Letters to an Old Friend…

Dear John:

You want my views about the subject now under discussion in our beloved TORCH AND TRUMPET? I have tried to outline a few of them in this letter. Whether I have succeeded in sketching, so to say, my bargaining position in such a cramped space is a question you will have to answer. For views about education do not stand on their own. One has to detach them—and that is a dangerous operation! from the totality of one’s conception of God, world, and man. Unless a brother is muddle-headed I can fairly well sketch for you his religious and philosophical position when you tell me his “educational” position, and vice-versa.

To ask not too much of your valuable time I shall refrain from criticizing or applauding the remarks that have already been made, unless I meet them head-on. Keep also this in mind: 1 am a Canadian—not a citizen of your Republic. What is bad for your geese may be good for my gander.

As I see it, two quite different, though not separate, questions are in order with regard to “Educational Freedom,” to wit:

A. What am I allowed to do as a Christian citizen?

B. What are my duties as a Christian?

Think twice before you accuse the undersigned Hotspur of cavilling on the ninth part of a hair! Countless in number are the things a man is allowed to do under a modern, secularized government, from which a Christian must abstain. And even greater is the number of things which the Lord requires of the citizens all and sundry, but to which the majority of them do not pay any attention. Has logical empiricism not decreed that religious talk doesn’t make sense and that belief in God is only a frame of reference?

To say something about question A: I do not share the convictions of, for instance, Rosalie A. Slater and the Rev. Rushdoony on the subject of American Constitutional history, but when the chips are down we see eye to eye and then I share their point of view. We Christians, cannot under any circumstance accept the democratically, better: mobocratically, distorted interpretations advocated by your President and endorsed by his—I mean: your—Supreme Court. I do not hold that Calvin was right when he expressed his preference for a republican form of government. However, granted the Great Republic which your Founding Fathers conceived and Madison tried to preserve by means of a carefully constructed Constitution, I think you will have to insist on one thing: Christian citizens must play the political game according to the rules. And with the frame of mind, the basic attitude, these rules presuppose! If we try to get things done our way with the help of political pressure groups we undermine—however unwittingly—the foundations of our freedom. (Please, be aware: I put it your way for shortness’ sake. Whether “freedom” as commonly defined is compatible with a truly Reformed philosophy of government is a thorny issue I do not want to touch now.) Justice bought with 51 per cent of the vote is a harlot who will desert you as soon as the vote at your side drops to 49.99 per cent, and hence is not worth wooing. You already see, of course, where I am going: I am not in favor of a political “action,” i.e. “pressure” groups. I want to light the good light and wage a good warfare holding a good conscience. I do not want to be classified in a heap with Big Labor, Big Beer-and Spirits, and Big What-Not. A government pushed around by “powers” of that stripe and elected assemblies under the thumb of cajoling lobbies betray their sacred trusts. I do not favor an organization of citizens threatening Congress and Parliament with the wrath of the pseudo-almighty “St. Votius.” Especially I do not see how a true and laudable desire to keep Washington’s and Ottawa’s insatiable bureaucracy out of the lush pastures of education is compatible with a nation-wide organization. From the Statist viewpoint you only make things easier. Instead of compelling the centralizers to fight a many-headed hydra state-by-state and province-by-province you offer them a chance to deal with, or make a deal with—that’s the most dangerous aspect! only one opponent!

As a Christian citizen I prefer federations (plural) of independent schools and colleges whose representatives will seek justice. And if you declare this to be a hopeless undertaking, yet I’ll stick to that.

Somewhere in Canada, I am told, a representative of a Provincial government commented as follows on a brief asking for equal-share in funds allotted to education, “We do not have the money, but as soon as you have enough votes, of course, we’ll find the dollars.” I wonder, John, if we should make a deal on that level or should think in a frame of reference thus tainted. Ill gains go apace—I’ve seen it in the Netherlands where an agreement on such a basis was concluded in 1920. I would rather not build with hay when I suspect the stuff to be hay. There are enough actions left in which I’m sure I’m building with gold and precious stones, when actually they are wood and stubble only.

I know that I do not excel in clarity. But do not forget that we, conservatives, are handicapped on two counts. To define an attitude of mind is as difficult as describing a primary color, and to explain inhibitions rationally is a tough job to tackle. Second, a “liberal” has it easy: his master-plan contains all the answers. Just adopt his directives and in three shakes you’ll have the society everybody wants. We have to seek and search out by wisdom how things have to be done under heaven, and that is—as Scripture puts it—a sore travail. Quite possibly future events will prove me wrong in preferring federations. Brothers with greater wisdom and deeper insight may show me the errors of my way next week. I only try to be sure that with regard to the education of our children, our greatest treasure, I can expect a “Well done” from on high. In a “plebiscite” democracy I could conceivably join a political action group; in a “representative,” a “delegate” democracy I can’t do this.

Also, do not forget: as things are, we hanker only after a few this-worldly dollars. We want what we deem to be our “rightful” share. In that respect C.E.F., A.F.L. and C.I.O. are birds of one feather. You don’t have to look into a crystal ball to foretell what is going to happen when a pressure group gains headway. Headquarters are established, an office staff of, initially, one girl multiplies like potatoes in Idaho. Cramped space compels the construction of new glass-and·marble buildings with libraries, educational facilities and conference balls. Executives get entrenched behind ten-foot desks, the rank-and-file can pay their dues and keep their mouths shut. At the end, whether you consider the Teamsters Union, the National Council of Churches, Billy Hargis, Oral Roberts, the N.A.A.C.P., or the C.E.F., there is only one thing lacking; the fitting inscription above the head entrance of the Head Offices, to wit, “The Horseleach Hath Two Daughters, Crying, Give, Give,” or “Might is Right.” No, thanks, that’s not my dish! The Christian way to go about it is quiet persuasion. No power politics!

What t envisage are Federations of Independent Schools and Colleges on provincial and state level. With one cardinal maxim: Education is the responsibility of the parents, and it only becomes a concern of the local—repeat: local government in case of gross neglect. “That’s all fine and dandy,” I hear you say, “but what are those Federations going to do?”

Many good and noble deeds, I hope. From, perhaps, combined purchases to the distribution of persuasive pamphlets. Above all they will have to prepare first-class briefs and petitions to their respective governments. And when these supplications are curtly dismissed—as they will be!—we must try to go to court. The Queen versus…, the Commonwealth versus…—let us pray that there still may be judges in Canada and the United States. But when the courts deny us our rights? Then we have to wait, arrange our cases more carefully and try again. That the individuals who maintain the schools that are members of the Federations will ask the opinions of their representatives in the governing assemblies and will subsequently vote in accordance with the dictates of their consciences goes without saying. And consciences can be bothersome! What if the liberal left wing candidate is willing to make a deal and his soundly conservative opponent does not share our point of view yet? There is in politics more at stake than our misdirected tax-dollar!

However, if this all is of no avail—what then? Well, nothing. Except, of course. a stepped-up campaign to make our co-citizens see the justice of our case.

Then; our task of Christians per se within these vaunted Federations? First of all we shall have to make sure that we, so to say, not become unequally yoked together with unbelievers. There is no sect or social group excluded from membership; hence we must insist that the constitutions of the respective federations provide us with the opportunity to disassociate ourselves from any action which we deem to be contrary to the commandments of our Lord, and yet to remain members in good standing—yes, my dear friend: even here it pops up, that Article 31 of your old Church Order, which some of your churches seem to be minimizing to their deadly peril, but later more about that!

Further, we shall have to work hard, think carefully, and search the Scriptures to prevent such a situation of non-alignment from arising. To make my letter not too long I would like to give only two examples of the many controversies that will present themselves. Your Supreme Court has declared that it is proper for the government to regulate that which it subsidizes. We are—at least I hope sol-all unequivocally against such a regulation. For—don’t you forget it on pain of losing your parent-controlled school—you are not going to set bounds to that intervention; the secular—don’t overlook this adjective on pain of losing your Christian freedom—the secular government will see to that! Question: are you, a Christian, justified in asking for dollars without desiderata, thus enticing said government to forsake its duty? And a second question: do you hold that you, a Reformed man, are free to make gifts to a Roman Catholic School? Or that a Roman Catholic in good faith can donate a dime to an institution where the pupils are taught that his venerated Mass, at bottom, is nothing else than an accursed idolatry? To put these questions is to answer them.

At the moment both of you do not have to have pangs of conscience -you are not forced to pay such extortion money. But let the government collect the dues, subtract its ample share for the costs of legions of new officials and enough paper to cover the fifty sovereign States with a layer six inches thick, let it dole out the slender remains to the eager recipient’s…then the devout, but erring brother of the Church of Home will feel disturbed at the thought that part of his chipped dollars will help to pay the salaries of teachers who will denounce his heresies in no uncertain terms—at least I will!

Is it right for a Christian to propagate such Robin Hood methods? I don’t know your answer, but you know mine, don’t want anybody’s money, unless freely given! I deny the government the right to compel even my few educational dollars to go where I do not want them to go. Most of my meager taxes are already spent in a way I dislike shall I propagate another compulsion?

“You narrow-headed fanatic,” many will say, “if we follow you—but we won’t—on your over-zealous way we shall have to close our schools. As things are going now something must be arranged. The burden on the parents is far too heavy already.”

I do not believe it! Ten years ago about three dozen fathers opened my school in a building popularly called “Ye Olde Chicken Coop.” Practically all those fathers had an income from odd and non-union jobs below the amount on which you begin to pay the graduated income tax, Income per capita was about 30$ of the national average. During the first winter the temperature in the classrooms in the morning was sometimes less than fifty degrees. We couldn’t afford to keep the old furnace going on expensive coal all night! Lanky boys of fourteen years had to wriggle into Grade Two desks. And so on! But God knew that we needed more, and we trusted Him—at least in the fare moments when we did not murmur about our hardships or fight about triBes! Would He give us stones when we asked for bread?

That, as said, was ten years ago. We started in hope and faith and almost lost both many times. We were and are allow me a revivalist term!—just a bunch of miserable sinners. Yet, with His help, we showed the Lord that we meant what we said when we quoted Matthew six, the thirty-fourth verse.

Come along, and have a look now! Ours is an up-to-date building, half already payed for as the final result of an error in a municipal planning-bureau. God works in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform! We have hot-water heating with thermostats in all classrooms, an abundance of equipment and what-not. Transportation is no longer a problem; a group of young people help to provide the funds to keep our school-bus going.

God has not changed. He who led Israel through the desert—and their clothes did not wear out, and their shoes did not grow old!—He is still able to lead us and feed us in this desert of a post-Christian world. Our trouble is that we do not take this truth to heart, but are always prone to follow Israel’s bad example. We murmur before it is really necessary. We are willing to do anything, provided God gives us the means. To begin the work without the means in the sure faith that then He will provide the means—that’s a different story!

To recapitulate; I’m ready to go into action for our rights. But I’d like to be fully convinced that I am only doing what my Saviour can approve. The Good Book says, “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”

Yours in Christ,