PART II - cont.
The nineteen sixties have come to be characterized as "the decade of dissent." While it may be argued whether the phrase belongs uniquely to the nineteen sixties, there is little reason for denying that civil dissent and civil disobedience, not to mention extreme acts of violence, emerged more prominently and became more widespread in American life during the past decade than during any comparable period of time in this century. To many, particularly frustrated and disillusioned youth, rebellion and revolution appeared as the basis of effecting the radical changes requisite for the building of a new society. On the surface one might simply be inclined to describe the growing dissent in American life in the somewhat traditional terms of a polarization, however, dissent in the United States in recent years has been manifestly more than the traditional conflict between the haves and the have-nots, the defenders of the status quo and the advocates of radical social change. Rather, for large numbers of America's dissenters, non-militants as well as militants, all authority -- family, school, church, and state -- is being challenged.
Surely we have entered an era of authority crisis. From both advantaged and disadvantaged youth, unprecedented waves of protest have appeared across the country. To be sure, not all of this protest should be identified with civil disobedience. Although much of civil disobedience in recent years has been an avowed instrument of social protest, much of the social protest, as in the civil rights movement, has been entirely within American constitutional law and therefore is not to be confused with civil disobedience as such. But it is primarily the questionof obedience vis-a-vis disobedience which has precipitated a polarization crisis between those citizens whose primary concern is obedience to law and order, and those citizens whose avowed commitment is civil disobedience to those laws and institutions they regard as intolerable and unjust. A growing number of militant dissenters, having rejected civil disobedience and having dedicated themselves to destroying the power structure of the present social order, have intensified a stiffening defense of the status quo and a strong call for "law and order" in American life. This militant appeal to law and order has carried with it a wholesale denunciation of civil dissent and all acts of civil disobedience. While traditionally most Americans cannot be classified as being either arch conservatives or radical revolutionaries, a resurgence of conservatism has in some quarters succeeded in discrediting any legal or moral basis for civil disobedience and even in dishonoring the principle of civil dissent.
Understandably, law and order, as in the case of the status quo, is most ardently defended by those in power and/or those who benefit most by the present order of things. For the advantaged and privileged middle class American, who has been appealed to as "the silent majority," the very thought of any profound social change may be ominously disquieting to his otherwise secure and successful life style. For many, civil dissent, let alone civil disobedience, has come to symbolize a threat to the status quo and thereby has provoked the most vigorous and intemperate denunciations and very specious appeals to "law and order" and social stability. Many arch defenders of the status quo, as the self-proclaimed partisans of "law and order," have admonished all dissenters with the sentiment, "America -- love it or leave it." Dissenters, as such, are summarily charged with being "irresponsible" and "unpatriotic." Those who engage in acts of civil disobedience have been branded categorically as "radicals" and "revolutionaries." No matter what its alleged reasons or motives, civil disobedience has been soundly condemned as a threat to social stability and the very preservation of the social order. While verbal support is given the principle of dissent, the exercise of civil dissent, let alone civil disobedience, is made the object of attack and ridicule, and somehow contrary to American patriotism and morally and politically incompatible with American nationalism.
America as a free society is clearly threatened from both the right and the left. From the right are mounting potential forces of repression aimed at stifling all civil dissent and civil disobedience, and from the left emerging threats of destruction and overthrow of the society and its institutions. There can be no question, however, but that the forces of reaction in the United States far outnumber in power and resources the forces of revolution. Yet paradoxically, it was Voltaire who suggested more than two centuries ago, "Revolutions are caused by those who try to stop them."
Or as the late John F. Kennedy stated it,
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable." Obviously these statements do not mean that revolutions do not come by simply not trying to stop them, but rather are generally precipitated by an over-resistance to change and a refusal of any society to listen to its voices of dissent. As history clearly shows, extremists do not need to be a majority to take over any society. One Christian writer in observing the present polarization in American life recently warned, "The real danger of our day is not the increase of rebels, but of docile, self-repressed citizens."
To be sure, the defense of the status quo in a more or less democratic society such as ours is vastly different from defending the status quo of a thoroughly despotic state or an oligarchy ruled by a self-seeking minority. Nevertheless, opposition to dissent per se in defense of the status quo is inevitably a threat to the free society. Unfortunately, the church has been intimately and repeatedly associated with this practice in the course of Western history. Whenever and wherever allied with the power structures, economic or political, the church has become a highly conservative voice in defense of the status quo and, at the same time, an opponent of dissent and civil disobedience.
When allied with the institutions of power, the church has generally resisted social change and consequently all too often has been on the wrong side of economic, political, and social issues in human history. In effect, it was the church which rejected Jesus, the man and his message; it was the church, both Catholic and Protestant, which for centuries opposed freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of press, liberty of conscience, and democratic government; and it was the church which eschewed social reform in Czarist Russia in the face of the most blatant denials of economic and social justice, let alone other basic human rights, by monarchs whose rule extended over both the church and the state. Some sense of historical and theological perspective is sorely needed if civil dissent and civil disobedience are to have a valid and viable place in contemporary American life, and if the potential role of high religion in the free society is to be realized.
There is certainly nothing new about civil dissent and civil disobedience. In both theory and in practice they antedate Christianity. For example, Sophocles' Antigone, written in the fifth century B.C., contains a classic and eloquent statement of conscientious resistance to the state. During the same century, Socrates, accused by the council of Athens of teaching impiety and corrupting its youth, for the sake of conscience refused to comply with the demands of the civil authorities. Faced with execution rather than obey the civil authorities, he wrote: "Many thanks indeed for your kindness, gentlemen, but I will obey God rather than you, and as long as I have breath in me, and remain able to do it, I will never cease being a philosopher, and exhorting you, and showing what is in me to any one of you I may meet.... For this is what God commands me, make no mistake, and I think there is no greater good for you in the city in any way than my service to God."
The Old Testament is replete with examples of civil disobedience. Biblical prophecy is, in fact, deeply rooted in protest. Moses, Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, Amos, Jeremiah, Mordecai, Job, and countless others, were paragons of protest in Hebrew history. In the words of Jeremiah 1:10, prophets, as servants of God, were set "over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
Christianity was born out of conflict with the society of the first century. Although Jesus was not a political revolutionary, he was charged with and convicted of a political crime, insurrection. The oldest and most revered of all Christian creeds, the Apostle's Creed, takes cognizance of this in the words, "suffered under Pontius Pilate." Jesus' declaration, "My kingdom is not of this world" ( John 18:38), is itself suggestive of the revolutionary character of Christ's teachings and the Christian faith in history. The Gospel, when properly understood, has always meant revolution in the most profound sense. Therefore, wherever the Gospel has been truly proclaimed and received, it has had a revolutionary effect on both individuals and society. Paul's admonition, "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed" is a plea to Christians everywhere to avoid the tendency to be mere conformists to the norms of this world. That conflict with society will come to Christians and the church is regarded in the New Testament as unavoidable. To say Yes to God may well mean to say No to the state, in which case, "We must obey God rather than men" ( Acts 5:29). For the Christian, this is not merely civil but holy disobedience, since it is rooted first of all in acknowledgment of one's loyalty to God and only secondarily as disobedience to the state. Thus, for the early Christians their defiance of Roman law and the Roman state was not so much civil disobedience as it was Christian obedience.
Clearly, in biblical thought, there are times when Christian obedience requires civil disobedience. In the first century since
Christianity came to be regarded by the state as religio illicita, and so remained until the fourth century, to profess to be a Christian was an act of civil disobedience. Having recalled the heroes of faith, the writer of Hebrews 11 concluded by declaring, "Some were tortured refusing to accept release.... Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword;...of whom the world was not worthy" ( Hebrews 11:35-38). The cross as the central historical and theological focus of Christian faith stands as a profound and perennial reminder of the inexorable conflict between the "powers" of this world and God and his purposes.
After A.D. 64, Christians were repeatedly subjected to intense persecutions initiated by the Roman rulers not only for political reasons but also as an attempt to elicit from the Christian community unqualified loyalty and obedience to the state. During this period the church stood opposed to surrendering to the state that final obedience which belonged only to God. Actually, a dualism characterized the Christian's relationship to the state, vacillating between an attitude of civil obedience to the state as a divinely ordained institution and defiance of civil demands of political loyalty in conflict with Christian faith. For the Christians, civil disobedience to the state became inevitable for the simple reason that it demanded that Christians give to Caesar that which belonged only to God, and that demand constituted the greatest act of blasphemy a Christian could commit. However, Christians were to accept the legal penalty for their civil disobedience. "If any one is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if any one slays with the sword, with the sword he must be slain" ( Rev. 13:10). John wrote, "We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one" ( I John 5:19).
For almost three centuries the early Christians frequently found themselves compelled to exercise disobedience to civil authorities because of a prior loyalty to God. Lactantius, writing in A.D. 304, affirmed that "constancy is a virtue, not in order that we may resist those who injure (us)...but that, when (men) bid us act contrary to the Law of God and contrary to justice, we may be frightened away by no threats or punishments from preferring the bidding of God to the bidding of man." Origen and Tertullian maintained that unjust laws do not morally require the support or obedience of Christians. A century later, Ambrose demonstrated his resistance to the state in acts of defiance against imperial authority, namely two Roman emperors. For all Thomas Aquinas's emphasis on obedience to civil authority, as derived from God, he gave explicit utterance to the principle of civil disobedience when to obey a given law would mean a sinful act. "In such a case," Aquinas wrote, "not only is there no obligation to obey the authority, but one is obliged to disobey it, as did the holy martyrs, who suffered death rather than obey the impious commands of tyrants."
The prevalence throughout the Middle Ages of the concept of the Christian state, known as corpus Christianum, severely obscured the role of civil disobedience for Christians in Europe. The free church must be credited with contributing much to keep alive the theory and practice of civil disobedience through a long line of dissenters who were ruled as heretics by the church and enemies by the state. Religious dissent was itself civil disobedience to the corpus Christianum. Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, John Hus, Balthasar Hubmaier, John Bunyan, Michael Servetus, and many others, were charged not only with heresy but civil disobedience. In the early sixteenth century, to be a Protestant was civil disobedience.
From a purely historical perspective, the Protestant Reformation -- at least in the later classical movements of Lutheranism, Calvinism, Zwinglianism, and Anglicanism -became a conservative, middle class movement. It resulted in an alliance between church and state in which civil authority acquired a prestige and power it had not formerly enjoyed with the Roman Catholic Church. While Martin Luther and John Calvin called for radical reforms in the church, they argued strongly for passive obedience to the state. Both reformers particularly stressed the divinely ordered role of civil authority, and urged obedience to civil authorities, even wicked ones. Nevertheless, let it be said that both Luther and Calvin justified civil disobedience when the commands of civil authorities were in conflict with the commands or prohibitions of God.
Although obedience to law has been highly revered in American life and thought, predicated on the principle of "obedience to the unenforceable," without which no society can endure, at the same time civil disobedience has been woven into the very warp and woof of the American experience. It is at once an important clue to and a recurring motif of American history. The very founding of the nation, the achievement of religious liberty, the abolition of slavery, the rights of organized labor, the right of conscientious objections to military service, the integration of the public schools, and recent federal legislation on public accommodations have all come about, in part at least, as a result of civil disobedience and civil disobedients. As civil disobedients, numerous Christian ministers in both the Massachusetts and Virginia colonies were publicly whipped and imprisoned for civil disobedience to civil laws and civil authorities. Ironically, in colonial America the most intense period of religious persecution for reasons of civil disobedience came in Virginia between 1765-1770, just a few years before the Declaration of Independence. Advocates of civil disobedience appeared throughout the nineteenth century. Transcendentalists, such as Bronson Alcott, Francis Wayland,
Theodore Parker, George William Curtis, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau found a commitment to civil disobedience to be a direct corollary to the concept of the higher law. Not to obey the higher law is to be a practical atheist. Civil disobedience was urged, especially against laws touching upon slavery, for the sake of the society. Curtis reasoned that the person who would obey any law no matter how unjust is a person not to be trusted since he is clearly a person without any ultimate moral commitments.
It is Henry David Thoreau who is most readily and widely identified as the major influence on civil disobedience in the twentieth century. Arrested for his refusal to pay tax in protest against the Mexican War of 1846 and legislation in support of slavery, Thoreau's fame and influence rest primarily on his essay on "Civil Disobedience." Interestingly enough, Thoreau nowhere uses the phrase in the essay and prior to his death the essay simply bore the title, "On the Relation of the Individual to the State." As is well known, Thoreau provided the inspiration in the twentieth century for Mohandas Gandhi, who formulated a systematic theory of civil disobedience centered around nonviolent resistance to the state. Gandhi's theory of civil disobedience in turn became the method of protest adopted by Martin Luther King in the civil rights struggle on behalf of the American Negro. George Woodcock has written, "In one way or another the concept of Civil Disobedience has been voiced and acted upon for at least 2,400 years, but never has it received such mass support, never has it been the object of such public attention as during the century since Thoreau laid down in such clear intellectual terms the reasons why men should seek to govern their own actions by justice rather than legality."
Admittedly, in spite of a long and honored tradition in Western religious and political history, civil disobedience remains in many quarters a highly controversial issue. It is soundly condemned in contemporary American life, both in theory and in practice, by many churchmen, politicians, and jurists. Interestingly enough, it is with Thomas Hobbes and Edmund Burke, two of the major political theorists of the modern state, that the most influential arguments against civil disobedience have come. For Hobbes, the architect of the totalitarian state, there are no natural laws or rights of man, except self-preservation. In the absence of any inherent good or evil, civil disobedience is inadmissible with the very concept of the nation state. With Burke, all considerations having to do with civil authority and the state must be governed by "prudence" and not abstract moral principles. Civil disobedience, therefore, cannot be tolerated for the simple reason that, Burke said, "civil disobedience can lead to the dissolution of law and order, with anarchy the result. Further, it can lead to revolution. And revolution can open the way to dictatorship, with the resulting loss of freedom and ultimate bondage." Except in the case of justifiable revolution, Burke argued, one should obey all laws, even those viewed as immoral. Indeed, to compel citizens to obey laws one disapproves constitutes the very raison d'etre of civil authority and law. In the cases of both Hobbes and Burke, the primary concerns are the preservation of the state and the sanctity of the social order.
While civil disobedience is generally opposed on political and prudential grounds out of concern for the preservation of the state, there are many who are also opposed to civil disobedience on moral and religious grounds. In the Augustinian tradition, since the creation of the state was necessitated by the sinful nature of man, to disobey the state is to weaken the power of the state to curb evil and to prevent anarchy. Therefore, disobedience to the state, as Luther wrote, is not just morally wrong, it "is a sin worse than murder, unchastity, theft, dishonesty, and all that goes with them." One honors the state by obeying it; one dishonors the state by disobeying it. Since disobedience to the state strikes at the very heart of political authority, obedience to the state is required in order to restrain evil and to maintain civil tranquillity. Thus, it is the sinful nature of man which underscores the social necessity of civil obedience and law and order.
For many others, civil disobedience is opposed in the Thomist tradition of the divinely ordained role of the state and civil authority for the good of man. The state is part of the Godgiven framework within which men live and work in the world. The major biblical source of this concept is found in Romans 13 which represents the most articulate account of the state and the Christian's relationship to it to appear in the New Testament. "Every person must submit to state authorities; for no authority exists without God's permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God. Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered." Civil disobedience is rooted not in the notion of perfect laws or perfect legislators, but simply in the profound recognition of a reverence for law and civil authority as instituted by God. To resist duly constituted civil authority is to resist that which is ordained of God.
These political and religious arguments against civil disobedience, though substantive in character and cogent in reasoning within their particular limits, do not invalidate the basic political and religious arguments for civil disobedience.
For example, civil disobedience is not rooted in an attitude of rejection of civil authority and law. It is directed toward neither rebellion nor revolution, but their prevention. Civil disobedience takes seriously the political order and all duly constituted legal authority, and is therefore employed only as a last resort. It is a civil act, engaged in by a person in his capacity as citizen under civil authority, with full recognition of the right of the state to demand legal penalty. For one of his own acts of civil disobedience, Mohandas Gandhi wrote, "I...invite and cheerfully submit to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime." In the context of American history, civil disobedience has aimed not at destroying civil authority, but at voicing the rights of conscience, freedom, and justice. From Birmingham jail, Martin LutherKing affirmed his profound respect for law and civil authority. "In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law as the rabid segregationist would do. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly...and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law....it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends." Many have seen civil disobedience, therefore, as a political act since it is aimed at bringing about changes in the laws of the state. As a political strategy, it is often used, as it frequently is today, to effect legal reforms so that the state may become what it ought to be as the basis of a more perfect social order. Thus, the American Civil Liberties Union has defined civil disobedience as "the willful, non-violent and public violation of valid laws because the violator deems them to be unjust or because their violation will focus attention on other injustices in society to which such laws may or may or may not be related."
Within the Judeo-Christian tradition, civil disobedience is seen not as repudiation of political authority, which is divinely ordained, but rather an expression of commitment to a higher power than the state, the sovereignty of God. As the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court Charles Evans Hughes expressed it, "In the forum of conscience, duty to a moral power higher than the state has always been maintained. The essence of religion is belief in relation to God involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation." Man has a sacred obligation to obey his conscience. The power of all government, civil authority, and law are inevitably limited by the sovereignty of God and the inviolability of one's conscience in obedience to God. In this connection, perhaps no verses in the New Testament have been more misinterpreted than those cited earlier from Romans 13 to stress absolute civil obedience since all civil authority is divinely ordained. Throughout history there have been those who have used this biblical teaching to justify injustice, oppression, totalitarianism, despotism, political idolatry, and the denial of human rights. Paul's teaching on the divinely ordained character of political authority has been used to support the divine right of kings and servile submission to all laws and civil authorities. Nothing could be further from Paul's teaching, not to mention its incompatibility with the larger New Testament view of the state. Paul's view is that the state is God's minister, not that Nero is God. Indeed, the state that is divinely ordained for specific functions cannot be final or unlimited in its authority over men; it cannot be deified or absolutized. William Temple observed, "The only effective way to limit the authority of the state is to regard that authority as bestowed by God for certain purposes." Obedience to the state is prescribed on the basis that the state conform to its divinely ordained functions and rights, which make man's obedience to the state inevitably a conditional one.
While the problem of evil has been made the basis of civil obedience to the state, which was necessitated by the sinful nature of man, it has also been made the basis for arguing the case for civil disobedience, since all civil authority is limited and subject to all the imperfections of human nature. Not only is no society with perfect laws, no society is with perfect law enforcers. As the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. observed, "We recognize that every system of law, however excellent, is created, administered, and enforced by sinful human beings." Summarily to charge civil disobedience with social disorder and the breakdown of civil authority is to ignore the destructive character of unjust laws and unjust law enforcement in any given society. Disorder is often precipitated by unjust laws and unjust law enforcement. The vast majority of laws in our society are uniformly obeyed, raise no ethical or moral questions, and require little if any enforcement. Law enforcement by its very nature operates on the selection of laws to be enforced in any society. Many laws are simply unenforceable and therefore occupy little concern on the part of civil authorities. Other laws are violated by civil authorities themselves when certain laws are found to be unwieldy or inconvenient in the discharge of their duties as civil authorities. One of the serious weaknesses of law enforcement may be, as in the United States, when laws are not administered equally to all citizens. Laws and law enforcement can easily become the captive possession of certain interest groups, especially those with economic and political power, even government, and thereby become the oppressors. Civil authorities may be guilty of protecting the rights of certain groups and obstructing the rights of others. In a corrupt society, lawlessness itself may be legalized. Historically, law enforcement has often been made the tool of political oppression and the denial of basic human rights. For people denied voting rights and the right to participate in the political process, as well as those without any political power, civil disobedience may in extreme circumstances become the only resource available to those outside the political process. In a society such as ours, which is overwhelmingly dominated by a fairly affluent middle class, civil disobedience may well serve to underscore some of the ills and injustices suffered by America's discriminated and disadvantaged minorities.
Within the society, the ultimate justification of civil disobedience must be made on the basis of its moral criteria and value objectives. In spite of considerable opposition to the principle and practice of civil disobedience, it has been explicitly endorsed in recent years as morally valid by virtually all the major denominations in the United States. This may be all the more significant in view of the major role civil religion has come to occupy in American life.
JCS 12 (AUTUMN 1970 ): 373 - 84
Jewish-Christian Relations in Historical Perspective
J ewish-Christian relations occupy an integral place in both the history of Judaism and the history of Christianity. Much of the history of Judaism is characterized by reflection on the anguish of living and concern for survival in the midst of a Christian dominated world which came to be known as Christendom. So far as Christian history is concerned, there can be no true history of Christianity without major reference to Judaism and Jewish-Christian relations. Likewise, no history of church-state relations and religious liberty in the Western world can be written without special attention being given to JewishChristian relations and the status of Jews in Christian Europe.
The juxtaposition of Judaism and Christianity offers in some ways a strange paradox in the history of religion. One the one hand, no two faiths are more deeply rooted in a common historical source, and, on the other hand, between no two faiths have there been greater misunderstandings, greater hostilities, and more open conflicts. Unfortunately, conflict and not concord has been the hallmark throughout most of the history of Jewish-Christian relations. It is no exaggeration to say that the supreme tragedy of Christian history is that Christian antiSemitism, sustained by theological foundations, has had such a long and persistent place in so much of Christian history. Indeed, the saddest part of this tragedy of human history is that Christian anti-Semitism is not yet ended, nor even formally disavowed in much of contemporary Christianity.
Admittedly, anti-Semitism is deeply and peculiarly rooted in Christianity, both in its theology and in its history. No amount of qualifying or rationalizing can alter the basic contention of numerous Jewish and Christian scholars alike that anti-Semitism is inextricably intertwined with empirical Christianity. Furthermore, these attitudes and practices from the past still cast their shadows over the present in Jewish-Christian relations. Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark in their sobering sociological analysis, Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism, based upon a study conducted by the University of California Research Center, found that "only 5 percent of Americans with anti-Semitic views lack all rudiments of a religious prejudice" and that "religion actually operated to produce anti-Semitism." Such studies in recent years have all too painfully served to confirm that the primary and ultimate cause of anti-Semitism, which has infected so much of Western history, is a religious one with roots going back through many centuries even to early Christianity.
The history of Christianity does not begin with the first century A.D., but with Biblical Judaism. The tragedy of Christian anti-Semitism stems in part, at least, from its failure or refusal to recognize that Christianity is historically rooted in Biblical Judaism. The Jewishness of Jesus and New Testament Christianity needs continually to be reaffirmed. It must always be remembered that Jesus was a Jew (a "star out of Jacob"), and a faithful one, throughout his life in Palestine. He upheld the Torah, and his own teachings were essentially and radically Jewish. Jesus reaffirmed, as a Jew, that the command in Deuternonomy 6:5, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," is "the first and greatest commandment" ( Matt. 22:37-38). "And the second," Jesus declared, "is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" ( Matt. 22:39), which he quoted also from the Torah, Leviticus 19:18. "On these two commandments," Jesus affirmed, "hang all the law and the prophets" ( Mat. 22:40). Jesus' religious language, his parables, his poetic and prophetic sayings, and his prayers were all unmistakably Jewish. His message, the Kingdom of God, was a Jewish concept which had already become integral to the prophetic tradition of Israel. The parallels to Jesus' teachings in Jewish literature prior to the first century abound, including much of the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7. The Lord's Prayer itself may be traced to Jewish sources. While Jesus left his unmistakable stamp upon these Jewish teachings by means of the interpretations, the Jewishness of Jesus is undeniable. As James Parkes observed in Judaism and Christianity, the teachings of Jesus presuppose a Jewish environment and it is impossible to imagine their having come out of any other milieu.
Jewish historians and theologians alike, particularly since the nineteenth century, have recognized the Jewishness of Jesus, while many of the early Church Fathers, as with many subsequent Catholic and Protestant theologians, have ignored and even categorically denied the Jewishness of Jesus. Although the Christian Christ has remained unacceptable to contemporary Judaism, the Jewish Jesus has often been appealing to manifestly devout Jewish thinkers and theologians. One of modern Judaism's greatest theologians, Martin Buber, wrote poignantly of his view of Jesus in a volume entitled, Two Types of Faith, as follows: "From my youth onwards I have found in Jesus my great brother.... My own fraternally open relationship to him has grown ever stronger and clearer, and today I see him more strongly and clearly than before." Acceptance of the historical Jesus, even as the Messiah, has not been regarded, either in the first century or the twentieth century, as necessarily a repudiation of one's Jewish faith.
The matrix of Christianity was Jewish, and, for Jewish thinkers at least, Christianity has been rightly regarded, in a profound sense, as the daughter of Judaism. The twelve apostles were Jewish, nearly all of the followers of Jesus were Jewish, those who wept over his crucifixion by Roman soldiers were Jewish, and those who first carried the Christian Gospel to the world beyond Palestine were Jewish. The Christian Gospel was first preached, in Palestine as well as in Asia Minor, in the synagogues. Paul, the greatest interpreter of Christianity and its leading missionary during the first century, never ceased to regard himself as a Jew: "I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin" ( Rom. 11:1). The Scriptures, as well as most of the rites and symbols, of the early church were Jewish. Every aspect of the original apostolic proclamation was supported by an appeal to the Jewish Scriptures. The preaching of the apostles was first addressed to the Jews and expressed in Jewish theological terms. Among the earliest Christian writings are those of unmistakable Jewish character, written by Jewish believers, such as Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Psalms of Solomon, Apocalypse of James, Apocalypse of Peter, and Epistle of the Eleven Apostles. Some of these early Christian writings, such as the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, were little more than a Christian revision of Jewish writings. The New Testament itself is preeminently a collection of the writings of Jewish Christians, and the Jewish Scriptures remain indispensable to the study and the interpretation of the New Testament; indeed, the Jewish Scriptures are presupposed throughout the New Testament.
To the outside world, there was no real distinction between Judaism and Christianity before the end of the first century. For example, Suetonius and Tacitus, Roman historians writing in the second century, still regarded Christianity as a Jewish sect. The simple fact is that Judeo-Christianity, comprised essentially of Jewish or "Torah-true" Christians (those who remained faithful to Jewish observances such as circumcision, the Sabbath, and Temple worship), was the dominant form of Christianity throughout the first century and almost to the middle of the second century. First under the leadership of James, the brother of Jesus, Judeo-Christianity was centered in Jerusalem until the city's destruction in A.D. 70. The leadership of the early church was predominantly Jewish. Eusebius, the father of Christian ecclesiastical history, early in the fourth century quoted from Hegesippus that "those who were called the brothers of the Savior governed the entire church, in virtue of their being martyrs and relatives of the Lord." Again in his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius wrote, "I have learned from written documents that, until the siege of the Jews under Hadrian, there had been in Jerusalem a succession of fifteen bishops, all of whom are said to have been Hebrews of ancient stock. In fact, the entire church of Jerusalem consisted at that time of practicing Hebrews." JudeoChristianity was identified as "the church of the circumcision and its leaders referred to as "the bishops of the circumcision." Not only in Jerusalem and in Palestine but throughout the Mediterranean world, including Rome itself, the earliest Christian communities consisted of Judeo-Christians. Until the second century only a small minority of the Christian community was comprised of those from the pagan or Gentile world. Fortunately, the Jewishness of Jesus and early Christianity is being rediscovered today at a time when the need for Jewish-Christian dialogue was never greater. As Jean Cardinal Daniélou has observed, "The recovery of this Jewish Christianity is one of the achievements of recent scholarship."
As the Jewishness of early Christianity is undeniable, so is the conflict between Judaism and early Christianity clearly evident. As has already been indicated, there is no reason for not viewing Jesus as a faithful Jew, for certainly he so regarded himself. Nevertheless, as James Parkes observed in The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue, "The origin of the profound difference which exists between Judaism and Christianity must ultimately be related to the teaching of Jesus, although He Himself lived and died a Jew." While Jesus wanted to bring about reforms in contemporary Judaism, at no time did he abandon Judaism itself. Clearly, Jesus did experience as a prophet opposition from certain priests and Pharisees because of his attitude toward and interpretation of Halachah, i.e., the entire body of oral and written Jewish law and tradition. Jesus refused to give to these traditions of the force of Torah itself. Furthermore, Jesus, as Peter and Paul, could not accept the primacy or the adequacy of Torah. After Jesus' crucifixion, many Jews saw the status of Torah as the supreme authority threatened also by the Christian claim that Christ, not Torah, represented "the way, the truth, and the life." The unorthodox view of Jesus and his followers concerning Torah inevitably provoked conflict between Judaism and Christianity. From his own extensive study of Jewish-Christian relations, Parkes concluded that "it was the Law and not the Crucifixion which was the basis of separation" which resulted between Judaism and Christianity. During the latter part of the first century, Diaspora Jews, living as they did in a Gentile world, felt more resentful of and more threatened by Christianity's view of the Law than did the Palestinian Jews. Stephen and Paul, for example, aroused far greater hostility from among the Jews of the Diaspora than from among the Jews in Palestine. In part this was because Hellenistic Christianity outside of Palestine provoked far more hostility from the Jews of the Diaspora than did Palestinian Christianity among Palestinian Jews.
To be sure, the cleavage between Judaism and Christianity was also deepened by the claims of Christ's Deity, the acceptance of which was a Jewish impossibility. As indicated earlier, whether or not Jesus was the Messiah did not constitute in itself a basis for Christianity's separation from Judaism so far as Judaism was concerned, but the teaching of the early church concerning the Deity of Christ and the Incarnation was and remains to this day the great theological divide between Judaism and Christianity. The Christological formulations offered by the early church further offended the Jews who resented the fact that Jesus, a fellow-Jew, was declared to be God, a declaration which outside of trinitarian theology could only be interpreted as a direct violation of the First Commandment. Meanwhile, the rejection by the Jewish community of these Christological affirmations of faith concerning Jesus represented to the Christian community a direct repudiation of the central truth of the Christian Gospel. To Rabbinic Judaism, to state it directly, the claim of Christian "liberty" from the primacy of Torah could only be interpreted as blasphemy, and the Jewish acceptance of the Christian claims of Jesus as Christ and Lord could only mean apostasy.
Notwithstanding these conflicts, Christianity remained primarily a sect within Judaism throughout the first century. Not until the period between A.D. 70-140 did Christianity gradually become separated from Judaism, but, even during this period, Judeo-Christianity continued to remain dominant. Hellenistic Christianity, comprised primarily of paganoChristians and represented by Paul, became a third force. Still, prior to A.D. 140, the church was comprised mainly of Jews or proselytes converted to Judaism; only after this time did converts to Christianity come mainly from among the Gentiles. The earlier identification of Christianity with the "church of circumcision" gradually came to be transferred to the "church of the Gentiles," as Gentile Christians came to be predominant over Jewish Christians in the Roman world. While Judeo-Christianity continued to coexist within the whole of Christianity for another several centuries, Jewish customs and rituals tended to be regarded as incompatible with the Christian faith. The identification of Christianity as a Jewish sect gradually became lost, and within a few centuries Judeo-Christianity virtually disappeared. In becoming a universal faith, a church of the Gentiles, Hellenistic Christianity severed its ties with Judaism. The triumph of Hellenistic Christianity over Judeo-Christianity is reflected in the Greek writings of the New Testament, which in some respects served to obscure for centuries the Jewish matrix of Christianity.
The question of Christianity's remaining a Jewish sect inevitably arose with the coming of converts from the pagan world. Jewish converts to Christianity as a Jewish sect constituted no problem. However, the decision of the Council of Jerusalem in A.D. 49, which established the legitimacy of Gentile Christianity, represented a serious threat to the survival of Rabbinic Judaism since it raised serious questions about the validity of the Law for Gentiles. Basic Jewish rites and ritual requirements were abrogated for Gentile Christian converts, and later, according to Paul, even for Jewish Christians. Although it should be noted that it was some time afterwards before it was decided that Jewish Christians were not bound to the Law of Judaism, for the Gentiles, at least, the umbilical cord between Judaism and Christianity was cut; and a rift between the two faiths was inevitable. In freely opening its doors to the Gentile or pagan world, without entry to Christianity through Judaism, Judeo-Christianity was destined to be eclipsed by the missionary expansion of Hellenistic Christianity. The repudiation of any obligation to follow basic rules and ritual requirements of Judaism meant that Christianity's emergence as a separate movement was assured.
The early schism which arose between Judeo-Christians (Judaizers) and pagano-Christians (Gentiles) resulted in an antipathy between Judeo-Christianity and Hellenistic Christianity. Rabbinic Judaism manifested a growing hostility toward Hellenistic Christianity during the first century, primarily over the threat posed by the abrogation of the Law but also probably because by the end of the first century Christianity was a rival of Judaism for the conversion of the pagan world and Judaism did not want to incur any additional political disfavor from its identification with Christianity. The stoning of Stephen by Jews ( Acts 7:54-60) and Paul's account of his own sufferings from Jews attest to the intensity of this growing conflict between Judaism and Christianity: "Five times," Paul wrote, "I was given the thirty-nine lashes by the Jews;...and once I was stoned" (II Cor. 11:16-29). In Asia Minor Paul and Barnabas were persecuted by the Jews on their first and second missionary journeys ( Acts 13:50-14:6; 17:5-18:17). In Lystra some Jews led a mob in stoning Paul and dragging him out of the city ( Acts 14:19). At Corinth some Jews brought Paul and Barnabas before Gallio, the Roman governor of Greece ( Acts 18:12-16). Finally, Paul is made a prisoner and taken to Rome upon the demand of Jews ( Acts 28: 17-22). In Paul's dramatic encounter with fellowJews in Rome, they inform Paul, "We would like to hear your ideas, for we do know that everywhere people speak against this party that you belong to." As has been acknowledged by various scholars, the Talmud also reflects a Jewish hostility toward first-century Christianity. References to Jesus, while few in number, show a negative bias throughout. According to the Talmud, Jesus was the illegitimate son of a soldier named Panthera. In Egypt Jesus learned forms of magic which were the basis of the miracles He performed. Jesus was legally executed and His body was stolen by His disciples, who invented the story of His resurrection. Finally, Jesus' teachings were evil and He was a "deceiver of Israel." No less complimentary are the references in the Talmud to Judeo-Christians, who are identified as "traitors" or "betrayers." According to tradition, and not without some substantiation, Jews were responsible for persecutions and martyrdoms of numerous Christians during the first century. By the end of that century there was a move by Rabbinic Judaism to expel Christians from the synagogue, a practice known as asynagogos. To Rabbinic Judaism, to emphasize again, acceptance of the Christian Christ was a Jewish impossibility, and the theological foundations of Judaism and Christianity were irreconcilable. By the end of the first century, at the Council of Jamnia in A.D. 90, Judaism had pronounced a curse on Christianity as an apostasy. To both Palestinian and Diaspora Jews, Christianity was a disavowal of Israel's God and Israel's Law.
Likewise, during the first century, Hellenistic Christianity increasingly manifested an antipathy toward both the Jews and the Judaizers, the Judeo-Christians. Christianity, which clearly began as a Jewish sect, gradually extricated itself from Judaism and became a Gentile movement, quite distinctive and separated from Judaism. As centuries later with the schismatic development of Protestantism out of Catholicism, so Christianity emerged out of Judaism with a bias against the Judaism of that period which Hellenistic Christianity finally exhibited even toward Judeo-Christianity. In a profound sense, while Christianity was the outgrowth of Judaism, usually referred to by Christians as "the fulfillment of Judaism," Christianity in reality became a new faith. Radically different from Judaism in certain fundamental aspects of its theological character, Hellenistic Christianity proclaimed its own interpretation of the faith of Israel as viewed in the Jewish Scriptures, which Hellenistic Christianity viewed as preparation for Christianity and the Christian Gospel. With the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, the Hellenistic Christian community was convinced that "the promises made to Israel" and the prophecies of Jewish Scriptures had passed from the Jews to the Christians, and henceforth belong exclusively to the church, the new Israel, which, to Rabbinic Judaism, was a categorical denial of Israel's national character and mission.
The developing conflict between Judaism and Christianity finally reached its climax of hostility in a Christian theological explanation of the crucifixion which declared that "the Jews killed Jesus." The charge is one of the great ironies of history. The Jews are charged by Christianity, which began as a Jewish sect, with a crucifixion which was carried out by Romans against Jesus, a Jew, for a political crime. Ironically, and tragically, responsibility for the death of Jesus is, according to early Christian tradition, placed upon the Jews and not upon Pilate and certain Roman soldiers. According to Matthew 27:27, this Jewish guilt was acknowledged by the chief priests and the elders in their reported declaration, "His blood be on us and our children." The destruction of the Temple and the dispersion of the Jews which followed were interpreted by the early church as confirmation of the Jews' retribution for killing and rejecting Jesus, a principle of interpretation, it should be noted, which was not without some Jewish theological foundations, since it identified historical disasters visited upon Israel as the result of the peoples' sins. By contrast the Roman historian Tacitus, who of course was not a Christian, in A.D. 112 simply wrote that Jesus "was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate." By the latter part of the second century Christian theologians, such as Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho, were writing that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilateby the Jews. To add still further to the irony of the theological explanation of the crucifixion that the Jews killed Jesus, there developed the tradition in the church, as attested by Tertullian and Origen, that Pilate became a Christian. There are also references to Pilate as a saint, and he is so regarded by the Ethiopian Church to this day. Some apocryphal writings of the second century, such as the Gospel of Peter, completely exonerate Pilate of all guilt and place the blame for the crucifixion squarely on the Jews. This ancient theological judgment on the Jews became a major factor in the tragedy of Jewish-Christian relations in the centuries which followed, especially during the Middle Ages. As even recent studies have shown, such as Bernhard E. Olson's Faith and Prejudice, there is still a definite relationship between prejudice against the Jews and the theological charge that the Jews killed Jesus.
By the latter part of the second century Christian antipathy toward Judaism was even more clearly marked. Even JudeoChristianity came to be regarded as heretical and JudeoChristians were censured under the names of Ebionites, Quartodecimans, Encratites, Millenarianists, or, more especially, Judaizers. The writings of early Church Fathers, such as Justin Martyr and Ignatius, were now directed not only against Jews, but also against those Jewish Christians who were viewed as Judaizers. Parkes has written of the Judeo-Christians, "There is no more tragic group in Christian history than these unhappy people. They, who might have been the bridge between the Jewish and Gentile world, must have suffered intensely at the developments on both sides (Rabbinic Judaism and Hellenistic Christianity) which they were powerless to arrest. Rejected, first by the Church, in spite of their genuine belief in Jesus as the Messiah, and then by the Jews in spite of their loyalty to the Law, they ceased to be a factor of any importance in the development of either Christianity or Judaism."
From its transformation originally as a Jewish sect to a separate religion, Christianity by the fourth century was completely disengaged from Judaism and in conflict with both Judaism and Judeo-Christianity. Hellenistic Christianity's evaluation of Judaism and the Law came to be locked into Christian theology, aided by considerable reinforcement from the Church Fathers and later Christian theologians. In the centuries which followed, however, the complete break of Christianity with Judaism, no matter how regrettably it must be viewed, as surely it must, did in some ways symbolize the transmission of Christianity to the Gentile world and presage the universal role of Christianity as a missionary religion to the world. Christianity, no longer tied to any particular culture, race, or tradition, proclaimed that God is the God of the Gentiles as well as Jews ( Rom. 3:29) and in Christ there is no longer any difference between Jews and Gentiles ( Gal. 3:28). This universalism, however, must not obscure the fact that Christianity, which began as a Jewish sect, by the second century clearly reflected an anti-Jewish bias which today can only be lamented. By the second century the term Jew came to be used in a pejorative sense by Christian writers to refer to Jews as unbelievers, who, as Jews, were viewed as opponents of Christ and the Christian faith. So far as Christian tradition was concerned, the Jews had been "abandoned by God," and the final "departure of the sceptre from Israel" had taken place with the advent of Christianity.
As painful as it may be for the Christian in the twentieth century to acknowledge, there can be no turning away from the historical reality that an anti-Jewish bias pervaded the writings of the Church Fathers, and that these writings largely fixed the tradition of Christian anti-Semitism which has permeated so much of Christian history. The tragedy of Christianity's antiJewish bias, reflected in centuries of malevolence and misdeeds against the Jews, has recently been referred to by one historian of religion, and with considerable justification, as "the crime of Christendom." The pejorative manner in which Jews and Judaism were referred to in the writings of early Christianity is clearly explicit from even a casual examination of the writings themselves.
The conflict which developed so early between Judaism and Christianity during the first century became even more intense during the second century. Christian writings reflected an increasingly anti-Jewish spirit, while Judaism became more antagonistic toward Christianity. That which constituted the very basis of the Christian faith, "Jesus Christ is Lord," was that which drove Judaism and Christianity farther and farther apart, since their respective claims, Torah and Christ, were mutually contradictory. The real tragedy of the theological conflict, however, lay in the nature of the conflict itself and the intense bitterness it evoked from Christians and from Jews. Each charged the other not just with religious or theological error, but with moral depravity and religious apostasy. What is more, both Judaism and Christianity lost sight of the profound truths and the theological heritage they both shared in common. The missionary expansion of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire stiffened the resistance of Judaism to Christianity, and this recalcitrant opposition of Jewish communities to conversion to Christianity in turn exasperated Christian communities which saw such resistance as an open defiance of God's purpose.
In Jewish-Christian dialogue today, Christians can ill afford to ignore the continuing conflict between Christianity and Judaism through the centuries. Bitter conflict characterized the entire patristic period of Christian history and this fact alone profoundly influenced the future course of Christian theology and Jewish-Christian relations. As a matter of fact, hostility toward the Jews and Judaism abound throughout patristic literature, in such writings in the Epistle of Barnabas, Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho, Hippolytus's Expository Treatise Against the Jews, and the Treatises of Cyprian. Among the repeated charges against the Jews in these writings were that the Jews completely misunderstood the Law and misinterpreted the Scriptures, that Christ abrogated the Law, and the Jews, as killers of Jesus, were rejected by God and no longer His chosen people. So great was the estrangement that even the historical continuity of Christianity with Judaism was denied by early Church Fathers. Ignatius wrote, "Christianity did not base its faith on Judaism, but Judaism on Christianity." Early Church Fathers denied that the Old Testament had anything whatsoever to do with the Jews; rather, they maintained that the Old Testament had to do with the past of the church and not with the ancestors of contemporary Jews. Christianity early laid claim to a superior understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures than the Jews themselves possessed. Had not the Book of Hebrews been written to show the superiority of Christianity over the religion of Moses? The Church Fathers, as ecclesiastics and theologians throughout the Middle Ages, in their anti-Jewish polemics repeatedly charged the Jews with the death of Jesus, invariably offering the explanation for Jewish suffering as divine retribution for their sins. "Because of the crime of the Jews," Origen wrote, "the city [ Jerusalem ] perished utterly and the Jewish nation was overthrown." Augustine, a major architect of
Catholic theology reaffirmed the same judgment: "But the Jews who rejected him and slew him after that were miserably ruined by the Romans and were dispersed over the face of the whole earth." Eusebius wrote that one of the purposes for writing his Ecclesiastical History was "to relate the misfortunes which have come upon the entire Jewish people as a result of their plots against our Savior." Perhaps the most vitriolic attacks on Jews from a Christian source came from the "silver tongued" Chrysostom, the most famous preacher of the early church, who in 387 preached a series of eight anti-Jewish sermons at Antioch. Having charged the Jews with "deicide," a word he coined, he proclaimed, "I hate the Jews because they violate the Law. I hate the Synagogue because it has the Law and the Prophets. It is the duty of all Christians to hate the Jews." Centuries later Martin Luther echoed similar sentiments by writing that the destruction of the temple and subsequent dispersion of the Jews indicated "divine wrath" on the Jews and "show all too clearly that they are surely in error and on the wrong path." Examples of such denigration of the Jews, common even in twentieth-century Christian writings, Catholic and Protestant, have by no means been eradicated from contemporary Christianity, as recent studies have dearly shown.
Second only to its relations with a hostile state, the question of Jewish-Christian relations was the major problem which the early church faced for several centuries. Regrettably, many centuries passed before either the question of church-state relations or Jewish-Christian relations was resolved with any degree of adequacy. Actually, the two questions were historically and intimately interrelated. With Constantine's espousal of Christianity in the Edict of Milan of 313, the status of both Christianity and Judaism was dramatically and radically changed. On the one hand, Christianity, transformed from a persecuted faith to a tolerated one, was by 346 the persecutor of rival faiths within the Roman Empire. On the other hand, Judaism became a proscribed faith, its members increasingly subjected to alienation, discrimination, and humiliation by both the church and the state. The church allied with the state meant that the political power of the state was now available to implement the theological judgment which had so frequently been pronounced on the Jews in patristic writings. As Father Edward H. Flannery stated it in his painstaking account of Christian guilt for the persecution of the Jews, the political power of the church permitted "the translation into statutory form of what the patristic teaching seemed to call for." Thus repressive measures often accompanied by stringent regulations were enacted, such as proscribing any Jew upon threat of the death penalty from making a convert (which was to mark the termination of Jewish missionary efforts) and any Christian from participating in Jewish rites. Various Christian emperors sought to prohibit special religious observances, to regulate synagogue services, and even to compel Jews' converting to Christianity. The growing intolerance of the Christian world, along with a growing anarchy in the Roman Empire, resulted in a shift of the center of Jewry from the Roman Empire to Babylonia, where several million Jews lived in relative freedom under an Exilarch until the tenth century. By the eleventh century, increased Islamic restrictions on the Jews caused a shift of Judaism westward to Europe which remained the population center of Judaism for almost a thousand years.
The concept of the Christian state, which found classic expression in the corpus Christianum, provided a firm basis for the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire by Charlemagne in 800. This development in turn had a profound effect on JewishChristian relations in Europe. To be a citizen of the Empire was to be a member of the church, and to be a member of the church was the foundation of one's citizenship in the Empire. Enemies of the church were regarded as enemies of the state. Jews, since they obviously were not Christians, were therefore aliens without any citizenship and were thereby reduced to a pariah people, without real human status or civil rights. From the First Crusade in 1096, the Crusades marked the beginning of a new wave of vigorous persecutions, including massacres of entire Jewish communities. As religious aliens in a Christian state, Jews were subjected to repeated pogroms and expulsions -- from England in 1290, from France in 1306, from Spain in 1492, and from German and Austrian cities during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. After the Middle Ages, the violent antiSemitism of Martin Luther and the Counter Reformation, both aggravated by the refusal of Jews to become Christians in a Christian state, served to stimulate new waves of the Christian anti-Semitism which had so long plagued Christian history. Suffice it to say, for centuries prior to the French Revolution, non-toleration of Jews was a familiar and integral part of the basic religious policy of the leading nations of Europe. The emergence of political democracy, particularly the secular state, made possible the legal equality of different religious faiths, which was further reinforced after the latter part of the eighteenth century by the separation of church and state and legal guarantees of religious liberty.
It is not the purpose here to recount even in summary fashion the centuries of persecution and revilement accorded the Jews in Christendom, but these passing references have been made to suggest that the anti-Jewish bias which appeared early in Christianity has, to the shame of Christian history and Christian theology, been perpetuated by the church with recurring regularity through the centuries. What is more, this historic antiJewish bias has a manifest continuity with modern anti-Semitism which reached its terrifying climax in the Holocaust of Nazi Germany in which six million Jews were killed in the heart of what is historically termed "Christian Europe." Second only to the tragedy itself has been the deplorable fact that Christian antiSemitism and Christian maltreatment of the Jews have been conspicuously missing from most Christian accounts of the history of Christianity. Surely this is not the time for an attitude of euphoria toward Jewish-Christian dialogue in the modern world, but it is certainly not the time for Christian inertia or silence either. Too much has happened in the past, including the all too recent past -- the Holocaust, the creation of the State of Israel, the Six-Day War -- to allow for moral apathy or any kind of escape from Christian responsibility in Jewish-Christian relations. There is, however, a profound need for an informed awareness of Jewish-Christian relations in some historical perspective, including a need for intellectual honesty in Christian historiography, but there is also the desperate need for a spirit of confession, penitence, and restitution for the ChristianJewish tragedy of almost two thousand years. In a profound sense, the history of Jewish-Christian relations must be called a two-fold tragedy: a Jewish tragedy marked by Christian theological denigration and falsification of Judaism, accompanied by Jewish martyrology, and a Christian tragedy in its manifest contradiction of the ethical truths of Christian faith and in its repudiation of Christianity's Jewish theological heritage.
JCS 13 (SPRING 1971): 193 - 208
Parochi-aid and the U.S. Supreme Court
From almost any perspective the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court on 28 June 1971, in Lemon v. Kurtzman and Earley v. DiCenso, must be viewed as landmark decisions in American church-state relations. In both cases the Court ruled against a state's "purchasing secular services" of parochial schools. As the New York Times astutely observed, "The decision on direct aid to parochial schools, which invalidated state laws in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, marked the first time that the Supreme Court had struck down a law on aid to church schools." The General Secretary of the U. S. Catholic Conference, Bishop Joseph L. Bernadin, declared, "The serious impact of this decision on nonpublic schools cannot be overestimated.""In its impact," Time opined, " Lemon is likely to be surpassed only by the Court's historic decisions on racial desegregation." These historic decisions on public aid to parochial schools came on the last scheduled day of the Court's term, and were the last decisions in which the late Justices Hugo L. Black and John M. Harlan participated.
At the same time as these two decisions, in a Connecticut college aid case, Tilton v. Richardson, the Court gave qualified approval to the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963, under which $240 million in federal funds had been provided for the construction of such college facilities as libraries, laboratories, and gymnasiums on campuses of public, private, and church colleges. The Court struck down, however, one feature of the law-that after twenty years the colleges could use the buildings for any purposes, including religious ones. Unlike Lemon v. Kurtzman and Farley v. DiCenso, Tilton v. Richardson was clearly a split decision, 5 to 4, with a majority decision but without a majority opinion.
Some responded to these three cases as representing an inconsistency on the part of the Supreme Court, which had simply said no to church-related elementary and secondary schools and yes to church-related colleges and universities. Such an interpretation is clearly to ignore both the language and the reasoning of the Court. For the first time the Court distinguished between aid permissible to church-related elementary and secondary schools and church colleges on the grounds that parochial schools are "an integral part of the religious mission" of the church, whereas church-related colleges are not so "sectarian" or church-controlled. Speaking for the Court, Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote that "there is substance to the contention that college students are less impressionable and less susceptible to religious indoctrination. Common observation would seem to support that view and Congress may well have entertained it. Since religious indoctrination is not a substantial purpose or activity of these church-related colleges and universities, there is less likelihood than in primary and secondary schools that religion will permeate the area of secular education. This reduces the risk that government aid will in fact serve to support religious activities."
Some have interpreted Tilton v. Richardson as a significant breakthrough for church-related colleges and universities, since, it is reasoned, the decision marked the first time that the Supreme Court has upheld direct aid. Any assumption that public funds may be freely granted to church-related colleges and universities, provided the facility constructed is not used for religious or sectarian purposes, is certainly not sustained from a reading of the decision itself. Rather the Court ruled that laws aiding elementary and secondary schools are unconstitutional on prima facie evidence that parochial schools are integrally related to the church and are church-dominated and, therefore, fail to meet the criterion of being primarily secular in character.
Because of the great variety of relationships of colleges to churches, so-called church-related colleges and universities must be judged on an individual basis of the nature of their churchrelatedness. For example, all of the justices agreed that public funds to a church-related college could not be justified if the college imposed religious restrictions on admission or required instruction in the tenets of a particular faith. Eight of the justices agreed that aid could not be granted those institutions which required attendance at religious activities, imposed religious restrictions on what would be taught, or regarded the propagation of religion as a primary purpose or activity of the institution. Noting that "some colleges have been declared ineligible for aid" by federal authorities, five of the justices simply upheld the Higher Education Facilities Act on the basis that the four colleges involved in the Tilton case did not violate any of the restrictions that characterize "typical sectarian" institutions of higher learning. The Court left no doubt that the primary purpose of church-related colleges' receiving public funds must be secular, not religious. Tilton is of particular significance because of its reaffirmation of the secular character of a church-related college in applying the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. For this reason, and this reason alone, the Higher Education Facilities Act was ruled unconstitutional. Even so, four of the justices dissented, and the intensity of the minority's dissent was unmistakable. Justice William O. Douglas wrote, "It is almost unbelievable that we have the radical departure from Madison's Remonstrance memorialized in today's decision. I dissent not because of any lack of respect for parochial schools but out of a feeling of despair that the respect which through history has been accorded the First Amendment of this day lost."
Even greater significance must be given the Court's decisions concerning public funds to parochial schools. In a unanimous decision, Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Court declared unconstitutional Pennsylvania's nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Act of 1968 which authorized the state to purchase such educational services as teachers' salaries, textbooks, and instructional materials from nonpublic schools in mathematics, foreign languages, sciences, and physical education. ( Pennsylvania was the first state to provide direct aid to nonpublic schools.) The Court also held as unconstitutional, in an 8 to 1 decision, Earley v. DiCenso, the Rhode Island Salary Supplement Act of 1969 which provided for a 15 percent salary supplement to be paid to private school teachers of secular subjects using the same instructional materials as those used in public schools. The lone dissenter, Justice Byron R. White, appended a footnote stating that he, too, would consider the Rhode Island legislation unconstitutional "if the evidence...showed that any of the involved schools restricted entry on racial or religious grounds or required all students gaining admission to receive instruction in the tenets of a particular faith."
The unanimous decision of the Court in one case and its almost unanimous decision in the other clearly marked a resounding rejection of parochiaid, in spite of its receiving increasing popular support in recent years as well as the personal endorsement or President Richard M. Nixon even during the past year. Long supported by the American Catholic hierarchy, parochiaid has also been repeatedly urged by America's most influential and popular evangelist, Billy Graham, to counterbalance what Graham has called the "materialistic, atheistic teaching" in the public schools. Interestingly enough, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., the only Roman Catholic on the Court, dissented in all three cases, i.e., he voted against public funds to church-related elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities, as did Justices Black and Douglas.
Following the Court's historic decisions on parochiaid, the American Jewish Congress and the American Civil Liberties Union, with a pledge of support from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, announced that they are filing suits in at least a half dozen states -- Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Vermont -- on the basis that parochial school aid programs in these states are also unconstitutional. These suits will not challenge indirect public aid to parochial schools in the form of public health services, bus transportation, and secular textbooks, but those programs of direct aid in the form of voucher systems, tuition grants, tax credits, and purchase of various services. Prior to the Supreme Court's decisions, parochiaid had already been virtually defeated, at least for the time being, in no less than eleven states -- Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas.
While the Court's unprecedented decisions concerning parochiaid are historically and judicially significant, the issue of public aid to parochial schools is by no means new in American history. In every state without exception state constitutions have expressly prohibited the granting of state funds to church schools. At various periods American presidents have spoken out against tax support of religious instruction and religious institutions. James Madison, who drafted the First Amendment, argued, "Who does not see that the same authority, which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?" Thomas Jefferson wrote that "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions he disbelieves, and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical....""Resolve that not one dollar," Ulysses S. Grant declared, "shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian school. Resolve that neither the state nor nation, nor both combined, shall support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford every child growing up in the land the opportunity of a good common school education, unmixed with sectarian tenets." Almost a century later, John F. Kennedy affirmed, "I believe in an America... where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference." "The Constitution clearly prohibits aid to parochial schools. I don't think there is any doubt of that." Furthermore, as Justice Brennan observed, "For more than a century, the consensus, enforced by the legislatures and courts with substantial consistency, has been that public subsidy of sectarian schools constitutes an impermissible involvement of secular with religious institutions."
To those who had long advocated that higher costs and enrollment lag of parochial schools necessitated the appropriation of public funds for their virtual survival, the denial of public funds to parochial schools represented a major setback, but to those proponents of church-state separation in education it was manifestly a major victory. The landmark decisions of Lemon and DiCenso prohibiting direct aid to parochial schools came after almost a generation of Supreme Court decisions upholding indirect aid to parochial schools in the form of bus transportation, health services, lunch programs, and secular textbooks and other instructional materials on the basis of the "child-benefit" theory. Actually, the Court was careful to note that its decisions in the past "have permitted states to provide church-related schools with secular, neutral, or nonideological services, facilities, or materials. Bus transportation, school lunches, public health services, and secular textbooks supplied in common to all students were not sought to offend the establishment clause."
In both Lemon and DiCenso the Court ruled against parochiaid on the basis of "excessive entanglement between Government and religion." The Court reaffirmed that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment not only prohibits the establishment of a state religion, but also specifically states that "there should be no law respecting an establishment of religion." As in the Walz case the year before, the Court acknowledged that the Establishment Clause was intended to afford protection against three main evils: "sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the sovereign in religious activity." Whether or not the legislatures of Pennsylvania and Rhode Island had provided sufficient safeguards to prevent government aid to religion per se, the Court declared, is not the issue in these cases. Rather, it is that "the cumulative impact of the entire relationship arising under the statutes in each State involves excessive entanglement between Government and religion." "While total separation," the Chief Justice wrote, "is not possible in an absolute sense...the objective [of the Establishment Clause] is to prevent, as far as possible, the intrusion of either [church or state] into the precincts of the other." The minute surveillance required of government to insure that the expenditure of public funds is only for secular purposes in parochial schools is itself a violation of entanglement between church and state prohibited in the First Amendment. While there are points of contact between church and state in American life, the state is prohibited from relationships that are "pregnant with dangers of excessive government direction of church schools and hence of churches." "The picture of state inspectors prowling the halls of parochial schools and auditing classroom instruction," Justice Brennan wrote, "surely raises more than an imagined specter of governmental 'secularization of a creed.'"
The Pennsylvania and Rhode Island programs of government aid of parochial schools would also, the Court reasoned, bring about an unavoidable entanglement of the churches with government since legislatures would regularly have to vote new appropriations to parochial schools. This very entanglement of organized religion with government for parochiaid would unalterably contribute to political divisiveness along religious lines. As the Court declared, "Partisans of parochial schools understandably concerned with rising costs and sincerely dedicated to both religious and secular educational missions of their schools will inevitably champion this cause and promote political action to achieve their goals. Those who oppose state aid, whether for constitutional, religious, or fiscal reasons, will inevitably respond and employ all of the usual political campaign techniques to prevail. Candidates will be forced to declare and voters to choose. It would be unrealistic to ignore the fact that many people confronted with issues of this kind will find their votes aligned with their faith." While, in general, political debate and division are normal and healthy signs in American democratic society, "political division along religious lines was one of the principal evils against which the First Amendment was intended to protect." There can be no question, the Court said, but that the intent of the First Amendment is to maintain a boundary between church and state. "Under our system," Chief Justice Burger concluded, "the choice has been made that government is to be entirely excluded from the area of religious instruction and churches excluded from the affairs of government."
Although the significance of the U. S. Supreme Court's decisions in Lemon v. Kurtzman and Earley v. DiCenso must be readily acknowledged, by both protagonists and antagonists alike, the implications of these decisions on the future of parochial schools in the United States are not correspondingly so easily discernible.
For example, will the Court's repudiation of parochiaid virtually threaten the survival of parochial schools in the United States? Certainly there are those who see parochiaid, at least of some kind, as essential to the survival of parochial schools. This has frequently been publicly advanced by various Catholic protagonists, churchmen and educators alike. With about 87 percent of nonpublic school enrollment in Catholic parochial schools (5.4 million), the Court's rejection of direct aid to parochial schools would appear, at least at first glance, to carry serious consequences for Catholic parochial schools. Advocates of parochiaid have repeatedly argued in recent years that substantial state subsidies to parochial schools would enable reduction of tuition, protect freedom of choice for parents in choosing between public and nonpublic schools, and make possible an increase in parochial school enrollment at a substantial saving to the taxpayer since parochial schools are only partially subsidized. Although one may accept the desire of parochial schools generally for some form of public subsidy to be genuine and well-intentioned, the arguments given for such aid are not without serious weaknesses.
Admittedly, there has been a steady drop in Catholic parochial school enrollment, 22 percent between 1965 and 1970. Studies show, however, that this drop in enrollment resulted primarily not from the closing of schools, but a decreasing number of children entering the parochial schools, with fewer each year entering the first grade. Less than 38 percent of Catholic children are presently enrolled in Catholic schools, in spite of the fact that 43 percent of Catholic pupils in elementary parochial schools now pay less than $50 a year for tuition. There are increasing indications of dissatisfaction of Catholic parents with parochial schools. The pluralistic character of American society has caused many Catholic parents to feel that the public school, as the one universal community institution in America, offers distinct advantages for their children as an integrating force in American life. Or again, conservative Catholics feel that parochial schools are not Catholic enough, and more liberal Catholic parents feel that the schools are too Catholic and sectarian. Last year, after an extensive study of decline in Catholic parochial school enrollment, the Wisconsin Governor's Commission on Education concluded that a state "aid program is not likely to produce any long-term cost benefit" or "stem the decline in Catholic school enrollment."
Recent studies, such as Costs and Benefits of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools ( University of Notre Dame Press, 1969), by Ernest J. Bartell, the "Report of the Wisconsin Governor's Commissioners on Education" ( 1970), and Can Catholic Schools Survive? ( Sheed and Ward, 1970), by Andrew Greeley and William E. Brown, all indicate that the decline in Catholic parochial school enrollment has resulted not from parents' inability to pay tuition to parochial schools but from their unwillingness to support them. While, according to Greeley and Brown, "the average Catholic's federal tax bracket is 25 percent," Bartell noted that when a Catholic parent says, "I can't afford another penny" for Catholic schools, he most probably means that "the schools system simply rests far down on his list of priorities." Brown, therefore, concluded in his study that "we (Catholics) do have freedom to educate our children in our own schools and we could foot the entire bill ourselves if we would." The Most Reverend William E. McManus, Co-Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Education and a member of the President's Panel on Nonpublic Education, was reported in the Washington Post as saying that the present crisis in Catholic parochial education "is not so much a lack of money -- Catholics are more affluent than ever -- but rather miserly weekly contributions to that old mainstay of parish school support, the collection basket." Meanwhile, the 1970-71 National Catholic Educational Association's Data Bank survey revealed that despite the financial difficulties of some parishes and dioceses bearing the cost of their schools, other parishes and dioceses have more than enough income to support their schools. The assumption that church schools are in financial need compared to their public or state school counterparts, by virtue of their being nonpublic schools and without tax support, is simply without foundation. In some cases, it is a complete distortion of the actual financial status of church schools whose pupils, by and large, are from middle class and upper-income families. In the absence of any audited records of Catholic church income, assets, and expenses of parochial schools, there is simply no objective evidence available supporting the claim that Catholic parochial schools are in financial need.
From his tax research for Can Catholic Schools Survive? Brown concludes that, contrary to popular opinion, direct state subsidy of 20 percent in the place of the present policy of granting tax deduction for contributions to church schools would be financially disadvantageous to the Catholic community. He sees, as in the case of Milwaukee, the transfer of a child from a parochial school to public school "moves the cost of his education from the Catholic community on a voluntary contribution basis to the Catholic community on a compulsory tax basis."
The response of Cardinal Terence Cooke of the New York City Roman Catholic diocese to the Supreme Court's rejection of parochiaid was that these decisions were "unreasonable and discriminatory" and "deprived parents of constitutional rights." One can only assume that whatever "rights" claimed here must be ones which Cardinal Cooke has arrogated unto himself, since public support of parochial schools is nowhere constitutionally acknowledged and without precedence in the deliberations of the United States Supreme Court. In American thought, as well as in American church-state relations, there is something fundamentally wrong with the public support of nonpublic institutions. Schools which are publicly supported should not be privately controlled, let alone church controlled. To argue that the freedom of parents to send their children to parochial schools must be publicly subsidized is, to say the least, open to the charge of specious reasoning. Freedom of worship, for example, does not carry with it public responsibility to subsidize church buildings and church programs. Freedom of religion as a constitutional right in the United States has historically meant the freedom of religion from the control of and entanglement with the state.
In view of the Court's rejection of parochiaid, what of the oftrepeated threat that failure to obtain direct public subsidy of parochial schools could mean only the collapse of Catholic parochial schools in the United States? Despite such warnings in the past there is no indication that Catholic authorities plan any mass closings of parochial schools. Msgr. James C. Donohue, former Director of the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education of the United States Catholic Conference, has stated, "The total-closing threat is political and tactical," one "bordering on blackmail." At the Annual Catholic Educational Convention last year, Cardinal Cooke confidently assured the Convention, "Believe us, we are not giving up.... It is not true to say that the policy of the American church with regard to the Catholic school system is in doubt." Various reasons account for the crisis of Catholic parochial schools today. The tremendous expansion of Catholic parochial education in the United States during the 1940s and the 1950s certainly must not be overlooked. Thus, in commenting on the recent decline of Catholic parochial schools, Msgr. Donohue wrote that "maybe we should have asked: 'Are we building too many schools?' We were way over extended." The National Catholic Educational Association recently declared, "Catholic educators at times take pride in a decline of the number of Catholic schools when this statistic reflects the successful consolidation of smaller, less adequate schools into larger and more effective units." Meanwhile Catholic studies, such as those cited earlier, suggest that mere transferring of Catholic children from parochial to public schools offers no real financial advantage for the Catholic community. Public financing of two parallel systems is financially wasteful and, therefore, more costly to both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The Court's rulings, however, were based not on financial wastefulness, but on the constitutional prohibitions against public aid to parochial schools.
What, then, is the future of parochial schools in the United States? Certainly, there is no indication that parochial schools or the rationale for parochial schools is about to be entirely abandoned by America's religious communities. The phenomenal growth in recent years of Jewish day schools is well known. Out of a total of almost 400 Jewish day schools which opened this fall in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, with 75,000 pupils enrolled, 235 of them showed a continued annual growth of 2 to 3 percent despite a 10 percent tuition increase. Perhaps at no time has the rationale for parochial schools been more pointedly states than this fall in Los Angeles at the meeting of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in the policy statement of the Synagogue Council which declared that "few causes have contributed so largely and significantly as the Jewish day school to the survival of the Jew as a distinctive religio-cultural entity in the challenging circumstances of American freedom." While acknowledging that the Supreme Court's decisions on parochiaid were a "severe blow," Msgr. Joseph T. O'Keefe, Secretary of Education of the Archdiocese of New York, declared, "We are not about to fold up our tents and just give up." He continued, "We are not talking about giving up 150 years of history just because we're at a moment of adversity. As for going back into the public school system, that attitude is not typical of the American way."
Much organized effort is now being directed towards various voucher plans, tax credits, "reversed shared time," "scholarships," and "parent reimbursement" as further attempts at providing financial aid to parochial schools. However, it is quite likely that all forms of direct aid to parents for children to attend parochial schools will also be ruled unconstitutional, although these plans for public financing have yet to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Commissioner of Education, Sidney P. Marland, has categorically declared that he would oppose federal tax credits to help support nonpublic schools, despite President Nixon's pledge last August to the Knights of Columbus to aid such schools. At the conclusion of a three-day meeting of public and nonpublic school superintendents from forty-four of the largest school districts in the nation, Marland stated that he saw no legal means to provide public aid to nonpublic schools or to the parents of children who attend them. However, efforts to secure public aid to parochial schools may be expected to continue. As one Catholic educator recently wrote, "I see the Court decisions as a challenge to our imagination, not as a death blow to our aspirations." While other decisions on parochiaid from the U. S. Supreme Court will likely be forthcoming in the near future, it is difficult to imagine that any of these forthcoming decisions will in any way eclipse the historical significance to American church-state relations provided by Lemon v. Kurtzman and Earley v. DiCenso.
JCS 13 ( AUTUMN 1971): 401-12
New Religions and the First Amendment
A n extraordinary diversity of religious phenomena and religious denominations has been one of the most distinctive features of American life since early colonial times. The constitutional provisions denying the state the right to pass any law either contributing to an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion have played a significant role in America's religious diversity and the unparalleled multiplicity of America's religious denominations. Although religious diversity was not desired by the American colonists, and this religious diversity was by no means always marked by toleration, the absence of religious uniformity characterized colonial America from the beginning.
It is this diversity or "multiplicity," as James Madison expressed it, that is the best guarantee against a tyranny of a majority, whether that majority be characterized as secular or religious. For this reason, Madison wrote in The Federalist, the new country should secure civil and religious rights since both belong to the coin of freedom, guaranteeing "the multiplicity of interests" on the one side and "the multiplicity of sects" on the other. In the absence of any religious establishment and in the presence of religious liberty as a matter of organic law in the formation of the early Republic, religious diversity was assured. This diversity has historically stemmed from two sources: those religious groups which originated in older cultures and emigrated to America, first primarily from the Old World and more recently from the East, and those which originated in America, either as new expression of older religious traditions or as indigenous faiths from out of the American milieu.
While sectarianism is characteristic of all religions, even those that are highly eclectic and inclusive in character, it is in a free society such as the United States that religious sectarianism is able to flourish and to enjoy legal protection and legal equality among differing faiths. Those who are inclined to assume that the rise of new religions in America in the sixties and seventies is essentially a new phenomenon of American culture are ignoring a recurring characteristic of this nation's religious history by failing to recognize that the emergence of new religions in America is not new. As Sydney Ahlstrom has recently written in Understanding the New Religions, "American civilization from the beginning and in each passing century has been continuously marked by extraordinary religious fertility, and continues to exhibit this propensity to the present day."
Religious diversity in America helped to assure the voluntary principle in religion and to mold the concept of this nation as a free, secular state. This diversity has been seen by Americans as the corollary of freedom. As a former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Charles Evans Hughes, expressed it more than five decades ago, "When we lose the right to be different, we lose the right to be free." The integration of religious pluralism into American constitutional law has been accomplished primarily by the Supreme Court's repeated emphasis on the state's neutrality, not only toward various religious denominations but also toward "groups of religious believers and non-believers" ( Everson v. Board of Education, 1947; McCollum v. Board of Education, 1948). In so ruling, the Court has necessarily held that a policy of neutrality forbids both government sponsorship and support of religion or religious beliefs. This neutrality the Court enunciated more than a century ago in Watson v. Jones ( 1872), in which the Court declared, "In this country the full and free right to entertain any religious belief, to practice any religious principle, and to teach any religious doctrine which does not violate the laws of morality and property, and which does not infringe personal rights, is conceded to all. The law knows no heresy, and is committed to the support of no dogma, the establishment of no sect."
American religious pluralism is rooted in freedom and equality, not toleration. Integral to the American concept of religious freedom is that "in our system," as Leo Pfeffer has written, "all religions are equal and none is less or more equal than others." The First Amendment serves to protect all religions, old and new, against government harassment, intrusion, injury, and discrimination. It is in this context that new religions are to be viewed before the law and their rights are to be assured in a free society. Equality before the law is as essential to religious liberty as to all other civil liberties and civil rights when applied to race, sex, ethnic origin, and socioeconomic status.
During the past several decades new religious movements have mushroomed in the United States, their phenomenal growth having become a major feature of contemporary American religious life. Some religions have emerged and disappeared within the span of a decade, while others have demonstrated sustained appeal and remarkable institutional and numerical growth. Usually, the growth of new religions has been accompanied by intense missionary activity and a lifestyle of radical separation of converts from the mainstream of American civil and religious life, the latter often resulting in the alienation of youthful converts from their parents and their family's religious tradition. Widespread social hostility toward new religions has largely been borne out or secular interests. The Jonestown massacre of 18 November 1978, involving Jim Jones and his People's Temple movement, accelerated an attitude of popular unacceptability toward new religions.
By the late seventies popular support was being given to demands for federal, state, and local governments to investigate the new religious "cults," allegedly to determine their possible threat to society and the political order. In response to this political pressure, the U.S. Congress conducted a special hearing on religious "cults" in 1979. Subsequently, similar hearings on the new religions have been held in various states, including California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Joint resolutions in state legislatures have generally called for the appointment of a special committee "to study cults and similar movements." In the New York Assembly, a bill was introduced, although never enacted into law, to amend the state's penal code so as to make "promoting a pseudo-religious cult" a felony.
Many reasons, both stated and unstated, lie behind the political appeals for government investigations of the new religions. Charges of tax abuses have been leveled at unpopular religious groups by persons in both the private and public sectors. Alleged acts of coercion, subversion, and violence have been made the basis of the necessity for government action against the new religions. Substantial pressure has been repeatedly put on lawmakers and government officials, by both anguished parents of converts to the new religions and irate citizens intolerant of the new religions, to investigate and regulate the activities of religions that advocate unconventional beliefs and practices not in harmony with the traditional societal norms and mainline religious denominations. Meanwhile, the calls for government investigations of the new religions have occurred at a time of repeated government intrusions into the internal affairs of the mainline churches themselves, a movement the churches have met with almost uniform resistance.
Government hearing and investigations of any particular religious group or groups raise serious First Amendment issues. This is not because religious groups, new or old, are to be free from appropriate forms of scrutiny by the government. If, for example, the Internal Revenue Service has, in the language of the courts, "probable cause" to believe that a religious organization has unreported income from the operation of an unrelated business enterprise under §512 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, the Service may require the organization to account for the suspect income. Similarly, when a religious group is alleged to have violated a law or committed a crime, it is in the same position as any other group, for no religion enjoys immunity from legal prosecution when it violates any law. Here again, however, government can act only on "probable cause," which the U.S. Supreme Court has said "exists where 'the facts and circumstances within their [the arresting officers'] knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information [are] sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that' an offense has been or is being committed" ( Draper v. United States, 1959; quoted from Carroll v. United States, 1924).
For government to initiate an investigation of a religious group without probable cause is to risk a witch hunt and to violate both the Equal Protection Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. To single out any religion or group of religions for special government scrutiny, without probable cause, is to discriminate against that religion or group of religions, a practice the U.S. Supreme Court has often and expressly forbidden ( Everson v. Board of Education, 1947).
Furthermore, without some compelling state interest there can be no legitimate government intrusion into religious affairs. Again, in the words of the Supreme Court, "The law knows no heresy." The truth or falsity of a religion lies beyond the competence of civil authorities. As John Richard Burkholder rightly observed in Religious Movements in Contemporary America, "the guarantee of religious liberty means...that neither the truth or falsity of religious beliefs, nor the good or bad faith with which they are held, can become legal issues." The Supreme Court made the point precisely in United States v. Ballard ( 1944) when it denied the right of a secular court to determine "the truth or falsity of the religious beliefs or doctrines" of those on trial.
Nor can any government legitimate hearings or investigations concerning religious groups because their teachings are unconventional or unpopular, any more than it can accept innuendo and unsubstantiated charges against a religious group because hostile citizens (even if a majority) feel that the group does not share the traditional ethos of society. As Judge John J. Leahy of the New York Supreme Court declared, "The freedom of a religion is not to be abridged because it is approved or disapproved of by the mainstream of society or more conventional religions." The demand for government intervention when a group supports unpopular causes that conflict with traditional values, short of violation of the law, must be resisted if the integrity of the First Amendment is to be preserved. Without verifiable evidence that a given religion has violated the law, demands for government investigations of that religion should be denied.
Government action against new and unpopular religions requires close scrutiny in order to insure that religious liberty operates without discrimination. When government summarily initiates such action against new religions, defenders of religious liberty need to raise their voices in concern. In 1979 the officials from a variety of major church offices in Washington expressed strong opposition to a congressional hearing on religious "cults." They represented, among others, the offices of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A., the National Council of Churches, the Synagogue Council of America, the United Methodist Church, and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. These officials did so because of their concern that "all of the witnesses...scheduled appear[ed] to have definite positions in support of regulation of 'cult' activity or efforts to 'deprogram' members of such groups" and because no strong advocates for religious liberty were represented, although "vital First Amendment concerns" were "at the heart of the debate about so-called 'cults.'" Such a congressional hearing, they warned, is in danger of becoming a government witch hunt for new religions. Such an investigation without probable cause, they concluded, "can do nothing but inflame the public and obscure the delicate, complex issues which surround the activities of [religious] minority groups." Not to be ignored, they argued, is the chilling effect the holding of such hearings by state or federal governments would inevitably have on the free exercise of religion.
With no evidence that a law has been violated, it is unconstitutional for government to investigate groups that are based on religious belief. Any effort on the part of government to control or to monitor new religious groups lies beyond the bounds of legitimate governmental authority. As one competent scholar on the new religions, J. Stillson Judah, has written, "Although one may express disapproval concerning some of the proselytizing practices of some of the new religions, so long as they perform no overt illegal acts, to censure them by new laws would be a severe blow to religious freedom of all Americans." The widespread practice on the part of public officials of referring to new religions as "cults" should be deplored. The use of the term "cult," which is a pejorative word used to denigrate new religions, has no place in American law. Government is not competent to judge which religions are good and which are bad any more than it can determine which religions are true and which are false, which are churches and which are "cults."
With the emergence of a strong anti-cult movement in the late sixties, new religions were charged with employing tactics of 'brainwashing" and "mind coercion." The charges have been primarily directed against those new religions that have made substantial numerical gains, such as the Church of Scientology, the Hare Krishna movement, and the Unification Church. In this mounting assault, the new religions are broadly denounced for alienating youthful converts from their parents and the religious traditions of their families. The assault has come from both religious and antireligious sources and from both public and private sectors of American society. The alleged goal of the anticult movement has been to restore family ties and traditional values to converts of the new religions. Abduction and deprogramming have been widely used by parents in an effort to recover their adult children from membership in and from the influence of the new religions.
No matter how well-intentioned its motive, deprogramming raises fundamental First Amendment issues both with respect to government intervention in religious affairs and with the free exercise of religion. Basic to religious liberty is the right of any person voluntarily to join any religious group and thereby to adhere to any religious beliefs without legal restraints. Furthermore, no one should be denied the practice of religion so long as no law has been violated or no crime has been committed. Freedom of belief, to be sure, is legally separate from the freedom to act on those beliefs; the former is absolute while the latter may be circumscribed, but only circumscribed if government can demonstrate a compelling state interest that cannot be achieved by a less restrictive means. Meanwhile, the guarantees of the First Amendment must be fully applicable to all religious groups without discrimination or political advantage or disadvantage.
During the past decade, deprogramming has constituted a serious assault on many of the guarantees of the First Amendment, but nowhere more so than on the right to religious liberty, the right to believe and practice the religion of one's own choosing, a right that is fundamental to the American experience. Deprogramming is predicated on the notion of "mind coercion," a term which remains undefined and unsubstantiated in referring to converts of strange and unpopular new religions. It should be noted, however, that deprogramming has not been limited to converts to new religions but also has been employed on converts to Baptist, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic churches.
Any statute designed to legitimize deprogramming and thereby harass, limit, prohibit any religious belief or permit the use of physical or psychological coercion to cause a recanting of religious belief (as evidenced by the recent rash of bills on temporary guardianship introduced into state legislatures in California, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Texas) is contrary to both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. No government, whether state or federal, can justify using the power and prestige of its legislative branch to encourage distraught parents to violate the religious liberty of their offspring. Deprogramming needs to be seen for what it is, a criminal act against the person. The problem of deprogramming has been exacerbated by the continued introduction of bills into state legislatures providing for court-appointed guardians to protect persons of whatever age from "a substantial behavioral change" resulting from "a systematic course of coercive persuasion," as expressed in a bill submitted recently to the New York Assembly.
Conversions to new and dissenting religions have rarely been greeted with tolerance. Converts to Anabaptism were both feared and ridiculed for their beliefs. Quakers were despised and denigrated by many of the early American colonists. Seventeenth - and eighteenth-century Baptists, who constituted a small and disinherited sect, were jailed in Massachusetts and Virginia because they preached a message that did not have the approval of the state. Just as the state was not a competent judge of which religions should be approved in an earlier day, so it is not competent to do so today. Subsequently, the persecutions of the Mormons, the vigorous anti-Catholic campaigns by nativists, and the struggle of Jehovah's Witnesses for religious liberty should all provide valuable lessons today toward defending the rights of contemporary new religions in the United States. Unlike many other parts of the world, the United States has no ministry of religious affairs, and, therefore, no religion can be required to obtain a "Good Housekeeping" seal of approval from the state in order to enjoy the protection of the First Amendment.
Thus the presumed right of temporary guardianship over adults, legitimated by state statutes and admittedly aimed at converts of new religions, should be viewed with alarm. Such legislation seriously threatens civil liberties in general and religious liberty in particular. Deprogramming adults through statutory authorization of temporary guardianship because of a person's conversion to an unconventional or socially unacceptable religious group is incompatible with the First Amendment -- the free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly. Anti-conversion legislation has no place in a free society.
The anguish of parents over the conversion of their children to alien faiths may be understandable, but parental anguish does not justify the denial of religious liberty to converts who have become estranged from their parents. Every person should be free to affirm, change, or deny his religious identity, no matter how unacceptable a given faith may appear to be to his parents or family. Any use of physical coercion by any religion is subject to the same prosecution any other organization would face. Religion enjoys no exemption from compliance with the laws of the state. Without trustworthy and verifiable evidence, however, allegations of possible wrongdoing do not permit any government the right to search or seize religious property, to hold hearings on religious groups, or to appoint temporary guardians for religious adherents.
The denial of religious liberty to any one group is a threat to the religious liberty of all. To abridge the religious rights of any one religious adherent is to imperil the rights of all religious adherents. For this reason, if for no other, no religion can be denied the protection of the First Amendment simply because its beliefs are socially unacceptable or are unconventional. Guardianship to justify deprogramming of adults easily becomes a terrorist activity that inhibits the right of religious liberty. Today, vigorous and strong opposition is needed to counter sweeping statutory authority given to guardianship of adults; such authority gives license to deprogrammers who participate in acts of abduction and involuntary guardianship of adult converts. To sanction, without probable cause, government investigations of new religions and to provide statutory authorization for temporary guardianship of adult converts to new religions are fraught with the dangers of the inevitable erosion of religious liberty and the diminution of free society.
JCS 24 (Autumn 1982 ): 455-62
World Religions and World Community
T his is an age of interreligious encounter, made ever more so by an increasingly religiously plural world. As never before, representatives of the religions of the world are participating in interfaith endeavors and international meetings at which serious attention is being given to interfaith relations, religious liberty, and world peace. The role of religion in international affairs, which especially in the West is still given far too little attention in international relations, needs to be seen as a potentially major force in the advancement of religious liberty and world peace and in the building of a world community.
In contrast to today, from time immemorial interfaith encounters have been marked by conflict and discord, rooted in intolerance. The absoluteness or particularity of each religious tradition served to provide a religious foundation for intolerance. Since religion formed the basis of the identity of the nation or tribe, this religious identity also contributed to a political intolerance toward all religious dissent. To be a dissenter in religion was to be an enemy of the state; it was to be guilty of heresy and sedition simultaneously.
Although the record of tolerance is a tortuous one in the history of religions, there are clear teachings of tolerance among the world religions that must not be overlooked, but rather these teachings should serve as valuable reminders to their adherents today and form a basis for interfaith relations based upon mutual respect and goodwill.
In Hinduism, intolerance and persecution of alien faiths are expressly condemned. For centuries, its teachings have been so identified with religious tolerance that Hinduism has even been described as a religion in which relativism is virtually absolutized. In one of its earliest sacred writings, a basis for tolerance is set forth in the declaration, "Truth is one, sages call it by different names" ( Rig Veda 1:164:46). In the words of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, one of Hinduism's most renowned twentieth-century thinkers and apologists, "The greatest requirement of human life is to be loyal to the truth as one sees it. Above all, one must learn to be loyal to the spirit of loyalty in other people, even when we do not share their visions of truth. This word loyalty is the essence of religion."
Arising out of the Hindu context of tolerance, Buddhism from its beginning offered a "provisional faith" that was committed to openness and dialogue with other religions. Buddhism has been characterized as a religion of "critical tolerance," since its primary concern is ultimately with personal experience and not an uncritical acceptance of any dogma as such. A charitable attitude toward all religious views and their adherents is encouraged. In the words of Siddharth Gautama, the founder of Buddhism: "If anyone were to speak ill of me, my doctrine or my Order, do not bear any ill-will towards him, be upset or perturbed at heart; for if you were to be so, it will only cause you harm. If, on the other hand, anyone were to speak well of me, my doctrine, and my Order, do not be overjoyed, thrilled, or elated at heart; for if so it will only be an obstacle in the way of forming a realistic judgment as to whether the qualities praised in us are real and actually found in us" ( Digha Nikaya 1:3).
The first of the great world religions to become international, Buddhism demonstrated a spirit of tolerance in all its encounters with other faiths. In China and Japan, where the geographical outreach of Buddhism resulted in its becoming thoroughly indigenous to those cultures, Buddhism by and large enjoyed harmonious coexistence with the national faiths of both countries with little conflict or discord on its part. As the historian of religion Gustav Mensching observed, "Buddhism was and is, on the whole, an outspokenly tolerant religion; this is documented by the fact that wherever it has spread it has never tried to annihilate the . . . original religion, but rather has existed beside it." In the Far East, the San Chiao (the Three Traditions) of China, in which Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism were seen as being complementary to one another, and Ryobu Shinto (the Twofold Way of the Gods) of Japan, in which Buddhism and Shinto became virtually a single faith for a thousand years, reenforced tolerance between the religions themselves.
Teachings of tolerance toward adherents of other faiths are also to be found in the more exclusive Near Eastern faiths of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam. There is the early example of religious tolerance shown Jews in their years of Babylonian exile and their return to Jerusalem under Cyrus the Great. In Jewish thought, the Noahic covenant affirms that God's love is for all people. In God's covenant with Abraham, "All the families of the earth are to be blessed." Similarly, this theme is reiterated in the Song of Moses: "When the Most High parcelled out the nations, when he dispersed all mankind, he laid down the boundaries of every people according to the number of the sons of God" ( Deut.328-9).
Respect for divergent religious points of view is also to be found in the Talmudic writings of Judaism, as illustrated by the following: "The scholars . . . sit in groups; some forbid and others permit;some declare a thing unclean and others declare it clean; some pronounce a thing unfit and others pronounce it fit. Lest anyone say to them I shall sit back and not study, Scripture declares, 'They are given from one shepherd: one God created them, one leader gave them, the Master of all things uttered them!" Thou, too, therefore, make thine ear like a hopper and take in the words of them that pronounce fit." For centuries, proselytizing has been condemned by Judaism, both in principle and in practice, and virtually disallowed, as being incompatible with the Jewish understanding of religious tolerance.
Moses Maimonides ( 1135-1204), the most important single medieval Jewish thinker, expressed the view that "anyone who corrects his soul with purity of morals and purity of knowledge in the faith of the creator assuredly will be one of the children of the world to come." Later, Moses Mendelssohn ( 1729-86), whose enduring contribution is that he served as a bridge builder between medieval and modern Judaism, wrote: "According to the tenets of Judaism, all inhabitants of the earth have a claim to salvation, and the means to attain it are as widespread as mankind itself. Providence made wise men arise in every nation and bestowed upon them the gift to look with a clear eye into themselves as well as around themselves, to contemplate God's works, and to communicate their insights to others." Judaism stands in openness to truth, as given by God, in other religions. As Mendelssohn wrote, "It is not necessary for the entire flock to graze on one pasture or to enter and leave the master's house through just one door. It would be neither in accord with the shepherd's wishes nor conducive to the growth of his flocks." In recent years, the late much beloved and respected Jewish scholar, Abraham Heschel, maintained that it seemed to be the will of God that there be more than one religion. "God's voice speaks in many languages," Heschel declared, "communicating itself in a diversity of intuitions. The word of God never comes to an end. No word is God's last word." In Judaism, to be intolerant of other religions would be, in effect, to limit the ways of God.
In Islam, the Qur'an expressly condemns conversion by force by categorically declaring, "There shall be no compulsion in religion" ( 2 : 256 ). Or again, "Admonish, for thou art but an admonisher. Thou hast no authority to compel them" ( 88 : 21 - 22 ). Pluralism of religion is acknowledged in Islam, but God is the judge and human beings know only in part. In the words of Qur'an, "To each among you, have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. And if God had enforced His Will, He would have made of you all one people" ( 5 : 51 ). "Say: O God! Creator of the heavens and the earth! Knower of all that is hidden and open! It is Thou that wilt judge between Thy Servants in those matters about which they have differed" ( 39 : 46 ). The Qur'an declares that belief is ultimately a matter of personal choice: 'roclaim, O Prophet, This is the truth from your Lord; then let him who will, believe, and let him who will, disbelieve" ( 18 : 29 ). Tolerance toward other religions is explicitly enjoined on those who follow the Qur'an, as follows: "Revile not those deities whom the unbelievers call upon and worship" ( 6 : 109 ). According to Islam, man's freedom to choose is prerequisite to faith. Again, in the words of the Qur'an, "If it had been thy Lord's will, all who are on earth would have believed, all of them. Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!" ( 10 : 99 ).
Tolerance in Christian thought, like religious liberty, is rooted first of all in God's nature and in his dealings with all human beings. God's revelation of himself comes to persons in freedom; it is neither capricious nor coercive. Freedom is, in fact, rooted in God. Man's very capacity for freedom is from God. As Paul wrote, "Where the spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom" (2 Cor. 3:17). The Bible identifies God as the source of freedom and the manner of God's dealings with persons is in freedom ( Rom. 8:21; Gal. 5:1).
An essential characteristic of the Christian Gospel is that God has chosen to make himself known in love and that, therefore, he does not use force to win a person's allegiance. For Christianity, as Niels S. Soe has written, "The basis of religious liberty is the very fact that Christ did not come in heavenly splendour and worldly majesty to subjugate any possible resistance and force all and everybody to subjection." The entire biblical revelation of the New Testament breathes the spirit of freedom. Christ made himself of no reputation and took upon himself the form of a servant and humbled himself even unto death on the cross ( Phil. 2:7-8). Jesus preached against intolerance and religious bigotry ( Matt. 8:5ff., 9:10-13, 21:12-45, 23:1-39; Luke 7:31-50, 9:51-56,10:25-37, 15:1-32; and John 4:7ff. 21, 24, 46ff.). He rejected the notion that nationhood or the state could be identified with God or his kingdom. Rather, he enjoined his disciples to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" ( Matt. 22:21; Mark 12:17; and Luke 20:25). The invitation of Christ in the gospels is, "If you want to . . ." ( Matt. 19:21-22), which is by its very nature an invitation to freedom. Neither God's power of coercion or his rightful sovereignty could alter the manner of God's approach to mankind: "Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and eat with him, and he will eat with me" ( Rev. 3:20).
To be sure, the spirit of tolerance and the voluntariness of faith as reflected in the teachings cited above have not been historically characteristic or descriptive of the world religions generally. Nonetheless, it is particularly important in a world in which religious pluralism is apparently destined to become a dominant feature of all societies that attention be given to the perceptions of tolerance and faith to be found in the teachings and sacred texts of the religions themselves. Even from a very brief sampling of the teachings of the world religions, it becomes apparent that there are valuable resources available for interfaith dialogue and goodwill from within the religious traditions themselves that need to be rediscovered, reexamined, and reaffirmed for today. Admittedly, the disparity between faith and practice has plagued all of the world religions, which, without exception, have all too often been but pale shadows, sometimes even perversions, of their true essence.
There is no denying the fact that support of tolerance and freedom to believe have historically not been generally forthcoming from the world religions themselves, but rather tolerance and religious liberty have come primarily with the rise of the secular state and as a result of international treaties in which religious communities of each contracting party were assured of their religious rights in matters of faith and practice. The subsequent growth of religious pluralism is one of the major challenges facing all of the religions of the world today and is a crucial issue in the building of world community.
With the widespread pattern of disestablishment, religion is increasingly being denied political means and support of the state in the accomplishment of its religious mission. The presence of multiple faiths in secular societies makes religious isolation impossible and interfaith encounters inevitable. Meanwhile, the worldwide distribution of religious communities of virtually all of the major faiths greatly heightens the concern of all religions for guarantees of religious liberty and the protection of the religious rights of at least their own adherents and thereby for religious minorities generally.
Along with the advancement of religious liberty, the religions of the world need to lead the way in the advancement of world peace. In recent years, the international arms race has continued to escalate at an ever alarming rate in spite of the almost universal axiomatic declarations of peace from the nations of the world. For whatever reasons governments may give for their engagements in a massive armaments race, the escalation of arms, particuarly nuclear arms, constitutes a growing threat to world peace and the world economy through the diversion of increasingly limited natural resources away from the alleviation of human needs. The nuclear arms race must become, therefore, a matter of particular importance to and a crucial concern of all of the world religions. There is evidence that the threat of a nuclear war is bringing many communities of faith to a new awareness of the urgency for peace and the imperative need for a peace witness. Clearly, the nuclear age has given a new dimension to war and peace and a new challenge to the religions of the world to work for peace and to convey their peace concerns to governments. The religions of the world dare not be silent on this issue, but, in the words of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, must join hands as participants "in the process of protecting the world and its people from the spectre of nuclear destruction."
The call to genuine tolerance in a religiously plural world needs to be sounded by the religions themselves. The international dimension of the world religions holds the promise of effecting important gains not only for religious tolerance, but also for interfaith dialogue and collaboration of efforts on behalf of religious freedom and the building of a world community. Religious liberty and world peace are not only moral imperatives worthy of universal support of religions around the world, but also they need to be seen as essential for the creation of a world community and the survival of the human family.
JCS 27 (SPRING 1985): 217 - 22
Religious Pluralism and American Society
A t a time when there is a resurgence of the notion of a "Christian" America, accompanied by a widespread antipathy to a view of this nation as a secular state, there is a growing need to recognize the importance of religious pluralism to church-state relations in the United States. While religious pluralism has never been readily welcomed in this nation's history, it has been an integral part and a distinct characteristic of America throughout its history. Moreover, religious pluralism has long been seen as both descriptive of American culture and a normative expression of American society, a clue both to the character and the freedom of religion in America.
The extraordinary diversity of religion has been one of the distinct features of this nation throughout its history. From the beginning, religious diversity characterized the colonies. French and Spanish explorations brought the Roman Catholic faith to the New World in the sixteenth century. In the seventeenth century, English colonies were planted in the New World. Unlike the French and Spanish, English colonial authorities did not impose a pattern of religious uniformity in any of the colonies other than in Virginia. A deliberate policy of toleration on the part of the British authorities inevitably encouraged religious diversity through the English colonies, since it offered to religious dissenters of England and the Continent a greater measure of freedom in the New World than they had known in their homelands.
By and large, religious immigrants to the New World belonged mainly to religious groups that shared religious beliefs that were discriminated against in the Old World: Puritans, Baptists, Calvinists, Irish Catholics, Mennonites, Jews, Dunkers, Moravians, Pietists (Puritanic Lutherans), and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. Within the colonies, religious pluralism was rampant. In Rhode Island, where religious liberty was first made a part of organic law, it was said that "hardly any two Rhode Islanders shared the same beliefs." By 1644, the governor of New Amsterdam reported that eighteen different languages could be heard on the island of Manhattan and the surrounding area. The colonists came from many lands and differing cultural and religious backgrounds. An analysis of the census of 1790 indicates that the population of that time was composed of national stocks with English barely sixty percent of the population. Not only did religious pluralism prevail throughout the colonies, but the vast majority of the population of the colonies was unchurched, described as "the larger proportion of unchurched in Christendom."
Understandably, there was no pattern of uniformity among the colonies regarding a religious establishment. While some forms of religious establishment in the New World largely followed the pattern of the Old, at least in nine of the thirteen colonies, four of the colonies did not have established churches. Perhaps even more significant is the fact that no single church was established in more than five of the thirteen colonies.
In many of the colonies, even established churches from Europe faced persecution and legal acts of discrimination. Puritans in New England banished and persecuted the Anglicans, Baptists, and Quakers, among others, while Virginians hounded the Puritans and the Baptists who came to Virginia. Jews were banished from Manhattan and Huguenots from Florida. Roman Catholics met resistance almost everywhere they settled, except in Maryland, where they constituted a majority. In a landmark church-state case Everson v. Board of Education ( 1947), the United States Supreme Court appropriately characterized religion in colonial America as follows:
Practices of the old world were transplanted to and began to thrive in the soil of the New America. The very charters granted by the English Crown to the individuals and companies designated to make the laws which would control the destinies of the colonials authorized these individuals and companies to erect religious establishments which all, whether believers or nonbelievers, would be required to support and attend. An exercise of this authority was accompanied by repetition of many of the old-world practices and persecutions. Catholics found themselves hounded and proscribed because of their faith; Quakers who followed their conscience went to jail; Baptists were peculiarly obnoxious to certain Protestant sects; men and women of varied faiths who happened to be a minority in a particular locality were persecuted because they steadfastly persisted in worshipping God only as their own consciences dictated. And all of these dissenters were compelled to pay tithes and taxes to support government-sponsored churches whose ministers preached inflammatory sermons designed to strengthen and consolidate the established faith by generating a burning hatred against dissenters.
Today, let it be remembered that although religious pluralism was not something desired by the American colonies, nor was this religious pluralism generally met by toleration in colonial America, the absence of religious uniformity contributed immeasurably to the guarantees of the institutional separation of church and state and religious freedom in the founding of the American Republic. At the time of this nation's founding, an establishment of religion was both practically and ideologically an impossibility if the ideal of E Pluribus Unum were to be realized. At the same time, the exclusion of the authority of government from religious affairs and the assurance of the free exercise of religion were eloquently championed by religious and political leaders alike. As James Madison wrote, "The religion...of every man, must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man.... We maintain, therefore, that in matters of religion no man's right is abridged by the institution of civil society; and that religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance." A person's religious opinions, it was argued, were not in any way to be related to the exercise of one's civil liberties, a viewpoint that has never been universally shared by all Americans. As Thomas Jefferson stated in the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia, "All men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." As is well known, this document became the primary source of other state statutes and the First Amendment.
As a result of these developments, scarce consideration was even given to the subject of religion at the constitutional convention in Philadelphia in May 1787. Article VI, "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States," was the only reference to religion in the original document. This itself was a profound acknowledgment of the secular character of the state and an expression of the constitutional assurance that religious identity or opinions should have no bearing upon one's qualifications for holding a position of public trust, a view now being vigorously challenged by those of the New Religious Right who insist upon some quota of "Evangelicals" holding public office. From dissenters, especially the Baptists and the Presbyterians, came the demand in the form of a Bill of Rights to guarantee the separation of church and state and to provide some explicit assurance of the free exercise of religion. Establishment of religion, at least on a national level, was in 1789 clearly prohibited and official acknowledgment was thereby made as to the pluralistic character of the new nation. Ratification of the First Amendment in 1791, in effect, constitutionally confirmed and assured the pluralistic character of the new Republic.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, America's foremost church historian, Philip Schaff, observed that America was already "a motley sampler of all church history." In spite of the constitutional achievement with respect to Article VI and the First Amendment which, in effect, provides an indissoluble link in America between religious freedom and religious pluralism, the nineteenth century is replete with examples of widespread bigotry and intolerance toward Catholics and Jews as well as toward new religions as they were introduced from abroad or within the new nation itself. Religious discrimination against Catholics and Jews was felt in both social and political areas, reenforced in many instances by state laws and state constitutions. The Nativists or "Know Nothing" party seized control of numerous state legislatures and succeeded in passing laws against Catholic immigrants. In some states, as in Delaware and Pennsylvania, public office was limited to Christians (Catholics or Protestants), while in New Jersey and North Carolina public office was limited just to Protestants. Only gradually was religious pluralism legally guaranteed in the states, and only after the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, followed by a lengthy history of "incorporation" (i.e., specifically "incorporating" the religion clauses of the First Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment and, thus, applying these religion clauses to the states). As Edwin Scott Gaustad rightly observed of nineteenth century America, "Religious non-conformity found its path to public acceptance paved with legal obstacles and illegal harassment."
In America, religious pluralism is both a constitutional right as well as a historical or social reality. In the American experience, this religious pluralism is to be seen not as an aberration simply to. be tolerated, but rather as a right guaranteed all religion as well as irreligion under the law. As John Leland, a prominent Baptist minister, wrote in 1820, "The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a preeminence above the rest to grant indulgence; whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks [Muslims], Pagans and Christians. Test oaths and established creeds should be avoided as the worst of evils."
With the enactment of the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of regligion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," the entanglement of government in religious affairs was constitutionally prohibited. As president, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions.... I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrates to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrine." A little over a century ago, President James A. Garfield declared in his inaugural address ( 1881), "In my judgment, while it is the duty of Congress to respect to the uttermost the conscientious convictions and religious scruples of every citizen...not any ecclesiastical organization can be safely permitted to usurp in the smallest degree the functions and power of the national government." Full religious liberty, it was reasoned, required a secular state in which the people have excluded the authority and jurisdiction of the state from religious affairs; no religious group is to be the object of privilege or discrimination under the law. The most militant atheist, along with the most fervent theist within one of the most socially accepted denominations, is to be assured of full rights of citizenship and equal protection under the the law.
So long as one's free exercise of religion does not infringe upon the rights of others or contravene the just civil laws of the state or threaten public health and order, both the rights of religious dissent and the free exercise of that dissent are guaranteed to all citizens. To be sure, these broad principles have not always conformed to historical reality, any more than other civil rights have applied to all citizens without regard to race or sex. "Equal protection under the law," the only words to appear over the main outside entrance to the United States Supreme Court, constitutes a firm commitment of this nation to religious rights as well as to all other civil rights.
Those who are inclined today to malign the United States Supreme Court for its separationist views (as the New Religious Right and leading members of the Reagan administration, among others, are fond of doing), would do well to note the separationist views enunciated by the Supreme Court a century ago. In Melvin v. Easley ( 1860), the Court declared, "Christianity is not established by law, and the genius of our institutions requires that the Church and the State should be kept separate. The State confesses its incompetency to judge spiritual matters between men or between man and his maker...spiritual matters are exclusively in the hands of the teachers of religion." Or, as in Darwin v. Beason ( 1890), the Court affirmed that "the First Amendment to the Constitution...was intended to allow everyone under the jurisdiction of the United States to entertain such notions respecting his relation to his maker and the duties they impose as may be approved by his conscience, and to exhibit his sentiments in such form of worship as he may think proper, nor injurious to the rights of others, and to prohibit legislation for the support of any religious tenets, or the modes of worship of any sect."
Since minority rights are perennially endangered by the will of majorities, marginal religious groups have understandably sought judicial redress rather than legislative remedy in their struggle for their religious rights and equality under the law with mainline religions. As Leo Pfeffer rightly observed, "The smaller the minority, the more likely it is to need constitutional protection; the greater it is, the more likely it is to obtain the protection it needs through legislative exemption rather than judicial intervention." This is amply reflected in the disproportionate number of church-state cases to reach the United States Supreme Court on behalf of religious groups outside of the mainline religious denominations. These include, among others, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Seventh-day Adventists, the "I Am " movement, the Black Muslims, the Amish, the Hare Krishna Movement (ISKON), the Worldwide Church of God, the Unification Church, and the Church of Scientology.
Religious diversity in America needs to be seen today, as in the past, as the natural corollary of religious freedom. Meanwhile, the legitimation of unconventional or new religions may be an appropriate reminder that all faiths were once "new " religions and only gradually were they able to gain social acceptance of a status of influence to the degree that they are no longer perceived to be a threat to the norms of society.
Marginal or new religions have contributed significantly to American understanding of religious pluralism as well as to judicial interpretations of religious liberty, far out of proportion to their numerical membership or institutional strength. No better example of this fact may be cited than the case of Jehovah's Witnesses, who have been responsible for more court cases concerned with religious liberty than any other single group of religious adherents. In a famous Jehovah's Witness case, West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette ( 1943), the Court forthrightly reenforced the constitutional guarantee of religious pluralism: "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit any exception, they do not occur to us."
The following year, in United States v. Ballard ( 1944), the Supreme Court addressed the claims of the "truth or falsity of religious beliefs or doctrines" of anyone, even though those beliefs "might seem incredible, if not preposterous, to most people." In defending the constitutional rights of even a religious group whose views the society at large may view as "preposterous," the Court noted that in the Constitution, "Man's relation to his God was made no concern of the state. He was granted the right to worship as he pleased and to answer to no man for verity of his religious beliefs."
The special place given by this administration to a particular form of sectarian religion, with its presumed hegemony in the life of the nation, poses serious problems for religious pluralism in American society. The renewed assault on the separation of church and state in America threatens not only the secular state and free society concepts that have been distinctive of this nation, but also the equality of all religion and irreligion before the law. This attack on the separation of church and state augurs for the strengthening of ties between church and state and the disregarding of America's religious pluralism.
Ironically, separation of church and state, which was an inevitable consequence of the religious diversity of the thirteen original colonies and was claimed at the time of the founding of the republic by the churches for themselves so as to ensure their independence from state control, is today being characterized as alien to religious faith and even hostile to religion. Recently in a public address, Secretary of Education William J. Bennett vigorously denounced the separationists' views of the United States Supreme Court as representing "almost four decades of misguided court decisions." In responding to the Court's most recent church-state decisions Wallace v. Jaffree, Grand Rapids School District v. Ball, and Aguilar v. Felton, the complete texts of which are published in this issue of J C S, invalidating the use of public funds for remedial programs and secular subjects for children in parochial schools and public school sponsorship of a period of silence for prayer and meditation, Bennett deplored the decisions for showing a "fastidious disdain for religion." The religious intolerance of the Court, Bennett declared, has now given way to "a new aversion to religion." Attorney General Edwin Meese found these same decisions to be "somewhat bizarre."
Since, it is reasoned, the Court's support of "separation of church and state" and "no entanglement of church and state" are rooted in an aversion to religion, those who support these views of the Court are characterized as hostile to religion. As a major spokesperson for the Reagan administration on religion and public education, Bennett has declared that anyone who favors strict separation of church and state is motivated by a militant form of "secularism." Similar views have been expressed by the Supreme Court in its decisions on religion in the public schools and the use of public funds for parochial schools. Almost no attention has been given by this administration to the phenomenon of religious pluralism in American society and its direct bearing on such issues as religion in public education and the use of public funds for parochial schools, as well as a whole range of other issues in church-state relations in the United States.
It is a distortion to suggest that anyone who favors a strict separation of church and state is impelled by "secularism." Such denunciations of America's separationists simply fail to explain the strong resistance to public school-sponsored religious exercises and the allocation of public funds to parochial schools from such organizations as the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, the National Council of Churches, and the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A.; such religious groups as Methodists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, and Quakers; and such prominent religious leaders as the general Secretary of the United Church of Christ, the presiding bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and the president of Georgetown University, an eminent Jesuit priest. Far from being rooted in any aversion to religion, the strongest support for the separationists' views of the United States Supreme Court have come, by and large, from the vast majority of America's mainline religious denominations.
In light of the American experience, it may well be argued that institutional separation of church and State has contributed significantly to America's religious pluralism, which rests on the notion of the equality of all religious denominations before the law. The refusal of the United States Supreme Court to grant state sponsorship or support of religion may be seen as inextricably intertwined with the free exercise of religion. Religious pluralism is not served by charging the Court with being anti-Catholic whenever public funds or state services are denied all parochial schools, any more than the Court should be charged with being antireligious for its resistance to efforts aimed at Christianizing the public schools and eliminating the secular character guaranteed them in this republic by the First Amendment.
The repudiation of America as a secular state and the effort to identify this nation with God and sectarian religious values does not bode well for religious pluralism in the United States, in which all of the world's religions are represented among its citizens -- not to mention the rise of many diverse new expressions of older religious traditions or indigenous faiths from out of the American milieu. The secular state is one in which church and synagogue, religion and irreligion, are equal in the sight of the state and where citizens may neither enjoy any advantages nor suffer any disadvantages because of their religion. It is a state which seeks neither to promote nor to hinder the free exercise of religion, in which neither religion nor irreligion enjoys any official status or support on the part of government.
Religious pluralism has contributed immeasurably to the American experience from the beginning. As in the past, religious pluralism remains one of the most distinctive features of American society and integral to the American tradition of church and state. Twenty-five years ago, America's first Roman Catholic to be elected President of the United States appropriately wrote of religious pluralism and American society as crucial to this nation's understanding of church-state relations. "It is my firm belief," President John F. Kennedy wrote, that there should be separation of church and state as we understand it in the United States -- that is, that both church and state should be free to operate, without interference from each other in their respective areas of jurisdiction. We live in a liberal, democratic society which embraces wide varieties of belief and disbelief. There is no doubt in my mind that the pluralism which has developed under our Constitution, providing as it does a framework within which diverse opinions can exist side byside and by their interaction enrich the whole, is the most ideal system yet devised by man. I cannot conceive of a set of circumstances which would lead me to a different conclusion.
These words are particularly worth remembering a generation later.
JCS 27 (AUTUMN 1985): 393-401
Church Lobbying and Public Policy
T he question of church lobbying in the formation of public policy in the United States continues to evoke lively discussion and vigorous debate within both the communities of faith and the body politic. There are those in America who even question the right of the churches to be involved in political affairs and to assume an advocacy role in the making of public policy. A recent nationwide poll conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post revealed that most Americans (53 percent) feel that "religious leaders should stay out of politics entirely even if they feel strongly about certain politics issues."
There are those who view the very concept of "lobbying" as somehow less than honorable in the political process. While the term "lobbying" is often used in a pejorative sense as some evil or sinister influence in the political process, lobbying is, in fact, intimately associated with constitutional and democratic government. By dictionary definition, lobbying is the attempt to influence legislation or public policy and/or the promotion of self-interest. In the most fundamental sense, however, lobbying is best understood as the right of petition, a right that was first enunciated in the Magna Charta in 1215. The right "to petition the government for a redress of grievances" found explicit expression in the American Bill of Rights, along with "the free exercise" of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly.
In contrast to totalitarian government, the right of petition is a fundamental tenet of democratic government. As Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes observed in Stromber v. California ( 1931),
"The maintenance of the opportunity for free political discussions to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people and that changes may be obtained by lawful means, an opportunity essential to the security of the Republic, is a fundamental principle of our Constitutional system." Thus, more than a century ago, the United States Supreme Court declared, in United States v. Cruikshank ( 1876), "The very idea of a government, republican in form, implies a right on the part of its citizens to meet peaceably for consultation in respect of public affairs and to petition for a redress of grievances.
Lobbying has been a part of the American experience from the beginning of the Republic. Efforts on the part of organized groups of citizens to influence legislation and public policy have been, in fact, a major feature of American political life. As one contemporary observer has expressed it, "The history of lobbying comes close to being the history of American legislation."
Even though lobbying must be viewed as a constitutional right, efforts have been made since the middle of the nineteenth century to regulate lobbying through legislation. Such efforts have been made to give government the power to monitor political activity through various forms of lobby disclosure legislation. It was not, however, until the federal Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946 that a comprehensive law governing lobbying was finally enacted by Congress, thereby establishing the right of the federal government to monitor lobbying activity. Any attempt, however, to include the churches in any form of lobby disclosure legislation raises serious constitutional questions and is generally met with strong resistance from the churches based upon constitutional, historical, and theological arguments.
The American tradition of church and state, as epitomized in the religion clauses of the First Amendment, has not meant the exclusion of organized religion from the body politic. Indeed, it may be persuasively argued that, so far as the American Constitution is concerned, religion is legally protected to engage in legislative policy advocacy or lobbying to influence any branch or level of government. At least, it may be said that the courts have not challenged the right of the churches to participate actively in the political process. Rather, the United States Supreme Court declared in Walz v. Tax Commission ( 1970), "Adherence of particular faiths and individual churches frequently take strong positions on public issues, including, as this case reveals in several briefs amici, vigorous advocacy of legal and constitutional positions. Of course, churches as much as secular bodies and private citizens have that right." Certainly the churches have claimed this right throughout the history of America, from the colonial period down to the present.
While the right of organized religion to engage in political action and to make political pronouncements has been vigorously challenged by those within and without the churches, the fact remains that organized religion has been, and is now, a very important part of the political arena in the United States. Generally, the pattern has been to view the involvement of religion in the body politic as "courageous" when the churches espouse causes compatible with one's own views or the political establishment and to deplore the advocacy positions of the churches in politics when those positions are in conflict with one's own biases or interests or an established public policy. Significantly, the most ardent separationist groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Jewish Congress, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, as J. Philip Wogaman has noted, have all strongly defended "the right of religious bodies to seek to influence public policy."
The involvement of the churches in the body politic is rooted in the free exercise of religion as a constitutional right. Except for the provision of "no religious test" for public office (Article VI), this constitutional right is to be found in the sixteen words of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
The constitutional phrase "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion goes far beyond affirming the right of religious belief, or even the right of religious association, but rather guarantees that the right of religious activity is not to be denied by the state. While the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly declared that the First Amendment is to be interpreted as meaning the separation of church and state, it is not without significance that in church-state relations the American Constitution explicitly places prohibitions on the state and not on religion or the churches. This is not to suggest that institutional independence of both church and state is not clearly the intention of the Constitution, but it does indicate that organized religion is not to be denied the right to engage in political action and to give witness in public affairs.
In the midst of the present debate over religion and politics in American life, it is helpful to remember that the efforts of churches, as well as clergy, to influence the body politic are not some recent development in American society. Nor have the political activities of the churches been without open conflict among the churches themselves. On some issues, the churches have found themselves frequently in opposition to each other, as in the case of the slavery question, the Mormon polygamy dispute, the prohibition campaign, the use of public funds for parochial schools, a woman's right of choice to have an abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment, the sanctuary movement, and U.S.-Soviet relations. At times, the activities of the churches have been manifestly effective, as in the case of the black churches in support of the civil rights movement and the mainline churches in opposition to the Vietnam War. At other times, the activities of the churches have been clearly ineffective.
To be sure, the political actions and activities of organized religion in America have not always been in the spirit of the Constitution or even compatible with the principle of religious liberty or the equality of all religions before the law; nevertheless, churches and synagogues of the widest variety have freely operated as political pressure groups in America, even directly in the body politic, without legal discrimination or restraint. This recognition of the role played by organized religion in the body politic is essential to understanding America's political as well as its religious history.
Not only churches, but members of the clergy have been a familiar feature of American political life. In colonial America, New England clergy not only took an active part in government, in large measure they were the government. As is well known, the clergy played a prominent part in the American Revolution, particularly as chaplains and pamphleteers. They also used their pulpits to recruit men to bear arms in the cause of American independence. Members of the clergy virtually dominated the Continental Congress. Even though only a small percentage of the population were church members, the clergy and the churches constituted an active political pressure group during both the American Revolution and the formative years of the new Republic.
After independence, aided by a wave of anti-clericalism from prerevolutionary France, steps were taken to bar members of the clergy from holding public office, particularly as members of state legislatures. By the time of the adoption of the Constitution, a majority of the original states had constitutional provisions prohibiting members of the clergy from serving in state legislatures ( Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia) and, in some cases, from holding any political or public office ( New York, Delaware, and South Carolina).
With the ratification of the federal Constitution, including the "no religious test" of Article VI, discrimination against the clergy's holding a federal office was, in effect, prohibited. During the nineteenth century, disabilities against the clergy were gradually removed by the states, except for Maryland and Tennessee which continued to bar members of the clergy from serving in their legislatures until the 1970 s. With the unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court in McDaniel v. Paty ( 1978), the Tennessee law, the last of the state statutes' prohibiting ministers from seeking state office, was struck down.
Throughout the nineteenth century, religion was frequently an active and powerful force in the body politic. The attempts of the churches to influence government reached their zenith in the decades of the 1840 s and 1850 s. The slavery controversy, widely recognized as a great moral issue, became the major cause for political action in the nineteenth century on the part of the churches and organized religion generally. As churches and church leaders in the North came to be identified with abolitionism, sectional tension over slavery steadily mounted. While Northern churches passed antislavery resolutions, Southern churches denounced the unwarranted demands of the abolitionists. Churches in the South were just as prone to urge political action on behalf of the Confederacy as were churches in the North on behalf of the Union. Southern churches not only supported slavery and the Confederacy, but actually had considerable influence in precipitating the conflict itself.
Non-sectarian education also became a national issue during this period, involving the churches and the body politic, as the public school gradually came to be separated from church control and sectarian purposes. By the end of the century, churches tended toward greater involvement in political affairs and increased demands came from the churches for social reform, supported by legislative action.
In the twentieth century, under the influence of the "Social Gospel," the political activities of the churches gradually became more inclusive, diffused, and sophisticated. The churches sought to exert their influence on the body politic not so much on behalf of personal morality as on behalf of matters affecting economic and social justice, war and peace, and human rights in American domestic and foreign policy. Organized "social action" groups became legitimate and widely recognized departments of America's major religious denominations.
Gradually, practically all of the major religious denominations in America established public affairs offices in the nation's capital. The forerunner of the presently organized United States Catholic Conference, the National Catholic Welfare Conference, established headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 1917. After 1930, practically all of the major Protestant denominations in America established offices on public affairs in Washington, D.C., most of them since World War II. For many years, Jewish public affairs offices have been maintained in the nation's capital: B'nai B'rith of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and, since 1977, the Synagogue Council of America. Collaboration and cooperation have increasingly been realized on the part of a wide variety of religious groups -Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and other religious traditions -through the Washington Interreligious Staff Council, commonly referred to in Washington as WISC.
During these years, the advocacy efforts of the churches and synagogues have not been concerned primarily with defending and protecting the interests of organized religion, but have increasingly focused on matters affecting the general and public welfare of persons at home and abroad. On occasion, it has also meant maintaining some balance of political influence on the part of the major religious denominations, so as to preclude any one group from appearing to exert an undue share of political influence. The churches have generally sought to participate in public affairs not on behalf of self-interests or personal morality concerns, but rather to give witness to economic and social justice, human rights at home and abroad, including support of conscientious objection and refugees, the alleviation of poverty and world hunger overseas, arms reduction, and peace.
With rare exception, namely the Friends Committee on National Legislation, denominational public affairs offices in the nation's capital have not registered as "lobbies." They have not done so for a variety of reasons. One is that these offices carry on various public affairs programs that are educational in nature, such as programs in denominational and information services. These services are not directed at government or government agencies but rather at informing and serving the members of the churches on political affairs and public policy. Furthermore, these offices are not by their nature self-serving or maintained for reasons of self-interest, as in the case of powerful lobbies such as the National Rifleman's Association or the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, but are church offices committed to the advocacy of social justice, human rights, and the "free exercise of religion" in public affairs. To the churches, these offices do not exist for the promotion of the churches' selfinterests, and, therefore, are not lobbies as such, but a means by which the churches give witness in public affairs based upon their own understanding of the mission of the church in society.
Admittedly, there has been a growing polarization between the witness of the mainline churches in public affairs and that of the New Religious Right. From its beginning, the New Religious Right has aimed at an overthrow of what it perceives to be both the political and the religious establishment. For this reason, the New Religious Right has expressly aimed its political activities at countering the influence of the mainline churches and synagogues in the body politic by offering an entirely different agenda from that of the mainline churches. It has done so by calling upon government to defend and espouse traditional moral and spiritual values, to provide for a stronger national defense, and to combat communism and advance American national interests throughout the world. By contrast, as noted earlier, the mainline churches have been involved for decades in matters relating to social justice, human rights at home and abroad, world hunger, and world peace.
What is referred to as church lobbying in the secular media is for the churches a religious activity that is seen as not only a constitutional right but also a divine obligation of the churches. For the churches, this activity arises out of a commitment to the prophetic role of religion in the life of the nation through a witness in public affairs. This involvement in the political process is perceived as integral to the mission of the church and to the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
The ultimate rationale for the activities of the churches and the body politic is to be found in a theology of involvement. To lay stress on the political dimension of theology is, of course, to risk a subordination of theology to politics. In this theology of involvement, however, as Andre Dumas has observed, "It is not so much a matter of having God on our side in our personal or collective plans as of recognizing and living out the fact that God uses us on his side in this earthly struggle."
Involvement in public affairs is an inescapable responsibility of the churches. This involvement is required to rescue religious faith "from an exclusive concentration on private life." To moralize about the world while remaining aloof from the world, "keeping one's own hands clean," is incompatible with biblical faith and the prophetic role of religion. The churches are bound to be involved in political affairs because of their concern for persons and, therefore, they must ever find a way to speak a word on behalf of the oppressed and the powerless. Churches are obliged by the faith they proclaim to try to make all human institutions more just and more responsive to human need.
This involvement of the churches in political affairs must include the right of the churches to give prophetic voice and witness on matters affecting domestic and foreign policy, war and peace, and the legislative process because of their concern for the sanctity of the rights of all persons. Thus, through the years, churches and synagogues of widely varying traditions have been concerned in public affairs with a wide range of human rights -- civil, economic, political, and religious. This is not to suggest that the witness of the churches in this or any other area has been uniform or even always directed to noble ends. Admittedly, the witness of churches, as in the broader sweep of history, has at times been for good and at times for bad. Churches also are subject to the same temptations of selfaggrandizement and self-interest as may befall all human institutions. Churches may be particularly vulnerable, since, as Reinhold Niebuhr aptly observed, all persons as well as all institutions "are naturally inclined to obscure the morally ambiguous element in their political cause by investing it with religious sanctity." By equating political convictions with faith commitments, by confusing moral absolutes with political issues, communities of faith may give rise to a form of idolatry in politics.
This form of idolatry, however, is no more incongruous to the prophetic role of religion in a free society than the view that sees no relevance between faith and political action. To deny the role of religion in political affairs is to deny the importance of political affairs and to denigrate a person's religious obligation to exercise good citizenship. Churches are called upon to make hazardous political decisions with full recognition that others equally well motivated may support opposite views.
An inherent danger always for the churches is to equate provisional political opinions with the will of God. There is more than mere arrogance in the repeated claim of presidential aspirant Pat Robertson that "we have enough votes to run the country, and when the people say, 'We've had enough,' we're going to take over." The presumption that any given group of Christians can or should be called upon to establish a Christian order of political society must be rejected out of hand as not only irreconcilable with Christian faith but necessarily doomed to failure. The church does not possess some kind of blueprint for the ordering of society. There is no Christian political theory, no Christian politics, no Christian political party, and no Christian political society or state. In the words of Dorothee Soelle, "There are no specifically Christian solutions to world problems." The role of the churches in political affairs is not to give directives, but rather to give direction to give visible expression through their work and witness on behalf of freedom, justice, and peace throughout the world. Churches need to eschew political arrogance as well as political innocence in order to avoid making pious political pronouncements that lack both content and credibility.
Any political application of the principles of one's religious faith needs to be made on the basis of some political competence. To address questions on the subject of labor, one must know something about labor relations; if on education, one must have some competence in or know something about education. There is no substitute for political literacy, no matter how pious or faith motivated one's witness in public affairs may be. Being a Christian gives one no more special competence in politics than in law, medicine, or music.
Churches, as well as individual Christians, must avoid absolutizing specific applications of the gospel in political affairs and denouncing one's political adversaries for being less Christian or less moral because of their political differences. Moral absolutes must not be translated into political issues and political issues must not be made into moral absolutes. While denunciations of injustice, racism, sexism, and nationalism may be clearly rooted in one's religious faith, their political applications to legislative remedy and public policy are by no means always clear. Any suggestion, for example, that to be for God means to be for public school-sponsored prayer, tuition vouchers for parents to send their children to religious schools, and anti-abortion legislation must be repudiated for the simple reason that it identifies specific legislation with God when many devout believers of genuine religious faith vigorously oppose these legislative proposals.
It would be helpful to remember that religious ends cannot be accomplished through political means. As one writer expressed it in Commonweal, "There has never been a truly Christian society, nor can one be created through the passage of the right laws." It is, in fact, as Kenneth Thompson recently wrote, "a deception" when any political leader presumes to speak to a religiously diverse constituency in the name of one God. The political stance of the New Religious Right has been particularly vulnerable to this temptation. Thus, a broadly representative group of mainline religious leaders (Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish) just a few weeks prior to the 1984 national election, formally called upon the leaders of both major political parties "to reject categorically the pernicious notion that only one brand of politics or religion meets with God's approval and that others are necessarily evil."
Perhaps the greatest danger of the involvement of religion in the political process, however, comes not from the seduction of the churches to political arrogance and political innocence or even the politicizing of moral absolutes, but rather the temptation of politicians to use religion for political ends. As long as churches are supportive of popular political causes, popular political leaders, presidential programs, congressional actions, and "the national interest," the involvement of churches in the body politic is commended, even applauded, but if those congressional actions and presidential programs are opposed by the churches they risk becoming objects of scorn and suspicion. It is important to remember that religion and politics share neither the same means nor the same ends. As Kenneth Thompson has recently written, "The ends of religion are not the ends of politics. The claim that religion and politics are interchangeable will not stand scrutiny....even in its most noble expression, politics' ends are not the same as religion's." There is, therefore, a fundamental falsity in the assertion of Jerry
Falwell: "The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country." Christians must resist the temptation to use political means for the accomplishment of religious ends no less so than politicians must refrain from using religion for the accomplishment of political ends. More than three centuries ago, Blaise Pascal warned, "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as they do from religious conviction."
The Establishment Clause requires that the state be the state and that the church be the church, even though admittedly their functions may frequently and inevitably overlap. Thus, the broadly representative group of religious leaders meeting in Washington, D.C. in 1984, as noted above, perceptively declared that "the State should not behave as if it were a church or a synagogue. The state should not do for citizens what, in their rightful free exercise of religion, they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves."
True democracy, as expressed in the secular state with its guarantee of the "free exercise of religion," thereby gives recognition to the role of religion in public affairs. At the same time, the secular state does not claim to be morally autonomous and refuses to absolutize any form of authority, whether religious or otherwise. As Reinhold Niebuhr succinctly stated, "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination for injustice makes democracy necessary." It is in that context the churches in America need to be involved in political affairs and matters affecting public policy.
JCS 28 (SPRING 1986 ): 183 -92
Religion and the State in China: Winter Is Past
T oday there is evidence of a religious resurgence in China. In the words of a Chinese university professor on a recent visit to the United States, "Religions in China are reviving, not dying; they are alive, not dead." Nowhere is this more evident than with respect to Christianity, which presently has more than twice as many churches and believers as were to be found in China prior to the Communist Revolution in 1949. This newfound status of Christianity in China is dramatically celebrated and symbolized in a contemporary Chinese hymn, "Winter Is Past," which today has become for Chinese Christians one of their most beloved hymns. After almost two decades of trying to eliminate religion from the country, climaxed by a decade of the Cultural Revolution ( 1966- 1976), during which time an intense effort was made to stamp out all vestiges of religion, since 1976 the government of China has been gradually liberalizing its policies toward religion. Indeed, during the past decade, particularly since 1980, great strides toward religious freedom have been made in China.
In China's more than four thousand years of history, religion has played a long and varied role. As in other civilizations and societies throughout the world, religion has been a molder and purveyor of much of Chinese culture. As elsewhere, religion in China was traditionally for the community as a whole and not for the individual. In addition, religion and the state were inextricably intertwined. Consequently, the emperors of China enjoyed a sacred status, in which political and religious authority were merged and this fusion of power formed the basis of unity for the empire.
Identification of Chinese emperors with divinity became a time-honored tradition. Because of their reputedly close relation to heaven, Chinese rulers were given the title T'ien Tzu (Son of Heaven), the human counterpart of Shang Ti (Sovereign Ruler). Also, only the emperor addressed Shang Ti, or "sublime T'ien," in the ceremonies of the Altar of Heaven outside of the capital of the empire. The extensive imperial palace grounds situated in the center of the capital of Peking came to be known as the Forbidden City, since entrance was forbidden to all except members of the royal family and their retainers. This blending of religion with the state meant that to be a dissenter was to be guilty of heresy and sedition simultaneously.
Part of the uniqueness of China's religious heritage is that China's cultural identification was not with one but several religious traditions. Before the Communist Revolution, one could quite correctly speak of the religion rather than the religions of China. It was quite customary to speak of the religion of China as embodying three religious traditions Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, all three of which are radically humanistic. Throughout China they were referred to as San Chiao or "Three Teachings" and symbolized an identity that virtually all Chinese felt toward these three religions, each of which was seen as complementary to the others.
The integration of religious and political institutions in China was accomplished by government supervision of religion. This is not to ignore, let alone infer, that conflict between religious and political institutions did not on occasions occur. The Legalists of ancient China, who sought strict legal control over all activities, provide ample evidence of occasions when antireligious attitudes periodically manifested themselves in Chinese society. Conflict between Legalism and Confucianism, for example, has a long history in China.
The traditional religion of China, with its concerns for social norms and moral values, held forth the concept of the ideal person and the ideal society. Through its teachings the religion of China held forth the model of a moral and harmonious society. As China's religious traditions came to permeate Chinese society and to enjoy a homogeneous relationship with one another, San Chiao came to embody the socially recognized values of Chinese society, although complete penetration of Chinese society by the San Chiao was, to be sure, never realized.
While China's three religious traditions were viewed harmoniously in principle, they largely operated at different levels in Chinese society. There was the religion of the masses and the religion of the enlightened, the literati. Confucianism became the official teaching of the state and was used for centuries as a tool of the ruling classes to perpetuate their privileged positions in society. By contrast, Taoism and Buddhism became primarily identified with the illiterate masses, although these class distinctions among their respective adherents should be understood as broad generalizations and should not be perceived as rigid class differences. In any event, by the beginning of the twentieth century, many Chinese had come to regard all three of China's religious traditions (S a n Chiao) as reactionary forces in Chinese society and incompatible with the emergence of a new China and the movement toward the first Chinese Revolution of 1911-1912. As such, the traditional religion of China stood in the way of progress and China's becoming a republic.
Attempts to bring Christianity to China span a period of over a thousand years. The first three separate attempts to do so met with failure. Nestorian missionaries, Syrian monks from Persia, first introduced Christianity to China in 635 during the T'ang Dynasty ( 618-907). After more than two centuries, Nestorianism, which was centered around monasteries and not congregations, disappeared after an edict was issued by Emperor Wuzong in 845 suppressing all religions. A second attempt, also by the Nestorians, came during the Yuan ( Mongol) Dynasty ( 12711368), during which time Roman Catholic churches were established in various pans of the empire. When the Yuan Dynasty was overthrown by the Ming Dynasty ( 1368-1644) in 1368, Christianity disappeared a second time from China. During the latter part of the sixteenth century, a third attempt was made by Jesuit missionaries, headed by Matteo Ricci. Ricci's efforts to reconcile Christianity with Chinese culture resulted in the "Rites and Terms Controversy," the result of which was that Rome banned Ricci's accommodation to Confucian terms for God and the ancestral cult. In each instance, Christianity remained a foreign religion and, therefore, did not take root.
Protestant mission work began in China with the arrival of Robert Morrison in 1807, shortly before the Opium War. While largely independent of Western colonialism, Protestant missions flowered during the nineteenth century, a century marked by a wave of Western imperialism, during which almost all of Africa, most of the islands of the Pacific, and a large part of Asia were brought under the control of Western Europeans. Unfortunately, Christianity's ties with Western imperialism in China were manifest throughout most of the period from 1807 to 1949.
That there were ties of Christian missionaries in China with Western imperialism cannot be denied. With China's defeat in the infamous Opium War, both Catholic and Protestant missionaries benefited from a series of treaties forced upon China by Western powers. These treaties guaranteed extraterritorial protection to both missionaries and their converts, whereby they were assured protection and special privileges under the laws of sovereignty of Western powers. In some cases, as in the case of France, Christian missions (i.e., Roman Catholic) in China were used as a means of reenforcing French prestige in China. France insisted on and obtained the right of a protectorate over all Catholic missions in China, both their own and those of other nationalities. This association of Christianity with Western imperialism was but further compounded during the 1930 s and 1940 s when many American missionaries became closely associated with American national interests in China. Today, few China observers within Christianity would disagree with the following observation made by Ray Wylie: "Many of the missionaries became too closely identified with the imperialistic policies of their respective governments, and this compromised Christianity itself in the eyes of many Chinese." As Henrik Kraemer painfully reminded the churches in the West almost three decades ago, "The younger churches pay a heavy price for the fact that they originated mainly in the time of modern missions under colonial aegis."
As in mission efforts in China centuries earlier, Christian missions from 1807 to 1949 remained far too missionarydominated and mission-controlled to permit the emergence of truly indigenous churches, at least on any wide scale. In a centennial observance in 1907 held in commemoration of the beginning of Protestant missions in China, there was not a single Chinese Christian present. Christian leaders in China today continue to lament the dominance of mission boards and missionaries in the churches of China before 1949 and to celebrate the steps that have been taken since the Communist Revolution to make the churches of China authentically Chinese.
Before the Communist Revolution, the Chinese generally spoke of Christianity as a "foreign" religion. They did so as a way of stigmatizing Christianity as an instrument of foreign aggression. Interestingly enough, the Chinese did not similarly label Buddhism and Islam, although they, too, were religions brought to China from other countries. The reason for this was that, in the words of Jian Wenhan, vice chairman of the National Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee, Christianity in China was "an entirely mission-controlled enterprise up to the time of
China's liberation of 1949, and was never truly indigenous on Chinese soil." Christianity was seen as having a denationalizing effect on Chinese converts. Hence, the oft-repeated saying prior to 1949, "The addition of a Christian to the church means the loss of a citizen to China." For many, conversion to Christianity meant not only the breaking with family and community traditions but also signified a betrayal of one's national heritage.
Notwithstanding its "foreign" associations, Christianity experienced substantial growth prior to 1949. Protestant adherents numbered approximately 100,000 in 1900. By 1920 they had quadrupled and by 1949 numbered more than 700,000. Even though Roman Catholic missions experienced even closer ties with Western powers and more foreign domination than Protestant missions, Catholic membership rose from 700,000 in 1900 to more than 3,250,000 by 1949. By the 1920 s, China had become the largest center of Christian missionary activity on the part of the churches of North America and Europe. The number of Christian missionaries serving in China reached its zenith in 1926 with 8,325 missionaries. Subsequently, nationalist and revolutionary attacks on Christian missions brought a drop in missionary personnel to about 6,000, but this still represented a substantial number.
Of even greater significance, as Kenneth Scott Latourette and Robert Bellah, among others, have observed, was the influence of Christianity and Christian institutions as catalysts for change, which was far out of proportion to the relatively small number of people involved. Even with a very small percentage of the total population claimed as Christian, with never more than 1 percent, the thirteen Protestant and three Catholic colleges of China transmitted Western thought and contributed substantially to a newly emerging Western educated elite who were to come virtually to dominate the Who's Who of China. In introducing Western culture and science, Christian missionaries contributed substantially to international understanding and cultural exchange. Ironically, the impact of Western political domination, Western education, and Christianity -- all indissolubly linked also greatly contributed to the political and social revolution in China and ultimately to a resurgence of nationalism in China. As Western education took root, secular thought was often used to attack Christianity.
Although a balanced view of Christian missions in China during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries must give attention to the intimate association of Christian missionaries with Western imperialism and the widespread perception among the Chinese people of Christianity as a "foreign" religion, it would be a distortion not to take note of the personal integrity, genuine commitment to service, and unselfish devotion to the Chinese people on the part of countless missionaries who sought to contribute to the moral and social uplift of China and the Chinese people through an authentic Christian witness. Many missionaries were, in fact, openly critical of colonialism and imperialism and some sympathized with the revolutionary movement in which patriotic Chinese Christians, let it be noted, were among the participants.
Deeply felt suspicions toward Christianity and Christian missionaries in China, including periodic manifestations of hostility, as in the case of the Anti-Christian Movement of the 1920 s, appeared for many decades before the Communist Revolution of 1949. By that time, however, a wave of reaction against Christianity was intensified and compounded by a variety of forces unleashed by the Revolution. While all religion in China came under attack for a variety of reasons readily identified with Marxist ideology, Christianity was particularly vulnerable. Out of a resurgent Chinese nationalism, allegations against Christianity as a "foreign" religion and an arm of Western imperialism reached a new intensity. Accusations against Christianity, as well as other religions, were further sustained by Marxist ideology, which argues that religion is an "opiate" of the people, a social aberration that has been used for centuries by the bourgeoisie to control and exploit the masses.
Contributing still further to the hostility toward Christian missions, as well as to Christianity, was its association with the Kuomingtang and the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, against whom the Revolution had for so long been waged.
Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China on 1 October 1949. When the Chinese Communists came to power, their intent with respect to religion was to monitor and regulate all religions and to cut them off, as in the case of Christianity, from all types of foreign control and support. Unlike the Soviet Union, Maoist China sought not to eliminate religion, but rather to control it. As Mao declared, "We cannot abolish religion.... In settling matters of an ideological nature...we can only use democratic methods of discussion, of criticism, of persuasion, and education." Land holdings of Buddhist and Taoist temples were confiscated in large numbers and redistributed in a land reform movement, with many temples designated for secular use. Buddhist monks and nuns were forced to find other ways of "filling the rice bowl." Freedom of street evangelism and oven acts of proselytizing were denied all religions, whether Buddhist, Christian, or Muslim. Religious educational institutions, generally including China's sixteen Christian colleges, were nationalized and became state institutions of learning and technology. Social programs under religious auspices were no longer permitted.
By 1950, with the outbreak of the Korean War, the work of Christian missionaries from overseas was brought to an end. The People's government sought to channel and direct all religious activity toward the furtherance of Communist objectives. As Chairman Mao had written in New Democracy almost a decade before the establishment of the People's government, "For the purpose of taking concerted political action against Imperialism, Chinese Communists may form a united front with certain classes of idealists and with members of certain religious faiths, but they certainly should not approve of such idealism or the religious doctrine concerned."
Early after the establishment of the People's Republic of China, recognition was given to five officially designated religions -- Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism, but at all times, even up to the present, the People's government has sought rigid control over them. Nevertheless, the government has not failed to recognize many of their cultural and social values to the nation and their enormous political value as a means of bringing about the united support of ethnic and religious minorities on behalf of a democratic socialist state and as an aid in diplomatic relations. To be sure, the price to be paid by the religions for this official recognition and protection has been their unequivocal support of the government's economic and political programs and their acceptance of the policy of no public criticism of the government.
Meanwhile, Buddhism, with its 40 million adherents, is recognized and respected for its place in Chinese artistic and cultural history. On the initiative of the Bureau of Religious Affairs, the Chinese Buddhist Association was formed in 1953, "to unite all the country's Buddhists so that they will participate, under the leadership of the People's Republic government, in movements for the welfare of the motherland, the defense of world peace...to link up Buddhists from different parts of the country, and to exemplify the best traditions of Buddhism." The purpose of the Chinese Buddhist Association was, as Holmes Welch, a leading authority on Buddhism in China, has observed, "primarily as an instrument for remolding Buddhism to suit the needs of the government."
In a similar manner, the Chinese Islamic Association was organized the same year to serve as a liaison between the Muslim community and the government. With its 20 million adherents, Islam enjoys some measure of status as a cultural and ethnic entity, but is denied religious independence.
Nevertheless, Islam has enjoyed some degree of tolerance, even during the Cultural Revolution, that has not been accorded China's other officially designated religions, primarily because of China's diplomatic relations with various Muslim countries.
The Bureau of Religious Affairs also led in the organization in 1954 of the Chinese Taoist Association "in order to unite all the Taoists of China in the protection of the fatherland, in the participation in socialist reconstruction, in the defense of peace; in order to cooperate with the government's policy of religious liberty." As one of China's two major indigenous religions, Taoism has experienced strong opposition from the beginning of the People's government since it is viewed largely as a superstitious, folk religion. While religious Taoism, as expressed in its practices through rites and rituals, has, for decades, been in serious decline and was virtually brought to an end by the Cultural Revolution, philosophical Taoism remains as a part of China's heritage. Never designated as one of the official religions of China by the People's government, Confucianism as a religion was condemned. Its shrines were secularized and its temples closed to religious practices. The worship of Confucius was forbidden.
Christianity, also, was enlisted to form a united front with the new People's government of China. In July 1950, forty prominent Protestant leaders of China issued a Christian Manifesto under the title: "Direction of Endeavor for Chinese Christianity in the Construction of New China." By September, the document had been signed by 1,527 Protestant church leaders and within a year or two over 400,000 had signed, more than half of the total Protestant membership in China. The obvious intent of the document was to foster reconciliation with the People's government and to assure the government of Protestantism's patriotic commitment to it. Portions of the document read as follows:
Protestant Christianity has been introduced to China for more than one hundred and forty years. During this period, it has made a not unworthy contribution to Chinese society. Nevertheless, and this was most unfortunate, not long after Christianity's coming to China Imperialism started its activities here; and since the principal groups of missionaries who brought Christianity to China all came themselves from these imperialistic countries, Christianity consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly, became related with Imperialism. Now that the Chinese revolution has achieved victory, these imperialistic countries will not rest passively content in the face of this unprecedented historical fact in China. They will certainly seek to contrive by every means the destruction of what has actually been achieved; they may also make use of Christianity to forward their plot of stirring up internal dissension, and creating reactionary forces in this country. It is our purpose in publishing the. following statement to heighten our vigilance against Imperialism, to make known the clear political stand of Christians in New China, to hasten the building of a Chinese Church whose affairs are managed by the Chinese themselves, and to indicate the responsibilities that should be taken up by Christians throughout the whole country in national reconstruction in New China. We desire to call upon all Christians in the country to exert their best efforts in putting into effect the principles herein presented....
Christian Churches and organizations in China should take effective measures to cultivate a patriotic and democratic spirit among their adherents in general, as well as a psychology of self-respect and selfreliance. The movement for autonomy, self-support, and self propagation hitherto promoted in the Chinese Church has already attained a measure of success. This movement from now onwards should complete its tasks within the shortest possible period. At the same time, self-criticism should be advocated, all forms of Christian activity re-examined and readjusted, and thorough-going austerity measures adopted, so as to achieve the goals of a reformation in the Church.
All Christian Churches and organizations in China which are still relying upon foreign personnel and financial aid should work out concrete plans to realize within the shortest possible time their objective of self-reliance and rejuvenation.
From now onwards, as regards their religious work, Christian Churches and organizations should lay emphasis upon a deeper understanding of the nature of Christianity itself, closer fellowship and unity among the various denominations, the cultivation of better leadership personnel, and reform in the systems of Church organization. As regards their more general work, they should emphasize anti-imperialistic, anti-feudalistic, and anti-bureaucraticcapitalistic education, together with such forms of service to the people as productive labor, teaching them to understand the New Era, cultural and recreational activities, literacy education, medical and public health work, and care of children.
While the Manifesto is based upon a distortion of the actual history of Christian missions in China, the document should be viewed as a corollary of Chinese Communist ideology at that time, arising out of a militant nationalism that was directed particularly against the United States, which was viewed as the prototype of evil and China's archenemy. No doubt, for many Chinese Christians the Manifesto served as a way of survival for the churches in Communist China at that time and as an expression of patriotism on the part of Chinese Christians in the "New" China.
By 1951, all Protestant churches in China had severed their relationships with the churches of the free world and virtually all missionaries had left the country. Protestantism in China not only denounced its foreign ties from earlier years, it also eliminated all denominational divisions among Protestants and affirmed a policy of post-denominationalism for the Protestant churches in China. All Protestant churches were united in the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which proved to be the instrument by which the churches were brought under the control of the state. Strongly advocated as early as 1950 by Wu Yao-tsung (Y. T. Wu), a national YMCA leader, the Movement was formally established in 1954. The Movement's name meant that churches were to be free from all foreign control and were to be characterized by "self-support, self-government, and selfpropagation." In the words of its national president, Bishop Ding Guangxun (K. H. Ting), its "aim is limited to achieving a Chinese identity for the Churches in China." As the Three-Self Patriotic Movement grew in influence, it provided the liaison with the government Religious Affairs Bureau, from which it has received a measure of financial support. Similarly, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association was formally established in 1957 and adopted a policy of independence from the Vatican. One year later, the Association declared its total separation from Rome. Thereafter, Catholic bishops in China have been named by the Association without appointment by the Holy See in Rome.
While the Chinese Communist party and the new People's government were openly atheistic, vigorously maintaining that religion is an "opiate of the people" and an obstacle to social progress, churches were allowed to function, though under strict supervision. Religious freedom was declared in Article 88 of the Draft Constitution of 1954, as it was adopted earlier by the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in 1949: "The people of the People's Republic of China shall have freedom of thought, speech, publication, assembly, association, correspondence, person, domicile, change of domicile, religious belief, and the freedom of holding processions and demonstrations." Among the representatives at the 1949 conference were seven persons representing religious groups, two Buddhists and five Protestants. Muslims were also present, but their representatives came as members of an ethnic minority. Taoism was entirely ignored.
During the period from 1954 to 1957, there was a gradual lessening of tension between the churches and the People's government and some renewed contacts were established between the churches in China and churches in both Communist and non-Communist countries. By the middle of 1957, however, a period of antirightist repression, accompanied by waves of denunciation, began throughout China against fellow religionists, including many former missionaries, all of whom, by that time, had been removed from China. Six prominent church leaders came in for severe denunciations for their rightist views and alliances with imperialism from years past. By the 1960s, Francis Price Jones, a veteran missionary to China from 1915 to 1951 and editor of the China Bulletin for the National Council of Churches in the U.S.A., could write as follows:
Something of a modus vivendi has been arrived at between Protestant Christianity and the Chinese Communist party. The latter, so far, is willing to recognize the former, and guarantees a certain degree of freedom of religious belief, on the condition that Chinese Christians show themselves loyal citizens and co-operate in the establishment of a new economic order.
These conditions of acceptance and co-operation are not in themselves necessarily subversive of the principles of Christian liberty. It is therefore understandable that most Christians in China have accepted these conditions, and that the Christian church has in consequence received government recognition and been accorded a modest niche in Chinese society, so that it has not been compelled to go underground.
Under Chairman Mao, freedom of religion came to mean freedom to hold religious views compatible with and in support of the goals and objectives of the People's government for social and political reform.
With the Cultural Revolution, which was to last for a decade from 1966 to 1976, a vigorous and violent campaign was waged against the "Four Olds" -- old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. Although religion was not specifically mentioned, it was regarded as the foundation of these "Four Olds." While it cannot be said that the Cultural Revolution was directed primarily against religion, nonetheless all religions in China came under unrelenting attack, along with much Chinese tradition and Western Culture, even art, literature, and music. Under the Gang of Four, rigid and repressive measures were undertaken against all religion, although somewhat less against Islam as a goodwill gesture to African Muslim countries. With rare exception, all places of worship were closed, Bibles and religious writings were confiscated and destroyed, and religious services, whether in public or in private, were forbidden. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Catholic Patriotic Association vanished and, thereby, ceased to exist. Thousands of clergy and many more church members were shipped to labor camps, and many were executed because of their religion. Not only were churches, mosques, and temples closed, but many were vandalized, as in the case of the main Catholic center in Peking, the South Cathedral; windows were broken and religious objects and pictures were mutilated. Conspicuously placed busts and statues of Mao Tse-tung were erected at the location of former religious centers and institutions. Reports of intense religious persecution were frequent throughout the decade.
After the death of Mao Tse-tung in 1976, a new political regime seized political power in China. Within two years, Deng Xiaoping was brought back from disgrace and became the undisputed leader of China. While Deng does not hold China's highest political titles, he dominates the six-man standing committee that holds the Supreme Power of the Politburo and is chairman of the Central Military Commission. Under Deng, the program of the Cultural Revolution was repudiated and sweeping economic, political, and social reforms have been initiated. Two years after Deng's rise to power, the Gang of Four was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Beginning in the late 1970s, toleration of religion was gradually reinstituted. Perhaps not surprisingly in view of the role often played by religion during times of crisis, religion not only survived but also grew during the Cultural Revolution, which proved to be neither cultural nor a revolution. Millions of Chinese defied the ban on religious activity and engaged in religious services surreptiously. In the case of Christianity, it grew underground into the house church movement, with which the vast majority of Protestants remain identified rather than with regular churches, which now enjoy a legal status but remain under the controls and regulations of the government. After being dormant for almost two decades, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement was revised in 1979 under the leadership of Bishop Ding Guangxun (K. H. Ting). A member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Bishop Ding also serves as president of the China Christian Council, an organization established in 1980 by the government to coordinate and oversee the activities of the churches.
With the new political leadership, many of the repressive restrictions on religion were gradually lifted. By 1978, reports from China were indicating that, because of modifications of government policy toward religion, public religious services were beginning to be held in major cities such as Peking and Nanking. That same year, Peking's new attitude toward religion officially manifested itself when a number of prominent Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Buddhist leaders reappeared for the first time since the early 1960s at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Within a few years, churches in increasing numbers were allowed to hold public services in various parts of the country. The reopening of churches was soon followed with the printing of Chinese Bibles, although at first in rather limited quantity.
Under Deng's leadership, a new state constitution, the fourth since 1954, was promulgated in December 1982. It marked a step toward the recognition of religious freedom in China. Prior to the new constitution, China's official position on religion read, "Citizens enjoy the freedom to believe in religion and the freedom not to believe in religion and to propagate atheism." Article 36 of the new constitution treats freedom of belief, as follows: "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No State organ, social organization, or individual person may compel a citizen to believe in religion or not believe in religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in religion or who do not believe in religion. The State guarantees normal religious activities. Nobody is allowed to use religion to carry out destructive activities against public order, harm the health of citizens, or impede the work of the State's educational system."
Significant gains may be found in the present constitution in its deletion of "freedom to propagate atheism" and in its prohibition of the state to exercise compulsion of or discrimination against citizens on the basis of their religion. The omission of the atheism clause has been primarily attributed to the organized efforts of the president of the Buddhist Association of China, Zhao Pu-chu, and the president of the Three-Self Patriotic Association, Bishop Ding. A final sentence on "freedom of belief," new to previous constitutions, states that "religious organizations and religious affairs must not tolerate 7interference from foreign powers," no doubt aimed at Christianity in general but Roman Catholicism in particular.
China's new policy on religion, however, must be interpreted not only by the State Constitution of 1982, but also as it is delineated in the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's classified Document 19, "The Basic Viewpoint in Policy on the Religious Question During our Country's Socialist Period." This document provides an "official" history of China's policy on religion since 1949. On visits to China, one can hear repeatedly this "official" history reviewed by religious leaders whenever responding to questions regarding China's policy toward religion since 1949.
The first period ( 1948-1956) is described as one of religious freedom and the elimination from the religions of China of those elements of reactionary feudalism and imperialistic foreign domination. The second period ( 1957-1975) is referred to as one of an "ultra-leftist" deviation that denied religious freedom and sought by means of force to eradicate religion from Chinese life. This action is to be deplored as anti-Marxist, disruptive of Chinese unity, and a repudiation of the important contribution to be made by China's patriotic religious citizens. The third stage ( 1976-) marks the reestablishment of religious freedom for all Chinese citizens. Religious belief is "a private matter, one of individual free choice for citizens." Faithful to the Marxist view of religion, according to Document 19 religion will eventually fade away but only "after many generations have passed, and after the combined struggle of the broad masses of both believers and non-believers."
While Document 19 emphasizes that all Chinese -- Marxists, believers, and non-believers -- are to enjoy certain religious rights, there are limitations and restrictions that are to be maintained on religious activity. Christian worship services are to be restricted to officially designated meeting places, outside of which no religious propagation is to be permitted. House churches are prohibited but this prohibition should not be "harshly" enforced. Unless approved by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement or the Catholic Patriotic Association, however, house churches are to be regarded as illegitimate activities. Finally, and most important, all religious organizations must accept the leadership of the Communist party and the state and all religious activities must be conducted and managed by these religious organizations under the directions of the Religious
Affairs Bureau. All religious affairs must be conducted "only under or through patriotic associations" to which each religious group must belong. All "patriotic religious organizations" are charged with the responsibility of helping the religious masses and religious leaders to heighten their patriotic and socialist consciousness.
While religion in China remains clearly under the control of the government, more liberal attitudes toward religion on the part of the political leadership are widely evident throughout the country. Just last year, a senior Chinese academician and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultation Conference, Zhao Fusan, publicly disputed the classical Marxist view that religion is an "opiate of the people" in a session held in Beijing. Deputy Chief of the Religious Research Division of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Zhao declared, "Religion is a part of every nation's spiritual civilization whose influence is reflected in varying degrees in its art, literature, architecture, philosophy, morals, customs, and way of life." He continued, "The view that religion is entirely spiritual opium is unscientific and incomplete."
There is also evidence of a religious resurgence in China, certainly there is an upturn in religious activity and religious identity on a scale unprecedented since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Reports of increasing religious freedom and religious activity are readily confirmed today even by those who have made only brief visits to China. Chinese Muslims are once again making the pilgrimage to Mecca, and almost fourteen thousand mosques have been reopened in recent years. Many Buddhist temples, monasteries, and nunneries have been reopened and Buddhist membership is increasing. Even some Taoists temples have been reopened.
The greatest gains have been noted in Christianity. In 1980, only thirteen churches were open in all of China. Today there are more than four thousand Protestant churches with at least one new congregation being added each day. Today, it is conservatively estimated that there are more than 3 million Protestants and more than 3 million Catholics to be found in China. These statistics, however, include only the membership of regular churches and do not include the more than 20 to 50 million Christians estimated to be found meeting in house churches throughout China. In 1983, a new hymnal of more than four hundred hymns, 102 composed by Chinese, was published. Recently, 2.1 million Bibles in modern Chinese were printed in China and distributed throughout the country. Since 1979, the government has allowed the restoration of numerous churches, including the Pehtang Cathedral, Peking's largest Catholic church.
Christian seminaries, monasteries, and nunneries have been reestablished, including the fully accredited Nanking Union Theological Seminary that is academically related to the University of Nanking and serves also as the University's Center of Religious Studies. This seminary presently has more than two hundred students, representing only a small percentage of the students who applied for admission. Twelve regional theological seminaries also serve the churches in the training of pastoral leadership. In recent years, one out of six pastors ordained is a woman. In addition to the University of Nanking, academic recognition of the importance given to religion in China may also be found in the work of the Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Peking, the department of religion of Peking University, and the religious studies institutes and/or religion courses that are now to be found in nearly all of the major universities in China.
The future course of religion in Communist China necessarily remains uncertain and unpredictable, made all the more so by the advanced age of China's present leader, Deng Xiaoping, but Chinese believers may rightly affirm, at least for now, "Winter is past."
JCS 28 (AUTUMN 1986): 393-407
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