Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 18, 1960

A Magna Charta Of Modern Faith

Elmer T. Peterson

(Editor's note: We do not ordinarily publish in this journal articles of a purely political or social character; but the following article by Elmer Peterson, which has appeared as a syndicated column in a number of newspapers, deserves to be an exception. Mr. Peterson strikes at a growing menace to our way of life — and an ominous development in the Lord's church! "Centralization of power" is dangerous politically, and rebellion against God when it appears in congregational combines for either evangelism or benevolence.)

There is a powerful and well financed effort on the part of some church leaders, through what they call "the social gospel" to mold religion into some kind of a "large scale compulsory welfare program." They labor under the delusion that their pattern is something new and progressive.

It is therefore high time that there be a Magna Charta which declares in modern terms an understanding of the perils that confront religion everywhere. Call it a new Declaration of Independence if you please.

Such a document has been produced as the result of a statement of 700 clergymen from almost every state and denomination in the United States, under sponsorship of the organization called Spiritual Mobilization, which has been growing with increasing strength for 25 years.

Referring to Lenin's oft-quoted statement that "religion is the opiate of the people." this document says: "As desirable and good as material achievements are in themselves, the abundance of goods can obscure the moral and spiritual good ... It is physical comfort, not religion, that is the 'opiate of the people.'

"So, also, is the growing dependence upon government. Christian compassion and stewardship most certainly place a moral obligation upon the strong to help the weak in emergency, but it would seem difficult to maintain a spirit of independence, personal responsibility and the incentives to excellence and enforced dependency. Not only does such misplaced compassion reduce the disciplines of character and spiritual growth; it breeds parasitism and fraud.

"Again, it is dependency, like physical comfort, that is the real 'opiate of the people.'

"The same is true of the increasing surrender of individual responsibility to the group. In Industry, labor union, government, school and church the organized groups or their agents are making more and more of the vital decisions for individual members."

Describing the workings of a social system, the authors say that "the function of government is protector of individual rights and liberties (including the national defense) rather than the conferrer of privileges, immunities and bounties upon any one segment of society at the expense of others . . . We are . . . deeply disturbed ... by the reactionary trends of the present and more recent past toward centralized government, large-scale compulsory welfare programs, the amassing of public and private debt, the use of governmental power to secure special privileges for some groups at the expense of others, and massive governmental intervention into and competition with free private enterprise."

Entering into the general philosophy involved in the contrast, the document says: "No state can 'serve' without first requiring that the people serve it. Any government or group strong enough to give to some what they want, must first be made strong enough to take from others what they have. The government originally designed to prevent one man from robbing another becomes, therefore, the instrument whereby one group of men is robbed for the benefit of another. The concept of the so-called 'service state' is not only an open invitation to demagoguery and eventual dictatorship; it is a cynical denial of the Christian concept of the voluntary stewardship of wealth."

Since Will Durant, in Oklahoma City, praised the federal income tax because it is an "annual redistribution of wealth," it is interesting to note that this Magna Charta says: "It is . . . necessary to dispute the popular belief that increasing amounts of personal income should be diverted, through taxes, into the operations of the 'service state.' "