, which the apostles thought to be imminent. But deliverance from slavery did come! It took centuries, but it was accomplished! Should we not see in the improvement brought about in the social conditions and the living standards, of the workers the general operation of God’s Spirit, working through the beneficent influence of Christianity? Or must we simply ignore history? And was perhaps the emancipation of the slaves in our own nation less than a hundred years, ago a mistake?
The position of the Christian worker of today is net comparable to that of the slaves of the Pauline era. And it is not so that the Bible demands such a recognition of authority as was in force between the slave and his master. That is why I referred also to Abraham and Boaz. Between them and their servants there was good will and mutual understanding. (I fail to see the difference in the exchange of greetings between Boaz and the reapers which Rev. Hanko puts into it.) But that is not all. In, the employer is told not to hold the wages of the hireling overnight. The hireling had rights too. In there is reference to the hired servant. Jacob agreed with Laban in regard to his wages. Throughout the Old Testament there are many indications that there were many relationships of employers and free workers. Jesus referred to such a relationship in one of his parables when he spoke of an agreement reached between the owner of the vineyard and the idlers in the marketplace. All that proves that Rev. Hanko’s sweeping statement in regard to the Scriptural relationship between employers and employees does not hold, and that the idea of mutual contracts and of to restore it to him. In principle it is the same as
I, too, believe that Christians must suffer in patience! Yes, indeed! Such suffering will surely come when we testify. And when it comes as a result of that we may not revolt or seek revenge. But, that does not mean that we may not strive for justice, when the injustice has no direct connection with our Christian testimony. In such cases we may use the laws, that God has providentially caused to be enacted. We may not take the law in our own hands, of course not. The C.L.A. abhors that. But, when an employee has unjustly been forced out of employment he has a moral claim to the job he was forced to give up, and he may use moral persuasion to regain it. That is his right. And it is the employer’s duty to restore it to him. In principle it is the same as claiming return of something that was taken from him by unfair means. There may be no legal ground for an action to recover. But, that does not mean that the party who was wronged has not the right to seek recovery by moral persuasion, and the one guilty of the offense is certainly obligated to restore it to him. That’s sound Christian ethics, isn’t it?
I was a bit amused by Rev. Hanko’s statement that Paul never did any more than appeal to Caesar! That was very naively put. What more could he have done? If ever there was a man who believed in making use of his rights under the law it was Paul. He appealed to the highest tribunal in the Roman empire! Rev. Hanko ought to have called Paul very inconsistent. The same man who admonished the slaves to submit in patience to everything they had to endure himself appealed from one court to another!
And yet Paul was not inconsistent. His position was entirely different from that of the slaves. They wore bondservants but he was a free man! He had some authority of his own. He could and did demand justice.
The difference between the position of Paul and the bondservants was no greater than between that of those same slaves and the free workers of today. If Paul were writing to Christian workers today he would not write to them as slaves but as free men. I imagine that he would admonish them as follows: to be good workers; to give an honest days work for a fair wage; to bargain fairly with the employer; to respect his rights; to be lawful in the pursuit of their rights; to use their liberty net as a means to impose injustice but to set examples of Christian virtue; in brief, to be Christian in the true sense of the term, making full use of the wonderful opportunities afforded them through their position as free men! Employers would be admonished in the same spirit. And I believe that he would add a warning against affiliation with unchristian unions. All that would be entirely in harmony with the spirit and character of Paul as revealed in his writings and actions. And Paul was Biblical, surely?
I really meant it when I stated before that I think we could use our time to much better advantage than we are doing in carrying on this debate. I do not look upon our differences as of such fundamental importance. We can agree to disagree on that point and still work together. Why should we divide our strength n anticipation of something that may never become a reality? If we come face to face with the question in a concrete case we can come to a much clearer decision. Then the facts will be right before us. And, as stated before, with the laws protecting labor’s rights which we now have, and all the agencies for settling of disputes in states and nation, it is very improbable that the C.L.A. will ever be faced with the question of whether or not to cease work in protest against injustice. For these reasons I believe that we would do better to cease arguing and to work together for a solution of the problems right at hand, one of which is the closed shop. That, to me, is a much more important one right now.
Thanks, again, Mr. Editor, for the space given me.
J. Gritter, Secretary C.L.A.