How Radical are the Clergy?
by the Rev. Carl McIntire, D.D.
"To whom shall I speak, and give warn ing, that they may hear? behold, their ear is Uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it."
- Jeremiah 6:10
One of our current, popular publications, Reader's Digest, contains an article in the April issue, entitled, "How Radical Are the Clergy?" Even the appearance of that article ought to make every pastor in the United States hide his head in shame. There is growing recognition on the part of the general public that there is something wrong in the clergy, particularly as it relates to the continuation of our American way of life. A few months ago the Reader's Digest carried another article entitled, "Methodism's Pink Fringe." There was also a book published which became a best seller entitled, The Road Ahead, by John T. Flynn. This included a chapter dealing with the churches entitled, "The Kingdom of God."
The House Committee on Un-American Activities of the United States Congress issued an entire document entitled, Communism and Religion, in which a number of church organizations were listed and the names of individual Protestant clergymen were cited as leaders in these communist front organizations.
In addition to this, in the past ten years there has been increasing activity on the part of the American Council of Christian Churches and now on the part of the International Council of Christian Churches, calling the attention of the Christian public to subversive elements and leadership in the churches.
The article in the Reader's Digest gives a summary of a poll taken by what is called the American Institute of Public Opinion, or the Gallup Poll. The conclusions of the Reader's Digest article are that there is a "militant minority" within the clergy who have been preaching and advocating radical ideas, even communistic ideas.
We live in the United States of America, which has what we call a free society. Not only do we have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom in our political life, but we have also enjoyed what we call freedom in the economic field - freedom of enterprise. The individual is responsible for himself and for his own affairs. We have called it private enterprise.
The article in the Reader's Digest says: "The Protestant church helped to determine the moral and humanitarian objectives which are the unique characteristics of the American system." That is true. The system under which we live has its foundation in certain great principles which are written in the Word of God. Our early Protestant fathers insisted that they find expression in the new world.
There are many passages of Scripture to which we can refer, but there is a very familiar one in Ephesians 4:28, where the Apostle Paul writes: "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth." Notice the elements involved. First, "Let him that stole steal no more." Our neighbor has property, and we do not have the right to take it from him. This is the basic property right, a human right. The Apostle says, Rather than engage in stealing to provide for yourself, it is required by God that you go Out and labor with your hands. It is right to do hard physical work with your hands, rather than to try to get a livelihood by breaking a command of God.
Next, one must work "with his hands the thing which is good," This means that everyone who is working must be employed in enterprises that are in themselves approved of God. Men must not live by gambling or wicked enterprises which destroy the moral fiber of society. We must have a good conscience by doing that which is good in the sight of God. The text continues, "that he may have." The right to gain, the profit motive, comes into the picture. That he may have "to give" involves a responsibility on our part for others. Here is stewardship; here is benevolence. "To him that needeth" states a concern for our neighbor and his welfare. But notice it is all the individual - "he" must labor, "he" must not steal, "he" must give, "he" must be concerned for his neighbor. Then we have the necessary freedom to do these things that are set forth as our responsibility.
Our Christian faith presents teachings concerning the right of property, the responsibility of the individual for himself, the right of conscience, and the responsibility of that individual for others. These are written in the Word of God. This concept of man's duty has been developed in the history of our church. John Calvin developed it in his Institutes. It came out of the Protestant Reformation. It involves the individual's responsibility - not responsibility to the church, not responsibility to the state, but responsibility for himself to God! That is the genius and the basis of our freedom, and we sing in our hymn, "America," that God is the "Author of liberty." So He is.
Of course, the sin question enters in-, greed and exploitation enter the picture. The Scripture has commandments denouncing those who abuse others. We are told: "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and bowl for your miseries that shall come upon you. . . . Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth." All of this is in the Scripture. All of this was preached, was written in the basic creeds of our great churches.
We do not say that Christianity is freedom, or capitalism, or private enterprise. But Christianity presents the principles which undergird all these.
The Reader's Digest asks. "How Radical Are the Clergy?" Then it presents some of the ideas which the clergy have theological professors, student leaders, and journalists. Let us outline first the way the attack is being made in the churches, and second the general ideas that are expressed in the church.
The attack is being made upon our free society as we enjoy it, upon the system, upon the structure of freedom, in four ways.
FIRST, by a silence in the presentation of the great principles upon which it rests. We are suffering from a long term of silence in the leadership of the church as to the truth upon which the foundation of freedom stands. Pastors do not talk about it any more. It is the responsibility of the church to speak, to talk about it, and to show their people that they are giving them the very nature of things as God has revealed them in His Word. It is a part of the "whole counsel of God."
SECOND, we are being told that the Christian religion actually supports no particular system at all. It is a very clever idea, for it appeals to the ideal. This simply means that the foundation principles upon which our free system rests are taken away. You cannot preserve fruit on the tree when you cut the root out from under the tree.
THIRD, there is an offer of other ideologies I am going to give you six. These ideas are preached in the pulpits of the church, and they are presented in such a way that they sound very well,
FOURTH, there is the definite, positive offering of a co-operative social order which men call the kingdom of God.
Here are some of the ideas.
First, the ministry must be prophetic, we are told. The ministers of the church must be great prophets like the prophets of the Old Testament who cry for social justice, as it is reinterpreted today, We read for our Scripture lesson Jeremiah 6. The prophets of the Old Testament were not prophets of the social order or prophets of social justice. Every one of them is what you would call today a "prophet of reaction." Every single one of them stood before the people and denounced the false prophets of their day and told the people they should get back to the old paths and to the law of Moses which God had given them in the beginning. We have here a perversion of the idea of the prophetic ministry of the church. The prophetic ministry of the church is simply teaching the people and preaching to the people what the Word of God presents.
Second, we are told that the business of the church is to bring into being this new social order, the kingdom of God. Many people do not realize what it is, and the uninformed are not keen enough to realize what is happening. The kingdom of God as we know it and as the Bible teaches it is a spiritual order, and one gets into it by the miracle of the new birth (John 3:3). You have to be converted and become as a little child before you can enter the kingdom of Heaven. But the kingdom of God as it is now being preached by these radical clergy becomes a visible order. They want to bring it into being right here and now. There is an urgency behind their preaching of the kingdom, because, as they see the world crisis, they think the solution of the world dilemma is to bring reconciliation between the West and the East in their kingdom-of-God society.
Third, we are told that we must establish this brotherhood society. They say, "And so we will preach the brotherhood of man, and with it the Fatherhood of God." But Jesus never taught this. It is nothing more than a conditioning idea to bring the people to accept the compact ties of a socialist order.
Fourth, we are told that we must have social justice and economic democracy. References have been made to this in the article in the Reader's Digest. "Social justice" - everybody is for it, everybody wants social justice. But there is more of it in a free society than in a controlled one! There is nothing wrong with the term as such, but when it is understood in the context of all that is offered, it becomes radical. They are asking us to change the very structure of our society in order to have this so called justice.
Just here, I would like to inject an idea which is not emphasized today very much. It is exceedingly important. Our free society and our system is not based upon confidence in any man; not at all. The very genius of freedom itself is that each man will have to be responsible for himself and each man will have to pay the penalty for his sins. Each man will have to be responsible for his own conduct and the consequences thereof. In a free order every man pays for his own sins and mistakes, but when they lock him up in a socialist, collectivist society, all this spreads out among the others, and everybody becomes more irresponsible!
The best illustration I can give of lack of confidence in man is the structure of the United States Constitution. We have a President, a Supreme Court, and a Congress. We call it a system of checks and balances. All power is defined and limited because our forefathers could not trust man. They could not trust the President; they could not trust the Congress; they could not even trust the Supreme Court! They had to place restraints and write them into their fundamental law so that we would be protected from the hearts of men. Our Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9.)
Fifth, we are told that the profit motive must be replaced by what we call the service motive. The idea of service, which is a splendid thing, is played up to the place where they bring it into juxtaposition with and in opposition to the idea of profit. At this point it becomes destructive propaganda for the "profit system."
Sixth, we are told that we must have the cooperative social order as opposed to the competitive social order. Our system as we recognize it, with all men free, brings men into competition with each other, and in the interplay of that competition we have progress and a lifting of the standards of life. We have initiative and responsibility. We have thrift and all the factors that play upon character as men are responsible to God.
It is in the realm of ideas that the battle is being fought. It is in the realm of the thinking of the people of our country that the struggle is on.
The Reader's Digest article, "How Radical Are the Clergy?" minimizes the situation considerably. It gives us this question which the Gallup questioner asked the clergy: "Would you prefer to live under a capitalistic economic system such as we now have, or would you prefer to live under a socialistic economic system?" Asa representative cross section of ministers, 93 per cent voted for capitalism, only two per cent preferred socialism, and five per. cent had no opinion. But it does not get at the real condition to say to the clergy, "Which would you prefer to live tinder, the one system or the other?" because it does not bring into the picture their idea that we ought to have the kingdom-of-God society.
The concept of the church of Jesus Christ as it has always been held by Protestants has been that each church should give its witness to certain particular distinctive doctrines which it believed the Bible taught. Presbyterians are Presbyterians because they believe certain things. We came to grips with that idea when we separated as a church from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. because it had "radical clergy" in its pulpits, who denied the faith of our fathers. We stepped out to maintain our historic Presbyterian Church. The inclusive idea went on its way. Many people did not think it would do very much harm, but now in that inclusive idea there is room for these radical preachers, these "prophetic spirits." There is room now for these men whom even our House Committee on UnAmerican Activities singles out by name, and nothing is ever done to bring them to trial, to call them to account for their place in the fellowship and ministry of the church. But it is not just individual men who hold these views. Whole churches begin to get filled with them.
It has been some time since we as a church have had anything to do with the minutes of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. I have here the latest minutes, 1950, of the General Assembly. There is now a department in the church on "Social Education and Action," This department presents its report and recommendations to the General Assembly. Here are actions taken by the General Assembly last year on this very question. Here is a paragraph graph entitled, "The Christian in the State," and a paragraph discussing "The General Welfare." I quote: "Our concern for the development of human personality leads directly into consideration of the operation of our economic system." Some recommendations are made in this regard: "We commend to the churches the continued study of the pressing problems in the field of economics through the institutes, seminars, and discussion groups administered by the Presbyterian Institute of Industrial Relations, the Religion and Labor Foundation, the Department of Church and Economic Life of the Federal Council of Churches." All this directs the church down the radical road.
We find another recommendation: "We recommend, therefore, that . . . our constituency be encouraged to make a careful study of the co-operative movement as one of the means by which economic democracy might be advanced."
The next recommendation is that: "The findings of the National Study Conference on the Church and Economic Life, held in Detroit in February, 1950, under the auspices of the Federal Council of Churches, be offered as a basis for study in all our churches." This Conference was definitely socialistic in its findings.
What are they doing? They are bringing into the life of the church this whole radical philosophy.
What is this about the church studying the cooperative movement as one of the means by which this economic democracy might be developed? "Economic democracy" -where do we hear of that? We do not have it in the U.S.A.; we have political democracy. What is this economic democracy that is tied in with the life of the church?
Let me read from the constitution of the Soviet Union. Here is where they get some of these radical ideas!
Article 5: "Socialist property in the U.S.S.R. exists either in the form of state property (the possession of the whole people), or in the form of cooperative and collective-farm property (property of a collective-farm or property of a cooperative association)." Here in the Soviet constitution is a reference to this cooperative association and the whole approach to it, and here in the minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church last year. Here is a commendation of this "economic democracy." This is not just a few persons. This is the whole church sitting in action in the General Assembly.
This church has two million members, and, when these ideas begin to weave their way down through the church and into society, I think we begin to feel the effect in the decisions that are made by our people in our country. Is it going to be "Christian action" that will destroy free America?
There is another denomination in our country concerned with these ideas; in fact, it is the largest one. I have here a book called Discipline of The Methodist Church, 1948, and in this Discipline, written into it as a part of it, is a section entitled, "The Methodist Social Creed." This was not there a few years ago, but it is now a part of the doctrine of the church. Let me give you some of the ideas that are in this Social Creed: "We believe that God is Father of all peoples and races, Jesus Christ is his Son, that we and all men are brothers, and that man is of infinite worth as a child of God." No, we do not believe anything of the kind. Man is a sinner and bound for hell until he is saved, and then he becomes a child of God.
Let us go on a little farther: "We believe . . . in the practical application of the Christian principle of social well-being to the acquisition and use of wealth and the subordination of the profit motive to the creative and co-operative spirit." There it is; that is the socialistic ideology. There is the socialist propaganda right there.
A little later we come to the idea of the kingdom of God as a society to be established here. Listen to this: "We call upon all leaders of our church, lay and clerical, thus to help establish the Kingdom of God in the countryside."
There are other things here, but let me read toward the end: "We recommend that this social Creed be read to our congregations at least once a year or placed in their hands in printed form. We further recommend that in every local church there shall be a committee to encourage the study of our Social Creed and to seek in every possible way to apply its principles."
Now do not misunderstand. There are recommendations in the Social Creed that are not so bad. They are, of course, against crime for one thing. But in the heart of the Social Creed are these radical ideas which come to grips with the very system of freedom which has given us our liberty. You can procure this book of Discipline from The Methodist Book Store in Philadelphia and see all this with your own eyes.
In this same connection I may say that this church has eight million, nine hundred thousand members. The Presbyterian Church has two million. So there are at least ten million people in these two denominations in the United States who are on record, through their representative churches, for these ideas which will change the very structure of the social order our fathers gave us in this free land.
They are studying in The Methodist Church right now a little booklet called, The Christian's Vocation, published by the Woman's Division of Christian Service, Board of Missions and Church Extension, The Methodist Church. This book comes out clearly for the kingdom of God as the "cooperative social order." It gives a few more details concerning the economic life, that "it becomes a co-operative rather than a competitive struggle." Here we have the ideology that strikes at the root of our concept of the individual's freedom and existence in a competitive order.
We present these facts to show that it is not just the "minority clergy" who hold these views, but we find the same ideas expressed in the actions of the denominations and in the bodies that represent the churches.
I know of nothing more shocking and which ought to arouse the American people more than the pastoral letter, dated February 1, sent out by the World Council of Churches. The executive committee of the Council sent the letter to 158 denominations. This is what they say: "This seems to us to mean imaginative thinking and action of a wholly new order. The peoples have seen the vision of social justice; it is for us to help to transform it into reality. All people in privileged countries, particularly Christians, must strive to enter sympathetically into the social demands of the needy. 'From each according' to his ability, to each according to his need' has its roots in the teaching of' Jesus." Well, my beloved friends, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," is a word for word quotation from Karl Marx. This is the thesis of the whole socialist society. Here it is now offered to the churches in the name of the World Council of Churches by the executive committee!
"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" - when you start to put that into operation, who is going to say what your ability is? Who is going to put you into the place where you will work? Who will take from you and give to the one who is in need? Who is going to stipulate the responsibility to society? This means the Litter bankruptcy of the principle of the responsibility of man for himself and it means the laying of that responsibility on society. God never placed it there. God put it on you and me, and He intends that each one of us should see that we keep that responsibility where it belongs, so that we can give an account to Him. This letter was followed immediately by an article appearing in The Outlook, the official organ of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in our country. This is the organization taking the place of the Federal Council. The article is entitled, "Will We Stay Together?" When the writer of the article reaches his conclusion he says, "Will we stay together? Yes, if the spirit of this letter [the reference is to the letter of the World Council's executive committee of February I in which we have this statement] can be made to permeate the mind and spirit of the Christian community throughout the world."
I do not think that spirit ought to permeate the Christian community through out the world. I think the Christian community throughout the world ought to rise tip and say that that sort of doctrine is not in Christianity. It misleads not only the church but the nation. It prepares the way for world reconciliation with Communism.
These statements are not just from a few clergy. They are from responsible church organizations the World Council of Churches and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. When these influences find their way down through the life of our churches and into our schools, we are going to see the effect in a changing of our American way of life in the next 25 years. It is not a matter that can be looked at very complacently because it involves also the whole subject of freedom. I am free to talk to you today; I am free to speak of these things here today, but when we have the kind of society that is involved in this proposed socialist structure, that freedom will not last.
All this leads to political activity. The pronouncement of the World Council of Churches which I have just read to Von said further: "The Churches which still have real opportunities to influence government policies have a special duty." The minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. which I just read to you calls on its Department on Social Education and Action to send actions and resolutions to Washington, and now, when any particular issue arises in Washington, at that particular time the Department on Social Education and Action goes to influence legislation. This becomes political pressure; it gets into the realm of lobbying, out of which the church has stayed in years past.
There is a difference, a basic difference. It concerns the way our Country is to go.
Let us see how all this operates and sinners down to the local level and into the hands of young people in the church. One of the students in our congregation, a member here, studying at the University of Pennsylvania, brought me a paper. It is the Christian Association Advocate of the University of Pennsylvania, March, 1951, "A Special Issue." The leading article is, "Ideas Communism Can Offer to Christianity." Now if it had been, "Ideas Christianity Can Offer to Communism," it would be good. The tables ought to be turned and communism given some of those ideas. Here is a young student writing in the University's Christian Association paper, putting down this philosophy and ideology we have been talking about. Here it is right in the student life of our nearby university. The article begins: "Communism is a dynamic social force today because of the zeal of the Communist Party. It has become what Christianity would like to become - the hope of the masses of the world. Why has communism usurped the place once held by the Christian Church?"
I do not think it has, in any sense of the word.
The article continues: "Communism has captured the imagination of masses of mankind because it offers solutions to the problems which directly affect their lives. Christianity, on the other hand, has been too willing to preach the security of poverty to the poor (instead of to the rich where it is relevant.)" There you have the Marxian philosophy, "Christianity is the opiate of the people."
We read further: "Communism concerns itself with the material salvation of man, and it behooves the Christian to do the same." A little further on we read: "The communist concept of dynamic centralism can be utilized by a militant Christian Church. This idea runs counter to the Protestant ideal that each individual should be allowed to define his own Christian obligations. Protestantism refuses to make any demands on its congregations, fearing freedom of the individual may be destroyed. This type of thinking has rendered the church impotent as a force in everyday life."
Think of it! Offering us the communist ideas of solidarity and centrality of operation in place of the Protestant concept of the individual's responsibility and conscience! Communism, we are told, "is admittedly a subversive element as Christianity ought to be."
There are a number of such ideas running through the article. In one place we read: "Communism has much to offer Christianity primarily because it has learned so much from Christianity." Do you think communism has learned anything from Christianity? It is an atheistic, materialistic philosophy from beginning to end! Who has been leading the thoughts of these students?
The article concludes with the statement: "If it [Christianity] is again to become a vital force in the world, then Christians will have to achieve the zeal and devotion of their Marxist brethren."
The president of the University of Pennsylvania is Dr. Harold E. Stassen who is a prospect for the Republican candidacy for President of the United States. This material is in the paper of the Christian Association of his university, and this is how these radical ideas simmer down and find expression in the life of the university campus. The Christian Association promotes the National Council of Churches of which Dr. Stassen is a vice president.
The Reader's Digest article, "How Radical Are the Clergy?" reports that 27 per cent of the clergy in the United States favor what is called today socialized medicine. Here the sharp edge of the conflict comes to grips with our present freedom. Emotion, the pain of people, and the appeal of something for nothing are the background of the drive to break through our present free structure free doctors., free people, free medicine.
Now, what shall we do?
All this has to be exposed, and God's people should not object to its being exposed. This has to be pointed out for what it is worth in our country and in the church. It must be done, if we are going to see our country preserved. It is just as much your duty as it is the duty of the preacher.
God's people should not support churches which propagate false doctrine. How in the world can we expect to change the situation when Christians are giving money and are in fellowship with the attack on freedom in the church? God's people should cease to support it. They should be done with churches that will Put this kind of propaganda into their Discipline and creeds and pronouncements and offer it to the people of the country in the name of the church.
We must carry on an active program against all this propaganda. There must be real organized opposition against it. Thank God, we have the American Council of Christian Churches in the U.S.A. Our state councils, such as the New Jersey Council of Christian Churches, are in the struggle, too.
It is just as much Christian evangelism to get busy with literature, information, and tracts, and tell Your neighbors and friends what is involved in this false teaching in the church, as it is to go down to the street corner and speak to a man about his soul. Both must be done, That is evangelism that is missionary work. It is our responsibility. If the Christian people who believe in freedom and private responsibility and all these precious truths would do that, our freedom would be preserved.
What does my text say?
"To whom shall I speak, and give warning that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it."