Unions (5)

In the article of last month’s Beacon Lights, we discussed the question of corporate responsibility. This is a fundamental question, it stands to reason, for on the basis of the fact of corporate responsibility rests our objections against the union to a great extent.

We are, therefore, particularly concerned with the principles of a labor organization. For the principles of any organization define what the character of such an organization is. But we may also speak of the actions of these labor groups, for although it is true that generally the actions of a group are based upon and in harmony with the principles which were adopted, it is also conceivable that a group or organization may perform certain actions which are contrary to their principles.

The question is, therefore, whether it is possible that the principles of existing labor organizations are not in conflict with the principles of Christian conduct and life – of the principles of the kingdom of heaven of which the elect are citizens.

If it is true that a member of an organization is responsible for the action of that organization and the principles upon which it is founded, then these principles and actions must meet the standards of his own principles, lest he fall into the serious danger of being held accountable for that which is contrary to the conduct of a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. And the mere question of active support and participation makes no difference in this fundamental principle. It makes no difference whether or not he agrees with the principles of an organization, nor whether or not he actively supports the principles and makes propaganda on their behalf; it makes no difference whether he is personally involved in wicked actions or takes no part in them, nor whether he is an active participant in the evil fostered by such an organization. As a member he remains both responsible and accountable.

And therefore it is a very serious error on the part of professing Christians when they would fain retain their membership in the kingdom of heaven, but at the same time hold a union card in their pocket.

In this article I would like to make a few remarks about the oath. It is not my purpose to go into detail concerning the place of the oath in the life of the believer. Nor is this necessary. And it is often objected that the swearing of an oath is not a condition to membership any longer in existing labor unions. The one who seeks to join or is forced to join, so it is said, need not formally take an oath, nor need even make any reference to an oath. Whether or not this is true, I don’t know. I know that many unions and branches of larger unions have oaths. And I know that this oath is also considered to be a condition for membership whether the applicant formally swears to it or not. I have, for example, the Constitution of The International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW-CIO). This is also their latest copy adopted at Cleveland, Ohio, in March of 1955. Under Article 41 which is entitled “Initiation Ceremony,” we read, “The President shall say to the Guide: ‘You will now place the candidate before me for the obligation.’ The Guide advances with the candidate and places him in front of the President’s station. All newly elected members before being admitted to full membership shall subscribe to the following obligation: ‘I, ………, pledge my honor to faithfully observe the Constitution and laws of this Union and the Constitution of the United States; to comply with all the rules and regulations for the government thereof; not to divulge or make known any private proceedings of this Union; to faithfully perform all the duties assigned to me to the best of my ability and skill; to so conduct myself at all times as not to bring reproach upon my Union, and at all times to bear true and faithful allegiance to the International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW-CIO).’”

And yet the mere formality of taking an oath is not the important matter, for there is often implied in becoming a member of a union the swearing of adherence and loyalty to that organization. And the oath is just as real whether sworn actually or whether implied in membership.

Apart from the contents now of any oath which one must swear to become a member of an organization, it is certainly clear to anyone that the oath under such circumstances is altogether wrong. Consider that in the first place, the life of a child of God must be of such a nature that an oath is never necessary to force him to tell the truth. He must always see to it that his yea is indeed a yea and his nay always a nay. He must never under any circumstances tell a lie, so that an oath ought never to be required of him. Consider in the second place, therefore, that he may swear an oath when it is necessary to further the cause of the Son of God, when it is definitely a question of God’s glory, and when the cause of the kingdom of heaven is involved. Those occasions may be rare, but if they come about, the Christian may take an oath upon his lips, not as if this time he is extra particular about telling the truth, but rather that God’s cause may be enhanced and furthered. But it stands to reason, therefore, that no organization may demand of anyone at will to swear an oath of allegiance to it. Nor may any individual swear an oath for trivial reasons or insignificant occasions. And I doubt very much whether anyone would dare to maintain that the cause of God’s glory and the welfare of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is advanced by swearing an oath of allegiance and loyalty to a labor organization. In fact, this is sheer mockery even to say such a thing. And then it makes no difference whether the oath is formally sworn or whether it is implied in membership. The fact is that a believer may never misuse the oath in such a fashion.

I know that in order for an alien to become a citizen of this country he must swear an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and to the country of which he shall become a part. But remember, that after all the government is, according to Scripture, an institution which is ordained by God and to which we must be subject according to God’s ordinances. For God is the supreme power who rules through governments as His own institutions. And this can never be said of existing labor unions.

I would say that if there were no other objections against labor organizations except this one, that would be sufficient reason for us to refuse to be members under any circumstances. In a special way, when we swear an oath we stand before the face of God and call God as our witness that what we say is as truthful as He is the Truth. And this is absolutely impossible to do when we take an oath of a labor union upon our lips.

And I have said nothing yet about the content of these oaths. To read only a few is to be convinced that it is blasphemy to take their words upon one’s lips. But to this we shall return.