As we have emphasized in previous articles on the subject of unions, the matter is important and warrants discussion, for it is not something which is irrelevant to our daily life in this world in which we live; but on the contrary has to do with our right to earn a living and to live our physical life in this world. No one has a right to take from us our work. But the world does that nevertheless. And the question is whether we must sacrifice our principles, or whether we must suffer in order to remain faithful to our calling. No, that is not really the question. For we may not sacrifice our principles, ever, regardless of the results. The question is, how do we sacrifice our principles by joining a labor organization?
Why is the stand which our churches have taken, namely that union membership and church membership are incompatible, necessary to maintain even though we may be required to suffer because of it? That question I will answer in these articles.
The Christian Reformed Church speaks of the labor unions in America as being “neutral labor unions.” And they base their stand on the fact that these unions are “neutral.” Because they are no more than “neutral” organizations, one may hold membership in them and remain a member in good standing in the churches. Therefore, we ought first to investigate whether these unions are in reality neutral as they are called, or whether this is a misnomer. Of course, it seems to be strange, to say the least, that an important decision of this kind can be maintained only on the basis of the word “neutral.” It would seem that, apart from the question whether or not this is true, it is a very weak ground to base a decision of such importance. And yet no other reason can be found in the stand of the Christian Reformed Church.
What is meant by a “neutral” organization?
This is not such an easy question to answer. When a group of people form an organization of some type, then they adopt a set of principles to define the nature of the organization and the purpose of its existence. These principles speak of the type of organization that is being formed, the purpose for formation, the way in which the organization will function, and the means by which the purpose will be achieved. Thus there is, for example, the organization of police. It is their purpose to enforce the laws of the land and to do so by means of arrest and punishment of the offender. The organization is composed of men who are duty bound to maintain peace and order in society.
Every set of principles which an organization adopts expresses an ethical and moral and spiritual content. This can never be avoided. In the final analysis that means that every principle adopted by every organization expresses the views of the body which adopts it with respect to God and his kingdom. Either an organization is committed to the principle of the furtherance of the cause of God, the glory of his Name and the realization of His purpose, or it is committed to the principle of the establishment of a kingdom apart from God and without His Christ, a kingdom which is dedicated to the realization of the power of sin and darkness, the furtherance of the cause of the Antichrist.
I suppose that a “neutral” organization would be one which has not committed itself to either. This is impossible. It is impossible, for man himself cannot be neutral. Man cannot assume the position that he will defer a decision as to whether he supports the kingdom of God or the kingdom of darkness. Man must think and act and desire. And every time he thinks or acts or desires, he expresses an opinion concerning his attitude toward God. Man is not “neutral.” Neutrality is absolutely impossible. There is no such thing in the world. To call an organization “neutral” is a flat contradiction in terms.
There is no common grace in the world. There is no such thing as natural and civic good. All is either of sin or of God. All is either committed to sin or committed to the service and the glory of Him Who is most blessed forever.
So entirely apart from the right or the wrong of unions, they are emphatically not neutral! And to call them such is very dangerous, for it leaves people with the impression that they may join such an organization without a spiritual commitment.
There are, however, organizations which do not express definitely that spiritual commitment. Men do not always look so far ahead and include definitely in their constitutions that they are dedicated to the cause of sin. If they are established by wicked men, they are also used for the purpose of sin and evil. And oftentimes this involves a denial of the principles upon which an organization is founded. But they do not always definitely express their purposes in the principles which they adopt. I have in mind, for example, certain types of government. A monarchy may seek to rule over a people with the definite aim of maintaining peace and order.
The ultimate aim of a wicked man who is king may be to seek his own ends and to satisfy and gratify his own lusts for money and power. But the monarchy, as such, may be a legitimate means of rule in a world of sin. Such it was in the days of Israel. And even though wicked men often sat upon the throne, righteous men also ruled, and did so in service to God. The purpose of wicked kings was to use Israel’s monarchy to destroy the promised seed and to establish their own kingdom of sin. The purpose of righteous men was to serve God and rule over God’s people.
Or to use another illustration, a group of small and independent grocers may organize in order to buy merchandise at lower rates and in larger quantities in order to earn a living this way. Wicked men may seek their own ends, but righteous men may seek to earn a living by legitimate means. Wicked men may seek to sin more by this organization; righteous men may use it to earn a living in order that they may support the cause of Jesus Christ in the world.
Let us apply this whole matter to labor unions. The question is not, therefore, whether these unions are “neutral”; that is impossible. The question is, upon what principles are these unions founded? Are they principles which do not conflict with the principles of Christian conduct? Are they principles which are compatible with the principles of a child of God in the midst of the world? Or are their principles in violation of the will of God and thus are in conflict with the principles of Christian living? Do they militate against the calling of the saint? Do they oppose and deny the manifestation of the life of Jesus Christ in those who belong to His body? Are they therefore incompatible with church membership? These questions we must answer.
In this connection, there is also the question of what is generally known as corporate responsibility. But to this we must call attention in the following issue.