Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 18, 1956

"Taxation Without Representation Is Tyranny"

Jack L. Holt, Port Arthur, Texas

The words that form the title of this article are glorious words in the history of this country. They were uttered by our freedom loving forefathers as they chaffed under the yoke of the British Government, and reluctantly endured England's high-handed ways. England had levied taxes upon the colonists, and had refused to give them the right to be represented in the matter of taxation. It was a "we say, and you pay," proposition. This species of tyranny was exceedingly distasteful to our forefathers. They resented such encroachment upon their freedom, and began to rally people to their cause of liberty with the words, "Taxation without representation is tyranny." Noble patriots rallied to the cause and by and by we untied ourselves from the apron strings of "Mother England."

We all cherish our freedoms, and we express time and again our gratitude that through the providence of God we live in a country where we are permitted to freely express our convictions, and protest against what we consider threats to our free institutions. But this freedom, while not being taken away, is gradually being relinquished by well meaning individuals who, rather than take a stand for what is right, meekly conform to the sentiments and programs of the majority. There is a tendency afoot in this country to compromise our freedoms, and sacrifice basic American liberties in an endeavor to conform to the popular movement of getting along with everybody.

This very same tendency, of sacrificing individual rights, is present in the church of our Lord. It is, however, a much more serious matter since the church has a divine constitution, while the country only a human one. The individual rights given to each church by the divine constitution of the Lord Jesus Christ — the right to govern itself in harmony with that constitution, and to conduct its own affairs without outside encroachment — is rapidly being surrendered as everywhere there is a tendency to conform to the popular movement of centralization and federation in religion. Freedom can be lost either by the local churches being forced to surrender their rights or by the churches voluntarily surrendering them. Well meaning individuals, ignorant of Cod's constitution which provides for local church independence, and which prohibits church federation, meekly conform to a program of centralization rather than stand for their rights, and 'buck the rising tide of innovations in church work. As a result of this attitude a great host of churches have become mere pawns in the hands of ambitious elders who have brought them in line and under subjection. These "puppet" churches claim to have their freedom while at the same time they turn over to these elders funds from their treasuries to be dispensed with as these "provincial" bishops see fit. And all the while these "big" churches with their "big" programs sing lullabies, and whisper "sweet nothings" on the subject of congregational autonomy, while they "rock the cradle and rob the baby."

What with the advent of the sponsoring church, and all the- marching programs that are now in vogue, the term congregational independence has acquired a new meaning; one that is wholly foreign to the New Testament. Today it means that a church has the right to join in the march, and support the big programs, but it prohibits any church the independence to protest against them. And all churches and preachers who question the programs, and who refuse to march as these "big" churches and elders count cadence, are sentenced to the quarantine ward.

The principle of "taxation without representation," is not only present in the political world, but also in the religious world. The Catholic bishop in many dioceses can go to nearly any bank in that diocese and borrow huge sums on his signature alone. Banks are not afraid to lend the money for they well know that when the bishop signs the papers, be thereby obligates every Catholic in the diocese. The Catholics in that diocese will either pay the debt, or feel the pressure. This in spite of the fact that they had nothing to say about the whole transaction. Members of the New Testament church can see the bondage in such a system, yet they fail to see that there are some programs among us today which partake of the same spirit.

The Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas recently decided to build a brotherhood orphans home. They decided that the kingdom of Christ needed an orphans home in that section of Texas, hence they began to act in the interest of the kingdom. In establishing this home the Broadway elders obligated the brotherhood, not in fact, but surely in theory, and in actual practice as far as they can. They twist certain scriptures out of their context and endeavor to show by those scriptures that the way for congregations to practice pure and undefiled religion is by sending to their home. If you fail to do so, you are not discharging your duty to orphans is the plain implication in their literature. Let it not be said then that the Broadway elders did not intend to obligate the brotherhood for the foregoing facts disprove this.

I have given, in previous articles, some extracts from the facile pen of J. B. Briney as he wrote in opposition to a brotherhood publishing house. Even though Briney favored the missionary society as it was originally formed, he nevertheless opposed any trend toward an ecclesiasticism. (He thought this was absent from the missionary society favored by the Standard, which he and others called a "Voluntary assembly"). But though he thought the dangers of an ecclesiasticism were absent from the society, he did think they were present in a brotherhood endeavor. In the Christian Standard of 1910, Briney wrote an article in which he condemned the proposed Brotherhood Publishing House. I give below some excerpts from the article which are very apropos today.

"Letters that am already receiving in regard to the matter indicate that there is a somewhat extended feeling of unrest and uneasiness among the brethren about the enterprise, and I feel moved to pursue the investigation at once. It is a serious matter, and should be fully understood in all of its aspects.... The more I think about it the stranger it seems to me that an attempt should be made to thrust such an enterprise upon the brethren without full and free thought and investigation. There has been entirely too much of this thing of a few brethren getting together and launching an enterprise, and then throwing it upon the shoulders of the brotherhood and demanding that they support it. It is a species of 'Taxation without representation,' that is not altogether palatable to a free and independent people."

It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs when the words of a digressive written forty-five years ago ring the bell today. There is entirely too much of this thing of a few brethren deciding to do "kingdom business," for the brotherhood and then throwing their "brainchild" upon the churches and demanding that they support it. And to further oppress the churches by giving their influence to a movement calculated to proscribe all brethren who will not support it. Not only is such unscriptural, but it is distasteful to freedom loving men and women to have someone demand that they put their heads into a brotherhood yoke. Where did these "brotherhood elders," or some self made board get the idea that they can function in behalf of the brotherhood? And when they plan programs which necessarily involve the funds of hundreds of churches, even before these churches know what is going on, and when they further demand that brethren support such programs or be quarantined, what is the difference in principle between the ecclesiastical bondage under the Catholic bishop and in this?

Not only does history repeat itself in departures from the New Testament, but it also repeats itself in the pressure tactics used by those who depart in their endeavors to make other preachers and elders conform. Brother Briney also pointed this out. He wrote:

"Are the brethren to be told that it is their debt, and that they are bound to pay for it? (The publishing house.) Of course they would not be honor bound to pay for it, for they have had nothing to say about the transaction, and were not consulted in regard to it. That claim could be made however, and there are a good many whips that could be cracked over the heads of the brethren as persuaders."

Well, those that pay the piper dance to his tunes. And it is either dance as the "big" (?) elders and "big" (?) churches direct or else you will incur their wrath, and feel the sting of their pressure tactics. Of course all of this is done in the "spirit of Christ," and with a whole parcel of their type of "brotherly love" thrown in. But though the whips may crack, New Testament Christians will still follow the book, and will refuse to support any program or teaching that cannot find sanction in that book either by command, necessary inference, or example. And, because they love freedom for all, they will oppose any program that seeks to bind a species of "taxation without representation" upon a free people who have only one master, who is in heaven, "Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God."