In his article in the August issue of the Standard Bearer, Mr. Gritter still fails to show that there is an essential difference between the stand of the CLA and the worldly unions on the matter of the strike. No one denies that there is a difference of degree, since the CLA is quite conservative in condoning the strike, allowing such a strike only as a last extreme and without any accompanying acts of violence, such as destruction of property, etc. Yet essentially they too maintain the strike. And to that I raised objections. The readers will recall that I compared their form of striking with a toy gun hold-up, which is nonetheless a hold-up.
Mr. Gritter makes the strike as they approve of it seem so entirely innocent. He prefers the Dutch word ‘stakin’ to our word ‘strike’, although I am rather sure that the word ‘staking’ in its accepted meaning leaves an equally bad taste in the mouth of any Hollander who opposes the principle of the strike. He adds: “The CLA accepts the right of the ‘staking’ without the bad implications of the strike. Such cessation of work would not be approved of unless there was a real injustice and until everything within reason had been done to secure justice by other means. It would have to be entirely peaceful. There could be no interference with the right of others to work. And the employer would have the right to hire others. But the employees who had ceased to work, in protest against an injustice, would have the right to acquaint prospective new employees with their grievances and by such moral persuasion try to influence them not to interfere with their legitimate pursuit of justice. That is the CLA stand.”
But even so he cannot deny that the employee maintains his claim to his job. He does not break his relation to his employer by quitting his job. He regards himself as still in the lawful employ of his employer. In the meantime he refuses to work, demands that his machinery shall stand idle and denies anyone else the moral right to take his place. He is still in the service of his employer, but refuses to work. He keeps his job, but does not fill it. He uses moral persuasion to prevent anyone from stepping in his place. And the evident purpose is to exert pressure on his employer to gain the end which he considers just. His aim, collectively with all the other employees, is to place the employer in such a position that he is forced to comply with their demands. If he fails in this the strike has proved a failure.
Our discussion has simmered down to the question: just what is the relation between the employer and the employee. Is it a relation of mutual contract or a relation of authority and obedience. If it is simply a relation of mutual contract, in which the employee sells his time, his talents and his ability to the employer, I can conceive of the possibility that the employee has the same rights and obligations as the employer. Neither one has more or less. They stand on an equal basis and can make their demands as equals. If the OLA wants to take that position their stand on the strike might be justified on this score.
But if the relation of employer and employee is essentially the same as that of parent and child, husband and wife, magistrate and citizen, a relation of authority and subordination, the two can never face each other on an equal basis. If the employee is a servant of his employer he owes him his time and his talents and his honest effort as long as he is in his employ. He may not maintain his position and at the same time refuse to work. To do so is an act of insubordination.
The latter, not the former, is the plain teaching of Scripture.
For that reason I can appreciate the fact that Mr. Gritter reminds us of other examples of Scripture where the relation of employer and employee is brought to the foreground. Especially in these times when all respect for authority is rapidly being lost from sight, the example of Abraham and his servants and of Boaz with his workers is of extreme importance.
Abraham ruled over his servants with the authority of a king, even called them to go out to battle with him when he found this necessary. Since he expected Sarah to call him “my lord” he surely did not expect less than that of his servants. In those days the relation of authority and insubordination was very strong. Try to imagine in our day, that a family of eleven boys, ranging from the ages of 45 to 29 and all married, as was the case of Jacob’s family, would obey their father who threatened to starve them by refusing to have them go to Egypt for corn, just because of a certain preference for his youngest son. Today boys and girls of 13 to 15 years already begin to take offence when their parents lay down the law to them. But this age has lost its true respect for those in authority in every sphere of life.
The case of Boaz and his workers is also very interesting. We read: “And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee.” () We cannot fail to note the difference between his greeting to his workers and their greeting to him. He greets them as their employer and wishes the gracious and sustaining hand of the Lord upon them in their labors. They conscious of their relation to him as servants, wish the Lord’s blessing upon him. If this is their heartfelt desire they will also show this in their labors, even as he must bring this wish into practice in his relation to them. Both have this in common that they are interested first of all in their mutual spiritual welfare. Such ideal conditions are only possible when both the employer and the employees are truly Christians. Would that we had more of this attitude in perfect uprightness among those that call themselves Christians.
But Scripture is always very definite on this score, that the relation of the employer and the workingman is one of authority and obedience. Even when it speaks of the laborer working for wages, so that he is worthy of his hire, the relation to his employer does not change one mite. God still demands of him that the servant shall be subject to his master, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward, as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, in singleness of heart as fearing God., .
And since this is the case, a strike is an act of insubordination. The workingman may present his case, a strike is an act of insubordination. The workingman may present his case to his employer, even in company with his fellow workers, but he may not strike. He may not hold his job and at the same time refuse to work, may not resort to revolt or extortion to gain his ends, no matter how just his case may be. When every attempt fails he can still appeal his case to the highest Bar of justice, the supreme Judge of heaven and earth, according to, but re must leave his case there. He may not take the law into his own hands. Notice what James says in in the tenth verse of this chapter, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering, affliction and of patience.” Or does not Mr. Gritter believe that the righteous must also suffer in this world just because they refuse to take matters in their own hands and refuse to avenge themselves against wicked injustice? We have the example of Christ Himself. Was there ever a man who had a more just cause than He as He stood guiltless before Pilate? Did Christ as a last extreme take matters into His own hands, or did He subject Himself to those in authority, even though they were steeped with iniquity and submission meant death? Also Paul suffered every form of injustice in the hands of the Jews and in the power of the Roman law, yet he never did more than appeal his case to Caesar.
Too bad that at the close of his article Mr. Gritter (bemoans the waste of time on what he calls an “academic, abstract discussion of the strike question.” I heartily agree with him that great issues are at stake. Even greater than he presents. For our problem is not simply “how we as Christians will be able to continue work without affiliation with sinful organizations.” The time will come when it will prove utterly impossible to continue work under any and all conditions. But the more serious problem is how we are to maintain our Christian principles in the midst of a wicked world, especially we upon whom the end of the ages has come. That demands an untiring discussion of true, Christian principles and of a life that is in harmony with them. Are we spiritually strong enough to face the true issues as they are? And are we ready to sacrifice all for the sake of our principles? I would suggest that the CLA take up these various matters for a discussion in their meetings.
But, Mr. Editor, our discussion has taken up much space in the Standard Bearer, and I, as far as I am concerned, am willing to let the matter of the strike rest here, lest we overtax the patience of the readers.
Accept my thanks once more for the allotted space.