Libertarian Papers Vol. 2, Art. No. 14 (2010)

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The CFF believed in the evangelical approach to solving society’s problems. The only way ‘sin’ could be eradicated from society (which included poverty, homelessness, etc.) was by the church teaching individuals that the personal acceptance of the Holy Spirit would save their souls. Only then, in a Christian society, would there be social justice, in the sense of everyone receiving a fair reward for their efforts. If you lived a Christian life and worked hard, with a Christian employer, you would not be poor. Leading unbelievers to the salvation promised by Jesus was the only legitimate use of the pulpit, and the only way the Church should act as a corporate organization.

Kershner warned those who believed the church should campaign for the application of the values contained in the Gospels through government intervention, in the 1958 editorial, ‘Dare We Limit the Gospel,’ that “there is a great difference between the intelligence, the education, and the level of understanding” of Church members. Consequently, when the minister uses the pulpit to make “pronouncements on political and economic questions it leads to much division.”16 As no two people hold exactly the same opinions on political and economic questions, when the minister uses his sermon to address those problems by urging support for remedial legislation, backed by the ‘higher’ authority of a NCC directive, he becomes a ‘sower of discord’ in the congregation. And in a letter to Pew of April 1960, enclosing a proposed editorial for Christian Economics, the journal’s editor made a timeless argument against the Church preaching the ‘Social Gospel.’ He stated that in the opinion of the CFF, “the Christian religion would never have been heard of if Jesus had made his appeal on the basis of political and economic pronouncements and the organization of pressure groups to achieve them through the power of government.”17

In a 1962 speech to the Laymen’s Leadership Institute, ‘Our Reformation Heritage,’ Pew observed that since the formation of the FCC in 1908, and since “the church has become increasingly involved in social, economic and political affairs,” the result has been that, “the spiritual and moral life of our nation has deteriorated to a frightening degree.”18 The detrimental effect of the FCC and NCC on American society was also a major concern of Spiritual Mobilization (SM); the organization founded by Dr. James W. Fifield Jr., Dr. Donald J. Cowling, and Professor William Hocking at Palmer House, Chicago, in the spring of 1935. But their opposition to liberalism inside and outside of the church did not reach its full audience until the publication of the first Faith and Freedom in December 1949.

A monthly journal of (usually) 24 pages, originally edited by William Johnson, Faith and Freedom also promoted Christian libertarianism. The credo of SM, and the organization’s journal, underwent several revisions, but the declaration in the January 1954 issue is representative of the others: “Faith and Freedom is a voice of the libertarian—persistently recommending the religious philosophy of limited government inherent in the Declaration of Independence,” and explained, “our editorial policy is based on a profound faith in God, the Author of liberty, and in Jesus Christ, who promoted persuasion in place of coercion as the means for accomplishing positive good.”19

An example of the central importance of persuasion rather than coercion as a means of accomplishing good came in the first issue of December 1949, in the article ‘Should Government Be Our Brother’s Keeper,’ written by ex-President Herbert Hoover. He began by recognizing the strain increased taxation had placed on the individual’s ability to voluntarily contribute to welfare agencies, but gave several reasons why citizens should not relinquish the desire to continue their own charitable activities. The first, not surprisingly for Hoover, argued that the exceptional ‘free and noble’ character of American civilization rested upon the inspiration for progress the country’s voluntary organizations—churches, businesses, women’s organizations, labor and farmer associations, charitable agencies—galvanized. If this “very nature of American life” was absorbed by government bureaucracies, the result would be that something “neither free nor noble would take its place.”

His final rationalization for the voluntary impulse extended this argument to the future of world civilization. Noting that the world “is in the grip of a death struggle between the philosophy of Christ and that of Hegel and Marx,” he contended that the distinguishing characteristic of the Christian philosophy was compassion—and that compassion was not only the outward “noblest expression of man,” but also those “who serve receive untold spiritual benefit.” If individual compassion was replaced by a government who acted as our ‘Brother’s Keeper,’ that spiritual benefit would be lost, and along with it the “outstanding spiritual distinction of our civilization.” Hoover left unspoken the inevitable outcome of that loss; why make the sacrifices necessary to fight for a civilization that differed little from the philosophy of the enemy. Hoover concluded by explaining that the simplest answer to why government agencies should not replace voluntary organizations was contained in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He did not “enter into governmental or philosophic discussions” before aiding the injured man. Instead, the Good Samaritan, as the Bible describes, “had compassion on him … he bound his wounds … and took care of him.”20

The Tenth Anniversary edition of Faith and Freedom also used the parable of the Good Samaritan as the means of explaining differences in attitude to the role of government in providing aid to the individual. Written in the Winter of 1959–60, just as the acrimony between the Right and Left that reached its climax in the election of 1964 was beginning, the issue debated (in deliberately respectful and conciliatory tones) the divergent approaches taken by liberals and libertarians to the proper place of the Church in contemporary society. The debate began with the printing of the modern parable, ‘Structured Neighborliness,’ by the liberal Congregationalist minister, Rev. Julian J. Keiser. It recounted the tale of a motorist who suffered an accident on the freeway, and who was rescued only after the police were called on a car telephone by a passing driver. Other motorists who witnessed the collision were stymied in their desire to help by their inability to stop on the fast-moving freeway. Keiser’s lesson was that in the new mechanized age the ‘hands-on’ efforts of the Good Samaritan were now impractical; that modern solutions, and modern agencies, were the only answer to modern problems.

Keiser’s fellow Congregationalist, the Rev. Harry R. Butman, disagreed, and made his rejoinder in the article, ‘The Minimized Man.’ He argued the modern parable illustrated the lamentable tendency among many ministers, “to move away from the teachings of Jesus into a religion of collectivism.” Butman contended that Keiser and his brethren were too ready to embrace “an unthinking worship of the machine,” and as a consequence regarded problems in society as a product of the new industrialized America, structural faults only resolvable by ‘engineers’ who understood how the machine was supposed to work. Butman argued that Social Action ministers (of whom Keiser was representative) held an unquestioning assumption in the efficacy of the State in administering to the needs of the individual, because the State was the only agency capable of effecting significant and enduring reform in the new mass society. Keiser, Butman objected, dismissed the choices of the individual as irrelevant and ineffectual in the face of the reality of modern conditions, mistakenly claiming that the dictates of a Christian’s conscience were only fully attainable in the pastoral society the Good Samaritan, and Jesus, had lived in.21

Butman countered that the teachings of Jesus were timeless; that “his stress on the worth of the single soul, and his disesteem of the organized group,” were as relevant to an industrial age as to an earlier agricultural society. Where Keiser ‘minimized’ man by making the car telephone and the police the ‘heroes’ of the parable, and dehumanized man by substituting the impersonal assistance of an organization for the human contact and compassion of the Samaritan, God glorified man by making him in His own image. The poet of the Eighth Psalm, Butman explained, delivered “a pean (sic) to man’s greatness as God’s son,” and that ennobling perspective should fortify the individual in the impersonal society inhabited by liberals, and help him maintain the scepticism to “never grant the Moloch-machine or the god-state the idolatrous homage they get from the unthinking many.” Butman recognized that Christian libertarians could not escape the mechanized world, and held out little optimism that the prevailing collectivist society could be changed until there was a spiritual revelation in America, but he stressed the need to fight the good fight and “hold fast” to God’s commandment to “love his God and his neighbour with all his heart.”22

The differing opinions of Keiser and Butman excited much discussion among the journal’s readers, and the next issue of Faith and Freedom devoted an extended appraisal, along with editorial comment, to the opinions of correspondents. One section addressed the essential question for Christian libertarians: ‘Where Is The Line Between Caesar and God?’ Rev. Edward W. Greenfield, who had succeeded William Johnson as editor in September 1958, stated that the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights used their understanding of human nature to, “draw the line near that end of the spectrum which gave minimum scope to Caesar and maximum scope to God,”23 but over time the line had steadily moved until it now rested at the other end of the spectrum.

Unfortunately, Greenfield recognized, it was not possible to return to the political economy of the late eighteenth century, and so the question remained for the individual of how much of his personal responsibility should he attempt to recover from the state. Greenfield called for a gradual return of the freedoms usurped by Caesar, and a steady expansion of the “province of God,”24 by eliminating some of the more egregious abuses of the State. For instance, the laws which protected the monopoly power of unions and artificial price supports. But, he stressed, political efforts to overturn restrictive legislation was of secondary importance to the fundamental question of ‘What Is Happening To The Human Spirit?’ in a modern world where, “mechanized material abundance and the intrusions of the State upon individual liberties are a threat to the integrity of the individual soul.”25

Greenfield was no luddite, no Southern Agrarian. He accepted the technological marvels which had transformed American society, but believed they were only useful to the extent that they advanced the potential for human freedom. Wealth, leisure time, physical wellbeing, were all desirable, but only as the means of procuring the ends of the “sacredness of personality.” Material improvements in society were only a benefit to the individual when they helped in the achievement of the spiritual knowledge to become, as Jesus, ‘The Master of Life.’ Master of life in that individuals should recognize, “that most human problems were, in the final analysis, a reflection of something wrong, something ugly, within man himself.” Once the individual realized no manmade coercion could force him or others, to be virtuous, that laws could not eradicate the Original Sin of human nature, then each person could strive to fulfil the responsibilities and duties owed to God.

The reason why Christian libertarians spent so much of their ire on “the blasphemy of much of the so-called Social Gospel,” Greenfield continued, is that by tending to “substitute the powers of this world for the power of God,” they were “telling the great lie of the twentieth century!”26 And by lying to their congregations, ministers were impeding them in their search for the truth. Legislation could not reform the individual or society; only spiritual regeneration of the individual could transform society by a step-by-step, one by one, desire for a return to the limited government that alone ensured the means for the development of individual freedom.

But, largely as a result of the greater space available, Faith and Freedom was much more interested in matters of an immediate political concern than Christian Economics. A regular feature in Spiritual Mobilization’s journal was the 2-page article, ‘Along Pennsylvania Avenue,’ a report on current affairs from Washington written by Frank Chodorov before he left to become editor of the Freeman in July 1954, and then by Murray Rothbard under the pseudonym Audrey Herbert. Faith and Freedom was also able to devote much more attention to foreign policy, as evidenced in April 1954 when an entire special 36 page issue debated the best ways (with a variety of contending opinions) to deal with the Soviet menace. It included an article by Audrey Herbert, ‘The Real Aggressor,’ which argued for a placatory attitude toward the Soviets, and lambasted the real enemy as those conservatives “who are calling for lower taxes and less government control, while on the other they are calling for a virtual holy war against Russia and China, with all the costliness, death and statism that such a war would necessarily entail.”27

Still, the major concern of Faith and Freedom was to encourage a return to the traditional reverence for the principles, religious in foundation, established by the founding fathers. Only then could a revitalized United States defeat the threat communism posed to not just America but the rest of the world as well. Faith and Freedom, in article after article, stressed that America’s greatest danger came from the nation’s spiritual malaise, not from outside enemies. Dr. James W. Fifield Jr., in the September 1954 article, ‘Freedom Under God,’ argued that: “Our founding fathers recognized that there is a moral law which inheres in the nature of the universe,” and that they “found the rules in the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes.” It was the assurance gained from such knowledge that encouraged them to overthrow the immoral rule of the British, and to establish a government which recognized the natural right of individuals to live their lives free from government interference. In recent times adherence to this moral law had been abandoned, Fifield contended, and instead of “inquiring whether a thing is right or wrong, we have wondered whether it is Right or Left.”28 The result was confusion and fear; the same emotions that had allowed Hitler, with the misguided assistance of the country’s opinion makers, to destroy freedom in Germany.

Fifield maintained that to avoid being “hoodwinked” like the Germans, Americans must seek to re-establish their faith, and the belief in the dignity of man and his freedom that necessarily accompanied it. Once faith had substituted fear then: “‘Putting on the whole armor of God,’ we can with confidence face whatever awaits or overtakes us.” And more, a rejuvenated America could fulfil its new mission as the last bulwark of freedom against the forces of darkness. Fifield recognized that the United States had, “thus far tragically failed” to provide moral and spiritual leadership for the rest of the world, “which is what the other nations really need and want.” Not for Fifield the immediate and expedient remedies of foreign aid or rearmament; instead he believed that once Americans had reclaimed their traditional freedom under God, we can “from our rekindled torch renew the lamps of freedom which have gone out in so many parts of the world.”29 The essential impetus for a restoration of traditional veneration for the individual right of freedom under God, Fifield asserted, must come from the opinion makers; the professors, the businessmen, and especially the pastors who shaped the convictions of America’s citizens.

Three years later, in April 1957, Fifield presented a somewhat more pessimistic view of the current situation in the United States and abroad, arguing “our military, political, and economic efforts have all failed,” and that “the world was worse off than it was when we inaugurated our current programs.” He alleged that the Marshall Plan, Point Four, and UNRRA had failed because they lacked the spiritual dynamic needed to foster acceptance and gratitude among the beneficiaries. These relief measures were presented as practical remedies for practical problems, with no mention of the charitable and voluntary impulses that underlay them. The recipients of aid viewed the programs as an attempt by an imperialistic American government to extend its global financial dominance, not realizing they were only possible because of the charitable character of the American electorate as a whole. A misconception that was fostered by the reluctance of Americans to elucidate their spiritual beliefs in political discourse. Americans, Fifield charged, were keeping their faith under “lock and key,” and not applying it “to the day-by-day problems of life,” thereby contributing “nothing to the strength of the last bastions” of freedom. The answer to this reticence was, as Fifield proclaimed in the title of his article, ‘We Need A Leader—Now!’ In a veiled sideswipe at the current President, Fifield called for “a stalwart, upstanding and adequate leader, who would raise and make manifest a standard to which all good men could repair.” He recommended Douglas MacArthur for the role because “people would listen, and would be persuaded by the logic of his position—the eloquence and soberness of truth.”30

The desire to spread the ‘truth’ lay behind the founding of the Freeman in 1950. Not content to contain his philosophy of individual freedom to the pages of Christian Economics, and its intended audience of Christian ministers, J. Howard Pew helped finance a magazine which, he explained in a letter of July 9, 1952, to Forrest Davis (then an editor of the Freeman), “should be a purveyor of the truth” to the general educated reader. Pew wrote to Davis to criticize the editorial opposition of the Freeman to Eisenhower’s campaign to become President (even though he agreed with their sentiments), because he did not consider “this to be their proper field.” He reminded Davis of, “what those of us who were instrumental in founding the Freeman had in mind as its objectives.” These objectives were for the editors to explain the enduring principles of economics, sociology, and political economy, with a “recognition of religious and spiritual values,” and to understand that “current events should be so handled as to point up an eternal truth.”31 Interestingly, enough of these objectives had been achieved in the first issue of October 2, 1950, for Fifield to write to Pew that, it “runs in my mind that you are the force behind this.”32 The two men were acquaintances (Pew donated an undisclosed amount to SM over the years), and Fifield realized the Freeman’s search for eternal truths was the result of the influence of the Pennsylvania oilman.

That first issue contained much that Pew disapproved of, but did contain two articles he praised in a letter to Jasper E. Crane, the Du Pont executive who, along with Alfred Kohlberg, was the main facilitator in bringing together the original subscribers and editorial staff of the magazine. The first, “excellent and appropriate article,”33 was the editorial statement, ‘The Faith of the Freeman.’ Written by Henry Hazlitt, though, as Hazlitt revealed to Pew, “it embodied ideas also from John Chamberlain and Suzanne La Follette,”34 this statement of principles explained that the main aim of the Freeman was, “to clarify the concept of individual freedom and apply it to the problems of our time.” Hazlitt continued by declaring that individual freedom had, “long been embodied in the classical liberal tradition,” and that the basis of “the true liberal tradition” was economic freedom, protected by a government that recognized “the equality of all men before the law, the subordination of the state itself to the law.” Economic freedom, he claimed, was only possible in a society where the free market was protected by a government that confined itself to prohibiting, “violence, intimidation, theft, fraud, coercive monopoly and coercion of every kind.” Although Hazlitt did not specifically look to religious values as the necessary guarantors of a free society, he did stress that the classical liberal tradition, “has always emphasized the moral autonomy of the individual.” An independence of action that was essential to a free society because, “[R]eal morality cannot exist where this no real freedom of choice.”35

The second article in this first issue that Pew commended, “as an excellent presentation of the subject,”36 did discuss the specific relationship between religion and individual freedom. George Sokolsky, in ‘Freedom—A Struggle,’ argued that freedom of the individual, in the United States, “is not the result of chance or the product of revolution, but is derived from the ‘Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.’” The founding fathers were not content merely to overthrow British institutions and replace them with similar American agencies; instead they “established an intellectual and spiritual basis for the Revolution.” The Declaration of Independence, Sokolsky maintained, was “not only a statement of separation; it was a reassertion of the dignity of man within the scope of Natural Law.” Imbued with a reverence for the Natural Law philosophy, absorbed from their study of British jurists like Sir Edward Coke, the founders of the new nation (mostly lawyers) inaugurated a concept of the law that was, “based not on legislation but on a moral system which deals in terms of man as a creation of God and not as a creature of the state.” And when they stated that men are ‘endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,’ the founders were expressing their belief that freedom was, “fundamental to human existence; so fundamental that is was an endowment from God and not a work of man.”37

Sokolsky concluded his article by asserting the relevance of such abstract ideas to the contemporary conflict between Western Civilization and communism. He contended that propaganda efforts to promote a belief in freedom behind the Iron Curtain, such as the Voice of America, were ignored because they failed to ground their message in the “doctrine of life incorporated in Natural Law.” Only a belief in the fundamental principles inherent in the individual freedom proclaimed by the divine mandate of Natural Law could stir the oppressed masses to resist, with the attendant sacrifices that would require, their communist masters. And (surprisingly, if you accept that he was, as Time blithely commented, no more than a “Publicist,” and “star-spangled spieler for capitalism”),38 Sokolsky warned, “[U]nless it recognizes Natural Law as its guide, what is our civilization but a store-house of gadgets?” If America, he continued, asks “the world to love us because we own the most automobiles and refrigerators,” then any efforts to help liberate the enslaved peoples of the world were doomed. Material incentives, promises of a prosperous future, were not enough. America needed, instead, to reclaim for themselves, and then spread to others, Alexander Hamilton’s declaration that: “The sacred rights of mankind … are written as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hands of Divinity itself and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”39

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