Nationalizing American Churches and Institutions
Nationalizing institutions seems to be increasingly popular in America. The auto, energy, and health care industries are already largely taken over either outright or covertly brought under government control by means of onerous government regulations and the eternally vigilant bureaucratic leviathan. Apparently, even the environment is to be nationalized, what with the EPA and the global warming theorists seeking to control the water we use, the substances we utilize for energy and even the very air we breathe.
However, the creeping nationalization of America’s churches and their institutions has been less noted. But the current attempts by the Left to nationalize American churches, their institutions and properties is ongoing, with separation of church and state as defined by the Left rapidly becoming a handy tool used for government appropriation of American churches and for taking over church institutions such as hospitals, colleges, private schools, and charities.
Conservatives broadly interpret the First Amendment as guaranteeing the right of people of faith to practice their religion privately and publically and to develop institutions which reflect their faith and religious principles. They believe people of faith are guaranteed freedom to influence the public arenas of education, politics, law, business and the arts.
But for the Left, the First Amendment restricts the practice of religion, which is defined as a completely private matter. Prayer and religious rituals are to be confined to the privacy of the home and church buildings. Religion is seen as having absolutely no right to intrude itself into society at large. As the case of Coach Joe Kennedy reveals, even public prayer of an individual is a justifiable reason for being fired. Kelvin Cochran, former Atlanta firefighter, was fired for writing about biblical views on sexuality. He was told to keep his religious opinions private.
The Left’s narrowing down of the interpretation of First Amendment rights combined with government force against people of faith, particularly Christians, have provided the current progressive/leftist administration the perfect rationale for controlling individual Christians who dare practice their faith in public. But it also has provided the rationale for taking over the American Christian Church and its institutions. By narrowing down freedom of religion to meaning mere private piety in the home and/or church building, the Left automatically feels free to establish its authority over everything else. All of society and its institutions are to adhere to progressivism, which is free to establish total control by force, relegating free standing religious institutions and their spheres of influence to the dust bin of history.
Just how is the Left going about taking over the Church and its institutions?
The current administration and its allies are following the Marxist/Leninist model so effectively employed in the Soviet Union. The Soviet model was also employed elsewhere, as in Ethiopia. Mikael Doulos, author of Christians in Marxist Ethiopia, illuminates the progression from the 1974 Marxist coup to the nationalization of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and other Christian denominations. The resources of the Christian Church, spiritual and material, were hijacked by the government, with deleterious consequences still being played out.
In virtually no time flat, the Marxist junta stamped out a popular democratic reform movement and took over the nascent democratic revolution via an internal coup, gaining unlimited control. Ethiopia became a rigid Marxist-Leninist state hell bent on repression of Christianity.
A helpful tract entitled “A Declaration of Economic Policy for Socialist Ethiopia,” published in 1975, outlined the ways the Christian Church was to be neutered and then essentially nationalized. The steps taken by the Marxist government of Ethiopia are similar to the steps being put into effect by the current administration of the United States (and its allies).
First, Doulos points out, education was taken over by the state. The Marxist edicts meant that schools like the secondary school and Bible Academy of the Mennonite Church, along with many other Christian educational establishments, were brought under government control -- without compensation. Monopoly of education was instantly established. Monopolization actually amounts to nationalization.
It is not too far a stretch to say that government control of the huge public school system in America, along with the establishment of Common Core as the universal standard for education, amounts to nationalizing Christian (and other) schools as alternatives to state-endorsed education are effectively quashed by the government’s increasing pressure for Common Core to be implemented universally. Few independent schools can withstand Leviathan, as its unceasing regulations and onerous taxes present almost insurmountable challenges.
In the meantime, Doulos writes, Marxist ideology was to be taught in the schools, and the Christian faith was subjected to increasing vilification. One major goal was “The indoctrination of children against the faith,” along with “efforts to minimize the influence of believing parents.”
Here in the United States, Christian students are increasingly having their faith ridiculed or dismissed, as the monopolization of progressive ideology means in practice the elimination of competing faiths. In the case of the 12-year-old girl whose teacher forced her to deny God is real or take a failing grade, the public school involved was punishing a Christian student for freely expressing belief that did not toe the progressive line. The case is not an isolated incident, but part of a marked trend. Anyone who keeps track of the unceasing attacks against Christian students can relate similar incidents, such as the college kids who were told by their “professor” to stomp on the name of Jesus.
What objective person can fail to see that the U.S. public school monolith, including the Common Core curriculum, does not allow parents who wish to have their children educated according to their faith much choice? Who cannot see that the Left is teaching our children its own hardcore doctrines, including the elimination of the distinctions between the sexes -- even up to the point that male teenagers who identify as female are now to be allowed to shower with girls?
The fact is that increasingly, over a period of some fifty years or more, the almighty progressive State determines with only minor exceptions what American children are to learn; and what they are to learn is the religion of progressivism, with even mathematics being subject to the current progressive mania for the deconstruction of anything and everything, including the hard sciences.
“A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument for tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the Middle Ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective.”
Next, the eventual aim of the Marxist junta was to establish universal health care enabled by an entirely state run health service -- health care run by Marxist principles. Doulos writes:
“These quite mild words (universal health care) were to become the basis for disruption of Christian educational and medical work… Many church institutions like the fine leprosy hospitals in Shashamene and Dessie became impossible to run, and so were taken over by the state. Addis Ababa’s only missionary hospital, owned by the Seventh Day Adventists, was among the best in the capital. Its Board of Management was forced to hand it over to the [state].”
Here in our own country, ObamaCare has become a universal precision tool to be utilized for nationalizing any church or institution that does not adhere to Obamacare health doctrines. Any dissenters to government health care policies are to be overridden and punished out of existence.
How is nationalization achieved? It is to be achieved by the government forcing institutions like Catholic hospitals to provide insurance for abortions, something inimical to the doctrines of the Catholic Church. If the hospitals refuse to provide abortion coverage, the government declares its authority to tax, fine the institution to death for non-compliance, and thus effectively turns the hospital into a government agency. As the recent suit brought by the ACLU against Trinity Health Corporation proves, the attempts to bring Catholic and other Christian hospitals under government control via the regulations of ObamaCare are unceasing.
The above is to say nothing of the fact that Christian adoption services dedicated to the concept of Christian marriage and family are being forced out of business because they do not allow adoption of children by same sex couples. As the OSV Newsweekly put it:
“The changing legal definition of marriage has roiled American culture from courthouse to altar, expanding civil rights for some but challenging the religious rights of others, particularly the Catholic Church and its myriad social service ministries.
Adoption services that have, for 100 years or more, provided children with good, safe and traditional homes with a male husband and female wife are facing a take-it-or-leave-it scenario in the new legal landscape: Accept the sweeping social change in the most elemental compact in the history of mankind — the nuclear family formed by the marriage of one man to one woman — and abandon 2,000 years of dogma by continuing to find children homes through adoption services, including same-sex couples; or close up shop.”
It’s obvious that forcing Catholic and other Christian adoption services to close shop or completely modify their practices means adoption services are essentially nationalized. Forced to accept progressive doctrines, they certainly are no longer Christian in any meaningful sense. They now belong to the government or are forced out of existence.
Last, what about the churches themselves? How are they to be nationalized?
Again, Doulos details the template that will indubitably be utilized against the conservative Christian Churches in America. The Ethiopian Marxist government decreed the churches were allowed to retain the land on which the church buildings stood, but nothing else. The edict was used by the regime to take over any private building or property it wished to confiscate and use for its own purposes. Radio stations, office buildings, church headquarters and other church holdings were confiscated with no remuneration offered.
The excuse for appropriation by the State? If pastors did not submit to Marxist re-education and preach the message of Christ was socialism, the property of the churches was forfeit. If they did not comply, the pastors themselves risked persecution or even death.
The regime started with the elimination of small, more vulnerable groups like Pentecostals, Mennonites, Baptists, evangelicals, and the Roman Catholic Church, saving their biggest target, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, for last. Resisters within the Orthodox Church were arrested. Some were even murdered.
It is obvious the Left in the United States is going after the churches which do not accept their progressive doctrines of same sex marriage and transgenderism. Those churches which adhere to biblical teaching about the sacredness of human life, monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, and the Christian view of sexuality are daily accused of “hate speech” and vilified as outliers who deserve the odium and persecution of the Left.
It is not too farfetched to prophesy that if matters continue as they presently are, conservative churches will inevitably be targeted for nationalization along the lines of Soviet Russia’s and Ethiopia’s churches.
At this point, it’s probably a good idea to note that progressives don’t have to worry about nationalizing the mainline denominations such as the Methodist Church, the Unitarians, Universalists, United Church of Christ, or the Episcopal Church, as they are basically now arms of the progressive movement with some politically correct God words tentatively and judiciously added to the Sunday services. Case in point: The blessing of abortion clinics by the exalted high priestesses of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. You also will not hear of much resistance from the Presbyterian Church USA, which not to be left behind, endorses most of the progressive agenda, including pronounced opposition to the state of Israel -- thus adding anti-Semitism to the proscribed list of left-leaning doctrinal does and don’ts.
No, such sheep are already in the leftists’ fold. It’s the evangelical churches and to a great extent the Roman Catholic Church that will be the targets of nationalization characterized at first by refusal to grant tax-exempt status, taking over Christian charities which refuse to reform their statements of faith according to progressive doctrines, then by confiscation of “non-church related” property such as radio stations that do not promote the Newspeak of the Left , then by overt persecution of pastors and congregants who adhere to traditional Christian orthodoxy. The ultimate aim of the Left is to neuter the witness of conservative churches so they eventually resemble the Main Line denominations mentioned above.
It is well past time for conservative churches that adhere to Christian orthodoxy to wake up. It is time for them to unite and formulate a strategic battle plan to preserve the fundamental freedoms of religious practice and free speech.
They can at least begin by rejecting out of hand the Left’s reductionist interpretation of the first amendment rights, insisting on the broader meaning by which that amendment was once universally interpreted.
It’s a worthy battle, as religious freedom is at stake.
Fay Voshell is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. Her thoughts have appeared in many online publications, including Fox News, National Review, RealClearReligion and CNS. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org