Student Indoctrination

By Walter E. Williams

The new college academic year has begun, and unfortunately, so has student indoctrination. Let’s look at some of it.

William Penn, Michigan State University professor of creative writing, greeted his first day of class with an anti-Republican rant. Campus Reform, a project of the Arlington, Va.-based Leadership Institute, has a video featuring the professor telling his students that Republicans want to prevent “black people” from voting. He added that “this country still is full of closet racists” and described Republicans as “a bunch of dead white people — or dying white people” ( To a student who had apparently displayed displeasure with those comments, Professor Penn barked, “You can frown if you want.” He gesticulated toward the student and added, “You look like you’re frowning. Are you frowning?” When the professor’s conduct was brought to the attention of campus authorities, MSU spokesman Kent Cassella said, “At MSU it is important the classroom environment is conducive to a free exchange of ideas and is respectful of the opinions of others.”

That mealy-mouthed response is typical of university administrators. Professor Penn was using his classroom to proselytize students. That is academic dishonesty and warrants serious disciplinary or dismissal proceedings. But that’s not likely. Professor Penn’s vision is probably shared by his colleagues, seeing as he was the recipient of MSU’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 2003. University of Southern California professor Darry Sragow shares Penn’s opinion. Last fall, he went on a rant telling his students that Republicans are “stupid and racist” and “the last vestige of angry old white people” (

UCLA’s new academic year saw its undergraduate student government fighting for constitutional rights by unanimously passing a resolution calling for the end of the use of the phrase “illegal immigrant.” The resolution states, “The racially derogatory I-word endangers basic human rights including the presumption of innocence and the right to due process guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.” No doubt some UCLA administrators and professors bereft of thinking skills helped them craft the resolution.

The New York Post (8/25/11) carried a story about a student in training to become dorm supervisor at DePauw University in Indiana. She said: “We were told that ‘human’ was not a suitable identity, but that instead we were first ‘black,’ ‘white,’ or ‘Asian’; ‘male’ or ‘female’; … ‘heterosexual’ or ‘queer.’ We were forced to act like bigots and spout off stereotypes while being told that that was what we were really thinking deep down.” At many universities, part of the freshman orientation includes what’s called the “tunnel of oppression.” They are taught the evils of “white privilege” and how they are part of a “rape culture.” Sometimes they are forced to discuss their sexual identities with complete strangers. The New York Post story said: “DePauw is no rare case. At least 96 colleges across the country have run similar ‘tunnel of oppression’ programs in the last few years.”

University officials are aware of this kind of academic dishonesty and indoctrination; university trustees are not. For the most part, trustees are yes men for the president. Legislators and charitable foundations that pour billions into colleges are unaware, as well. Most tragically, parents who pay tens of thousands of dollars for tuition and pile up large debt to send their youngsters off to be educated are unaware of the academic rot, as well.

You ask, “Williams, what can be done?” Students should record classroom professorial propaganda and give it wide distribution over the Internet. I’ve taught for more than 45 years and routinely invited students to record my lectures so they don’t have to be stenographers during class. I have no idea of where those recordings have wound up, but if you find them, you’ll hear zero proselytization or discussion of my political and personal preferences. To use a classroom to propagate one’s personal beliefs is academic dishonesty.

Vladimir Lenin said, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” That’s the goal of the leftist teaching agenda.

Are Guns the Problem?

Every time there’s a shooting tragedy, there are more calls for gun control. Let’s examine a few historical facts. By 1910, the National Rifle Association had succeeded in establishing 73 NRA-affiliated high-school rifle clubs. The 1911 second edition of the Boy Scout Handbook made qualification in NRA’s junior marksmanship program a prerequisite for obtaining a BSA merit badge in marksmanship. In 1918, the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. established its own Winchester Junior Rifle Corps. The program grew to 135,000 members by 1925. In New York City, gun clubs were started at Boys, Curtis, Commercial, Manual Training and Stuyvesant high schools. With so many guns in the hands of youngsters, did we see today’s level of youth violence?

What about gun availability? Catalogs and magazines from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s were full of gun advertisements directed to children and parents. For example, “What Every Parent Should Know When a Boy or Girl Wants a Gun” was published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The 1902 Sears mail-order catalog had 35 pages of firearm advertisements. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped. For most of our history, a person could simply walk into a hardware store, virtually anywhere in our country, and buy a gun. Few states bothered to have even age restrictions on buying guns.

Those and other historical facts should force us to ask ourselves: Why — at a time in our history when guns were readily available, when a person could just walk into a store or order a gun through the mail, when there were no FBI background checks, no waiting periods, no licensing requirements — was there not the frequency and kind of gun violence that we sometimes see today, when access to guns is more restricted? Guns are guns. If they were capable of behavior, as some people seem to suggest, they should have been doing then what they’re doing now.

Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette, not just laws and government regulations, are what make for a civilized society, not restraints on inanimate objects. These behavioral norms — transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings — represent a body of wisdom distilled through ages of experience, trial and error, and looking at what works. The benefit of having customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody’s watching. In other words, it’s morality that is society’s first line of defense against uncivilized behavior.

Moral standards of conduct, as well as strict and swift punishment for criminal behaviors, have been under siege in our country for more than a half-century. Moral absolutes have been abandoned as a guiding principle. We’ve been taught not to be judgmental, that one lifestyle or value is just as good as another. More often than not, the attack on moral standards has been orchestrated by the education establishment and progressives. Police and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct so as to produce a civilized society. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. The more uncivilized we become the more laws are needed to regulate behavior.

What’s worse is that instead of trying to return to what worked, progressives want to replace what worked with what sounds good or what seems plausible, such as more gun locks, longer waiting periods and stricter gun possession laws. Then there’s progressive mindlessness “cures,” such as “zero tolerance” for schoolyard recess games such as cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians, shouting “bang bang,” drawing a picture of a pistol, making a gun out of Lego pieces, and biting the shape of a gun out of a Pop-Tart. This kind of unadulterated lunacy — which focuses on an inanimate object such as a gun instead of on morality, self-discipline and character — will continue to produce disappointing results.

Loving and Hating America

As I’ve documented in the past, many leftist teachers teach our youngsters to hate our country. For example, University of Hawaii Professor Haunani-Kay Trask counseled her students, “We need to think very, very clearly about who the enemy is. The enemy is the United States of America and everyone who supports it.” Some universities hire former terrorists to teach and indoctrinate students. Kathy Boudin, former Weather Underground member and convicted murderer, is on the Columbia University School of Social Work’s faculty. Her Weather Underground comrade William Ayers teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Bernardine Dohrn, his wife, is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law. Her stated mission is to overthrow capitalism.

America’s domestic haters have international company. 24/7 Wall St. published an article titled “Ten Countries That Hate America Most.” The list includes Serbia, Greece, Iran, Algeria, Egypt and Pakistan. Ranking America published an article titled “The U.S. ranks 3rd in liking the United States.” Using data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, it finds that just 79 percent of Americans in 2011 had a favorable view of Americans, compared with Japan and Kenya, which had 85 and 83 percent favorable views, respectively. Most European nations held a 60-plus percent favorable view of Americans, compared with countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey, with less than 20 percent favorable views.

An interesting facet of foreigners liking or hating America can be seen in a poll Gallup has been conducting since 2007 asking the questions: “Ideally, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move permanently to another country, or would you prefer to continue living in this country? To which country would you like to move?” Guess to which country most people would like to move. If you said “the good ol’ US of A,” go to the head of the class. Of the more than 640 million people who would like to leave their own country, 23 percent — or 150 million — said they would like to live in the United States. The U.S. has been “the world’s most desired destination for potential migrants since Gallup started tracking these patterns in 2007.” The United Kingdom comes in a distant second, with 7 percent (45 million). Other favorite permanent relocations are Canada (42 million), France (32 million) and Saudi Arabia (31 million), but all pale in comparison with the U.S. as the preferred home.

The next question is: Where do people come from who want to relocate to the U.S.? China has 22 million adults who want to permanently relocate to the U.S., followed by Nigeria (15 million), India (10 million), Bangladesh (8 million) and Brazil (7 million). The Gallup report goes on to make the remarkable finding that “despite large numbers of people in China, Nigeria, and India who want to migrate permanently to the U.S., these countries are not necessarily the places where the U.S. is the most desired destination. Gallup found that more than three in 10 adults in Liberia (37 percent) and Sierra Leone (30 percent) would move permanently to the U.S. if they had the opportunity. More than 20 percent of adults in the Dominican Republic (26 percent), Haiti (24 percent), and Cambodia (22 percent) also say the same.” That’s truly remarkable in the cases of Liberia and Sierra Leone, where one-third of the people would leave. That’s equivalent to 105 million Americans wanting to relocate to another country.

The Gallup poll made no mention of the countries to which people would least like to relocate. But I’m guessing that most of them would be on Freedom House’s list of the least free places in the world, such as Uzbekistan, Georgia, China, Turkmenistan, Chad, Cuba and North Korea.

I’m wondering how the hate-America/blame-America-first crowd might explain the fact that so many people in the world, if they had a chance, would permanently relocate here. Maybe it’s that they haven’t been exposed to enough U.S. university professors.

Is There a Way Out?

By Walter E. Williams

According to a recent Fox News poll, 73 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, up 20 points from 2012. Americans sense that there’s a lot going wrong in our nation, but most don’t have a clue about the true nature of our problem. If they had a clue, most would have little stomach for what would be necessary to arrest our national decline. Let’s look at it.

Between two-thirds and three-quarters of federal spending, in contravention of the U.S. Constitution, can be described as Congress taking the earnings or property of one American to give to another, to whom it does not belong. You say, “Williams, what do you mean?” Congress has no resources of its very own. Moreover, there’s no Santa Claus or tooth fairy who gives it resources. The fact that Congress has no resources of its very own forces us to recognize that the only way Congress can give one American one dollar is to first — through intimidation, threats and coercion — confiscate that dollar from some other American through the tax code.

If any American did privately what Congress does publicly, he’d be condemned as an ordinary thief. Taking what belongs to one American to give to another is theft, and the receiver is a recipient of stolen property. Most Americans would suffer considerable anguish and cognitive dissonance seeing themselves as recipients of stolen property, so congressional theft has to be euphemized and given a respectable name. That respectable name is “entitlement.” Merriam-Webster defines entitlement as “the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something.” For example, I am entitled to walk into the house that I own. I am entitled to drive the car that I own. The challenging question is whether I am also entitled to what you or some other American owns.

Let’s look at a few of these entitlements. More than 40 percent of federal spending is for entitlements for the elderly in the forms of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, housing and other assistance programs. The Office of Management and Budget calculates that total entitlement spending comes to about 62 percent of federal spending. Military spending totals 19 percent of federal spending. By the way, putting those two figures into historical perspective demonstrates the success we’ve had becoming a handout nation. In 1962, military expenditures were almost 50 percent of the federal budget, and entitlement spending was a mere 31 percent. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that entitlement spending will consume all federal tax revenue by 2048.

Entitlement spending is not the only form of legalized theft. The Department of Agriculture gives billions of dollars to farmers. The departments of Energy and Commerce give billions of dollars and subsidized loans to corporations. In fact, every Cabinet-level department in Washington is in charge of handing out at least one kind of subsidy or special privilege. Most federal non-defense “discretionary spending” by Congress is for handouts.

Despite the fact that today’s increasing levels of federal government spending are unsustainable, there is little evidence that Americans have the willingness to do anything about it. Any politician who’d even talk about significantly reining in unsustainable entitlement spending would be run out of town. Any politician telling the American people they must pay higher taxes to support handout spending, instead of concealing spending through deficits and running up the national debt and inflation, would also be run out of town. Can you imagine what the American people would do to a presidential candidate who’d declare, as James Madison did in a 1794 speech to the House of Representatives, “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government”?

If we are to be able to avoid ultimate collapse, it’s going to take a moral reawakening and renewed constitutional respect — not by politicians but by the American people. The prospect of that happening may be whistlin’ “Dixie.”

Do Americans Prefer Deception?

There’s more to the deceit and dishonesty about Social Security and Medicare discussed in my recent columns. Congress tells us that one-half (6.2 percent) of the Social Security tax is paid by employees and that the other half is paid by employers, for a total of 12.4 percent. Similarly, we are told that a Medicare tax of 1.45 percent is levied on employees and that another 1.45 percent is levied on employers. The truth of the matter is that the burden of both taxes is borne by employees. In other words, we pay both the employee and the so-called employer share. You say, “Williams, that’s nonsense! Just look at what it says on my pay stub.” OK, let’s look at it.

Pretend you are my employer and agree to pay me $50,000 a year, out of which you’re going to send $3,100 to Washington as my share of Social Security tax (6.2 percent of $50,000), as well as $725 for my share of Medicare (1.45 percent of $50,000), a total of $3,825 for the year. To this you must add your half of Social Security and Medicare taxes, which is also $3,825 for the year. Your cost to hire me is $53,825.

If it costs you $53,825 a year to hire me, how much value must I produce for it to be profitable for you to keep me? Is it our agreed salary of $50,000 or $53,825? If you said $53,825, you’d be absolutely right. Then who pays all of the Social Security and Medicare taxes? If you said that I do, you’re right again. The Social Security and Medicare fiction was created because Americans would not be so passive if they knew that the tax they are paying is double what is on their pay stubs — not to mention federal income taxes.

The economics specialty that reveals this is known as the incidence of taxation. The burden of a tax is not necessarily borne by the party upon whom it is levied. The Joint Committee on Taxation held that “both the employee’s and employer’s share of the payroll tax is borne by the employee.” The Congressional Budget Office “assumes — as do most economists — that employers’ share of payroll taxes is passed on to employees in the form of lower wages than would otherwise be paid.” Health insurance is not an employer gift, either. It is paid for by employees in the form of lower wages.

Another part of Social Security and Medicare deception is that the taxes are officially called FICA, which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act. First, it’s not an insurance program. More importantly, the word “contribution” implies something voluntary. Its synonyms are alms, benefaction, beneficence, charity, donation and philanthropy. Which one of those synonyms comes close to describing how Congress gets Social Security and Medicare money from us?

There’s more deceit and dishonesty. In 1950, I was 14 years old and applied for a work permit for an after-school job. One of the requirements was to obtain a Social Security card. In bold letters on my Social Security card, which I still possess, are the words “For Social Security Purposes — Not For Identification.” That’s because earlier Americans feared that their Social Security number would become an identity number. According to the Social Security Administration website, “this legend was removed as part of the design changes for the 18th version of the card, issued beginning in 1972.” That statement assumes we’re idiots. We’re asked to believe that the sole purpose of the removal was for design purposes. Apparently, the fact that our Social Security number had become a major identification tool, to be used in every aspect of our lives, had nothing to do with the SSA’s getting rid of the legend saying “For Social Security Purposes — Not For Identification.”

I wonder whether political satirist H.L. Mencken was right when he said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Income Inequality

By Walter E. Williams

Democrats plan to demagogue income inequality and the wealth gap for political gain in this year’s elections. Most of what’s said about income inequality is stupid or, at best, ill-informed. Much to their disgrace, economists focusing on measures of income inequality bring little light to the issue. Let’s look at it.

Income is a result of something. As such, results alone cannot establish whether there is fairness or justice. Take a simple example to make the point. Suppose Tom, Dick and Harry play a weekly game of poker. The result is: Tom wins 75 percent of the time. Dick and Harry, respectively, win 15 percent and 10 percent of the time. Knowing only the game’s result permits us to say absolutely nothing as to whether there has been poker fairness or justice. Tom’s disproportionate winnings are consistent with his being either an astute player or a clever cheater.

To determine whether there has been poker justice, the game’s process must be examined. Process questions we might ask are: Were Hoyle’s rules obeyed; were the cards unmarked; were the cards dealt from the top of the deck; and did the players play voluntarily? If these questions yield affirmative answers, there was poker fairness and justice, regardless of the game’s result, even with Tom’s winning 75 percent of the time.

Similarly, income is a result of something. In a free society, for the most part, income is a result of one’s capacity to serve his fellow man and the value his fellow man places on that service. Say I mow your lawn and you pay me $50. That $50 might be seen as a certificate of performance. Why? It serves as evidence that I served my fellow man and enables me to make a claim on what he produces when I visit the grocer. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are multibillionaires. Just as in the case of my serving my fellow man by mowing his lawn, they served their fellow man. The difference is they served many more of their fellow men and did so far more effectively than I and hence have received many more “certificates of performance,” which enables them to make greater claims on what their fellow man produces, such as big houses, cars and jets.

Brin and Page and people like them created wealth by producing services that improve the lives of millions upon millions of people all around the globe. Should people who have improved our lives be held up to ridicule and scorn because they have higher income than most of us? Should Congress confiscate part of their wealth in the name of fairness and income redistribution?

Except in many instances when government rigs the game with crony capitalism, income is mostly a result of one’s productivity and the value that people place on that productivity. Far more important than income inequality is productivity inequality. That suggests that if there’s anything to be done about income inequality, we should focus on how to give people greater capacity to serve their fellow man, namely raise their productivity.

To accomplish that goal, let’s look at a few things that we shouldn’t do. Becoming a taxicab owner-operator lies within the grasp of many, but in New York City, one must be able to get a license (medallion), which costs $700,000. There are hundreds of examples of government restrictions that reduce opportunity. What about the grossly fraudulent education received by so many minority youngsters? And then we handicap them further with laws that mandate that businesses pay them wages that exceed their productivity, which denies them on-the-job training.

Think back to my poker example. If one is concerned about the game’s result, which is more just, taking some of Tom’s winnings and redistributing them to Dick and Harry or teaching Dick and Harry how to play better? If left to politicians, they’d prefer redistribution. That way, they could get their hands on some of Tom’s winnings. That’s far more rewarding to them than raising Dick’s and Harry’s productivity.

Dependency, Not Poverty

There is no material poverty in the U.S. Here are a few facts about people whom the Census Bureau labels as poor. Dr. Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, in their study “Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America’s Poor” (, report that 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning; nearly three-quarters have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more. Two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half have one or more computers. Forty-two percent own their homes. Poor Americans have more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France or the U.K. What we have in our nation are dependency and poverty of the spirit, with people making unwise choices and leading pathological lives aided and abetted by the welfare state.

The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 35 percent and among whites at 13 percent. The illegitimacy rate among blacks is 72 percent, and among whites it’s 30 percent. A statistic that one doesn’t hear much about is that the poverty rate among black married families has been in the single digits for more than two decades, currently at 8 percent. For married white families, it’s 5 percent. Now the politically incorrect questions: Whose fault is it to have children without the benefit of marriage and risk a life of dependency? Do people have free will, or are they governed by instincts?

There may be some pinhead sociologists who blame the weak black family structure on racial discrimination. But why was the black illegitimacy rate only 14 percent in 1940, and why, as Dr. Thomas Sowell reports, do we find that census data “going back a hundred years, when blacks were just one generation out of slavery … showed that a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults. This fact remained true in every census from 1890 to 1940”? Is anyone willing to advance the argument that the reason the illegitimacy rate among blacks was lower and marriage rates higher in earlier periods was there was less racial discrimination and greater opportunity?

No one can blame a person if he starts out in life poor, because how one starts out is not his fault. If he stays poor, he is to blame because it is his fault. Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science. First, graduate from high school. Second, get married before you have children, and stay married. Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. And finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior. It turns out that a married couple, each earning the minimum wage, would earn an annual combined income of $30,000. The Census Bureau poverty line for a family of two is $15,500, and for a family of four, it’s $23,000. By the way, no adult who starts out earning the minimum wage does so for very long.

Since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, the nation has spent about $18 trillion at the federal, state and local levels of government on programs justified by the “need” to deal with some aspect of poverty. In a column of mine in 1995, I pointed out that at that time, the nation had spent $5.4 trillion on the War on Poverty, and with that princely sum, “you could purchase every U.S. factory, all manufacturing equipment, and every office building. With what’s left over, one could buy every airline, trucking company and our commercial maritime fleet. If you’re still in the shopping mood, you could also buy every television, radio and power company, plus every retail and wholesale store in the entire nation” ( Today’s total of $18 trillion spent on poverty means you could purchase everything produced in our country each year and then some.

There’s very little guts in the political arena to address the basic causes of poverty. To do so risks being labeled as racist, sexist, uncaring and insensitive. That means today’s dependency is likely to become permanent.

Masking Totalitarianism

By Walter E. Williams

One of the oldest notions in the history of mankind is that some people are to give orders and others are to obey. The powerful elite believe that they have wisdom superior to the masses and that they’ve been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. Their agenda calls for an attack on the free market and what it implies — voluntary exchange.

Tyrants do not trust that people acting voluntarily will do what the tyrant thinks they should do. Therefore, free markets are replaced with economic planning and regulation that is nothing less than the forcible superseding of other people’s plans by the powerful elite. Because Americans still retain a large measure of liberty, tyrants must mask their agenda.

At the university level, some professors give tyranny an intellectual quality by preaching that negative freedom is not enough. There must be positive liberty or freedoms. This idea is widespread in academia, but its most recent incarnation was a discussion by Wake Forest University professor David Coates in a Huffington Post article, titled “Negative Freedom or Positive Freedom: Time to Choose?” (11/13/2013) (

Let’s examine negative versus positive freedom. Negative freedom or rights refers to the absence of constraint or coercion when people engage in peaceable, voluntary exchange. Some of these negative freedoms are enumerated in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. More generally, at least in its standard historical usage, a right is something that exists simultaneously among people. As such, a right imposes no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference.

Likewise, my right to travel imposes no obligation upon another. Positive rights is a view that people should have certain material things — such as medical care, decent housing and food — whether they can pay for them or not. Seeing as there is no Santa Claus or tooth fairy, those “rights” do impose obligations upon others. If one person has a right to something he did not earn, of necessity it requires that another person not have a right to something he did earn.

If we were to apply this bogus concept of positive rights to free speech and the right to travel freely, my free speech rights would impose financial obligations on others to supply me with an auditorium, microphone and audience. My right to travel would burden others with the obligation to purchase airplane tickets and hotel accommodations for me.

Most Americans, I would imagine, would tell me, “Williams, yes, you have the right to free speech and travel rights, but I’m not obligated to pay for them!” What the positive rights tyrants want but won’t articulate is the power to forcibly use one person to serve the purposes of another. After all, if one person does not have the money to purchase food, housing or medicine and if Congress provides the money, where does it get the money? It takes it from some other American, forcibly using that person to serve the purposes of another. Such a practice differs only in degree, but not kind, from slavery.

I’m such a lucky guy that I’ve bought counterfeit drugs twice in my life and both times online. Those were the first and the second times I ordered drugs on the web. Recently, I took a risk and ordered Valtrex on That was the first time I received exactly what I’ve paid for. I will probably buy there again if I need any medicines in the nearest future.

Under natural law, we all have certain unalienable rights. The rights we possess we have authority to delegate. For example, we all have a right to defend ourselves against predators. Because we possess that right, we can delegate it to government, in effect saying, “We have the right to defend ourselves, but for a more orderly society, we delegate to you the authority to defend us.”

By contrast, I don’t possess the right to take your earnings to give to another. Seeing as I have no such right, I cannot delegate it. The idea that one person should be forcibly used to serve the purposes of another has served as the foundation of mankind’s ugliest and most brutal regimes. Do we want that for America?

Liberty from Abuse

By Martin G. Selbrede

To be guiltless of the blood of all men, we must follow Paul’s example: we must not fail to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-30) and follow it (Psalm 103:18, Matt. 5:19, James 1:22f.). This entails an awareness of what God has revealed across all sixty-six books of the Bible. Tragically, between today’s perpetual kindergarten syndrome1 among professing Christians and our general ignorance of the Old Testament, we are ill-equipped to bring that whole counsel to bear on critical matters. This kind of theology deficit disorder can wreak considerable harm inside the church no less than in the culture at large. Ignorance is not bliss.

One of the purposes of God’s law is to restrain evil. God’s sanctions against certain acts limit the circle of harm and, where possible, provide redress and restitution. In particular, God’s law provides the framework for freedom from abuse and liberty from tyranny. In regard to abuses emanating from those holding spiritual authority, God’s primary sanction is permanent removal from office. The widespread failure to apply this Biblical sanction leads to a world of untold misery for countless victims throttled by institutional machinery working overtime to keep restitution and restoration inaccessible to them.

The original context of Paul’s assertion of being guiltless involves the sheep in God’s flock and their relationship to the overseers that Paul was addressing:

Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:26-30 KJV)

We see here the duty enjoined upon the overseers (to feed all the flock) being contrasted with the conduct of subsequent leaders (who would not spare the flock). The shepherds of grief would presumably arise out of the circle of overseers. Paul had been sounding this warning for three years (as verse 31 affirms), so serious was the matter of shepherds who would mislead and mistreat the flock. The Apostle John’s battle with Diotrephes, “who loved to have the preeminence” and who excommunicated those not adhering to his wishes (3 John 9-10), illustrates the massive scale of this problem.

Virtually everyone is aware of the abuses and subsequent cover-ups plaguing the Roman Catholic Church, where priests implicated in abusive conduct are quietly relocated to unsuspecting new congregations where the abuse often recurs. Modern evangelicalism in America has its own list of distinguished perpetrators who, once exposed, made tearful confessions to their supporters (via pulpit or television cameras or both).

In virtually all cases, the restoration of the leader to his former station has been a dominant part of the evangelical package. The trappings of accountability are in the service of protecting the ministry under the guise of protecting the flock. The dual principles of forgiveness and restoration are dutifully applied, and many proof-texts (which support these two principles in general) are cited as if they apply not only to congregants but also to fallen church leaders in respect to their office. If, however, we consider the whole counsel of God, a very different picture emerges: an extraordinary picture grounded on nothing less than God swearing an oath against His Own life to confirm the immutability of His counsel on precisely this issue.

Because God’s direct counsel on the question of shepherds who’ve inflicted harm on anyone in their flocks is located in the middle of a poorly understood Old Testament book, few are the churches that know of it. Of the churches that know of it, even fewer will consider applying it. As a consequence, we do not see freedom from abuse today. At best, we see a mechanism kick in that, pious window-dressing notwithstanding, works for the freedom of the abuser. This often compounds the harm to the sheep still under the leader’s hand.

Before we dig into the Old Testament, we must forcefully remind ourselves of the particularly heinous nature of abuse emanating from a Christian leader in respect to the injured party. All such leaders evoke a profound trust among their supporters: each of them is seen as God’s man doing God’s work and being above reproach. The flock looks up to its shepherd and his authority. Consequently, when abuse arises, the victim’s relationship with God is often mortally wounded. Victims with the courage to expose a powerful leader often pay a high price: they grow more isolated while the leader’s supporters grow in solidarity. Mind-searing, incapacitating depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome are endemic among such victims. There are documented cases where the victims of clergy abuse committed suicide as the ecclesiastical tables were turned against them.2 As Paul affirmed of the implicated leaders, they will not spare the flock. Those who support such leaders share their leader’s indifference toward the sheep.

The Good Old Boy System

For some years I’ve been collaborating on a major book project that was set in motion when a famous (and still active) missionary initiated an attempted sexual exploitation of the victim nearly ten years ago. As bad as the original incident was, the aftermath involving the handling of the situation by churches, counselors, and parachurch organizations made it worse. One of my tasks was to work through the exhaustively-documented evidence prepared by the victim and to extract the dominant patterns embedded in that mass of ugly details.

The victim, no slouch in respect to researching such behavior after the incident, had purchased and read 121 books on the issue of clergy abuse, totaling 27,949 pages of material. You can see that mountain of books in the accompanying photo. In addition to those books, the victim had meticulously annotated several thousand pages of journal reprints. This one person had arguably researched, written, and edited enough material to earn two, if not three, doctorates on this one topic. The source material identified the problem clearly enough, but until the victim encountered the writings of Dr. R. J. Rushdoony, no actual solution was evident because everyone else, without exception, adopted either antinomian or humanistic assumptions.

What the victim experienced first-hand were various well-known tactics that are routinely applied whenever someone steps forward with a report of this nature. The victim had 58 key encounters (6.5 per month) with churches, parachurch ministries, and counselors concerning the incident. To understand the significance of the results of these encounters, you need to learn the vocabulary of collusion, which puts a name to each of the eight major tactics usually deployed against the victim to frustrate justice. We’ll step through these tactics so you can understand the systemic nature of what happened in those 58 documented encounters.

The first three tactics are self-explanatory: Denying the ProblemIgnoring the Problem, and Minimizing the Problem. The remaining five tactics require further elaboration. No originality is claimed for this breakdown. I am adapting ideas from a well-known source3 and modifying them for the sake of clarity.

Role Reversal involves thoughts or behaviors that treat victims as perpetrators and perpetrators as victims … what some psychologists call Reattribution of Blame. Turning the victim into a troublemaker and scapegoat saves an abuser’s colleagues from feeling grief over their own betrayal and from having to take responsibility for the effects of his behavior and betrayal on others and the church. Such slander of the victim “is a form of murder” and works to discredit the victim by destroying their reputation and integrity.4

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil involves shaming of self or others for even thinking about, speaking about, or listening to anyone who is speaking about, the abuse.

Passing The Buck entails an endless game where persons at every level and capacity of an organization rationalize that the work of investigating an incident and holding a perpetrator accountable belongs somewhere else. The buck often gets passed back to the demoralized victim, who must resume the exhausting search for justice all over again. Worse yet are churches that pass the responsibility for dealing with dangerous perpetrators and the damage they cause back to God Himself. This is done by invoking cheap, meaningless platitudes which “heal the wound of My people slightly” (Jer. 6:14, 8:11).

Let’s Pretend (also known as Out of Sight, Out of Mind) means doing church while refusing to acknowledge the elephant in the room. If the victims and their advocates talk about the elephant, then the problem is theirs. If they do not, then there is no problem.

Let’s Make a Deal concerns offering a victim or advocate something, either tangible or intangible, to keep quiet. Silence is mandated: the victim must keep the situation a secret, usually for some alleged greater good (e.g., protecting the ministry and/or its work). “If you will just go quietly to another congregation, we won’t tell anyone that you were involved in a scandal.” “If you’ll agree not to take the perpetrator or denomination to court, we’ll pay you for the damage done.”

Now you know the eight basic elements of the vocabulary of collusion. Let’s put that information to use and see what happened when the victim sought justice over the course of nine months with the Christian community (this is a tabulation I performed as a collaborator on this project):

The Documented Track Record

Encounters with Churches/Ministries/Christian Counselors 58
Ignore the Abuse Incidents 12
Role Reversal Incidents 18
Pass the Buck Incidents 19
Deny the Abuse Incidents 10
Minimize the Abuse Incidents 21
See No Evil Incidents 8
Let’s Pretend Incidents 12
Let’s Make a Deal Incidents 4
Outright Rebukes of Victim 8
Failures to Connect 4
Rejections of Biblical Restitution or Godly Justice 10
Withdrawal of Offers to Help 4
Loss of Credibility Charged Against Victim 1
Promises broken to the victim 4
Average Number of Church Encounters Per Month 6.5
Average Number of Moral Failures Per Church Encounter 2.25
*This number excludes Failures to Connect, which were recorded only to fully tabulate the victim’s attempts to reach out for help.

In light of this abysmal track record, involving highly respected churches and para-church ministries, we can be blunt: this serious problem will persist so long as antinomianism persists. Can you imagine seeking justice and being rebuffed 131 times over nine months in the multitude of ways shown above? This happened despite the fact that the perpetrator fully admitted guilt in the matter. Still, no Christians knew what to do: they just wanted the victim to go away. The perpetrator was, in effect, protected (and remains so to the present day) and lost relatively little, while the victim incurred enormous personal expenses and emotional devastation in the wake of the trauma inflicted by the antinomian churches.

The first problem that antinomianism brings to the table is failure to secure restitution. The rickety engine of Churchianity stands idly by while the victim sinks under the growing burdens and expenses incurred by the perpetrator’s and church’s conduct, but leaps into action to support the perpetrator (whether a missionary, priest, pastor, or parachurch leader). The modern church shortcuts restitution and thus invalidates the injury inflicted upon the victim. The damage done to the victim is more severe than words can express or restitution can restore, often involving a crisis of faith, total isolation, loss of all hope, complete helplessness, a blocked future, and worse. Without a serious theology of restoration (such as Derek Carlsen5 had started to build in 2006), the situation will remain bleak.

The second problem is equally serious. Although the modern church drags its feet in respect to the restoration of the victims, it almost always makes the restoration of the perpetrator its highest priority. There is a self-serving jargon that drives this process (appeals to supposed accountability programs, allusions to King David’s situation, the unwarranted application of scriptures about forgiveness and restoration to the matter of church office, etc.). All of these gambits operate in total ignorance of God’s own view. And it is to Ezekiel 34 that we now turn, to grasp what God has to say about this most invidious epidemic.

Taking God’s Oath Seriously

It is common, of course, to dismiss appeals to Ezekiel 34 with a cavalier retort such as “That’s the Old Testament!” This hostility to Ezekiel 34 is remarkable in its own right (since Jesus in John 10 is appealing precisely to this passage), but it further involves the critic in denying the validity of God’s oaths. Does this approach suggest a God-honoring submission to His Word?

Ezekiel 34 elaborates on a theme expounded in Jeremiah 23 and Zechariah 11, namely, shepherds who fail in their duties to protect the flock entrusted to them. In the key passage of Ezekiel, it is God Himself who speaks:

Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. (Ezek. 34:7-10 KJV)

The oath is contained in the phrase “As I live, saith the Lord God.” We often encounter this phrase in the third-person, such as by a prophet like Elisha:

And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee. (2 Kings 3:14)

But in Ezekiel, there are instances when God swears the oath Himself. The meaning of this oath is surprising, and in fact should strike us with awe. Puritan commentator William Greenhill points out that God is saying, “Let me not be the living God, but be laid aside as some idol or false god, if I do not punish these shepherds which have dealt so with my flock.”6A. R. Faussett adds that “as I live is the most solemn of oaths, pledging the self-existence of God for the certainty of the event.”7

God swears oaths to confirm the matter being sworn to (not that modern Christians will necessarily accept that God can actually keep His oaths, most notably with respect to Isaiah 45:22-23). The writer of Hebrews regards the divine oath as signifying that God’s affirmations are permanent, fixed, and never subject to change.

For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath. (Heb. 6:16-17)

It naturally follows that God’s policy respecting shepherds who harm the flock is immutable. God has staked His Own existence on the eternality of His counsel as set forth in such passages.

If we decide that what God has laid down as an eternal rule in Ezekiel 34 no longer applies, having been somehow superseded by something else, God’s oaths mean nothing: He simply doesn’t mean what He says. The Lord’s words of confirmation are no better than the popular self-maledictory oath uttered by children: “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”

For Christians who accept the word of God as The Word of God, His oaths should be to them “an end of all strife,” putting the matter being confirmed beyond any debate or dispute. We would then treat the confirmed matter with as much solemnity as God showed in putting His Own existence on the block to verify that His pronouncements have permanent validity.

What the Lord Confirmed by an Oath

The failure of the shepherds to protect and feed the flock entrusted to their care has at least six aspects (which we’ll elaborate on later):

The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. (Ezek. 34:4)

The exact reversal of this situation (which begins with the demotion of these shepherds as required in Ezek. 34:10) is laid out farther on in the chapter:

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment. And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats … Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. (Ezek. 34:16-17, 22)

How, precisely, does God save His flock so that they should no more be subject to the shepherds who have inflicted harm on the sheep? The answer once again is found in verse 10: God calls for the permanent removal of such shepherds from their office. Then the sheep can never again fall prey to the men who have violated the trust that God has reposed in them as leaders of His people. What is declared here is “a freedom from bad shepherds,” as R. J. Rushdoony noted.8Where it’s faithfully applied, the potential for recidivism disappears.

Let us consider the text of Ezekiel 34:10 and examine what 350 years worth of solid Bible scholarship had to say about its meaning and implications.

A Parachute of Lead

When executives leave a corporation, they hope to make their exit while wearing a golden parachute-a wonderful severance package replete with pensions, bonuses, and dividends regardless of their performance in office. But when God calls for the demotion of shepherds who have failed to protect their flock, the parachute is not made of gold, but of lead.

“They shall be deprived officio et beneficio-both of the work and of the wages. They shall cease from feeding the flock, that is, from pretending to feed it. Note, It is just with God to take out of men’s hands that power which they have abused and that trust which they have betrayed. But if this were all their punishment, they could bear it well enough; therefore it is added, “Neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more, for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, which, instead of protecting, they had made a prey of.” (Matthew Henry)9

In such a state of things, plainly the first act of mercy to the flock must be the removal of the unfaithful shepherds. (Rev. F. Gardiner)10

They are as far removed from their office as can be. (Jakob Raupius, 1655)11

“Neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more.” Here is a fourth punishment; they should be deprived of those opportunities they had to enrich themselves: they made a prey of the flock, eating the fat, clothing themselves with the wool, and killing those that were fed, they made advantage of the flock, only seeking themselves, not the good of it; but they should not do so any longer. … Being once delivered, they shall no more be spoiled and devoured by such tyrants as they were, but shall enjoy liberty and safety … “Behold, I am against the shepherds;” I will call them to account, and have satisfaction for all the wrong and violence they have done; I will deprive them of their sweet morsels, and throw them with shame out of their places. These are severe judgments, which God swears, by no less than his own life, that he will bring upon them: God commits great trust unto them, and when they are unfaithful God visits severely for it. (William Greenhill)12

The Lord will demand His sheep of them; and because sheep have been lost through their fault, He will depose them from the office of shepherd, and so deliver the poor flock from their violence. There is nothing said about the punishment of the shepherd, but simply that the task of keeping the sheep shall be taken from them, so that they shall feed themselves no more. (Carl F. Keil)13

The trust reposed in a man of God is a stewardship, and God is clear that “it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (I Cor. 4:2). Their mission is the care and protection of the flock, and no exceptions to this covenant of protection are to be admitted. Nobody is special in this regard, or gets a pass respecting God’s standards and what He requires. As Dr. Morecraft wisely observed, “We must never think that we and God have a special arrangement other than His covenant.”14

The shepherds thus demoted shall not feed themselves by working as shepherds “any more.” Period. God conceives of no temporary “step down” from the reins of spiritual authority. Their authority in respect to the flock has been forfeited once for all. Such deposed individuals must find another line of work for themselves: the flock shall no longer be their source of food ever again. Even liberal expositor Walther Eichrodt made clear that such shepherds were to be “cashiered” (dismissed from service with disgrace) “and the sheep torn out of their greedy hands.”15 To oppose God’s oath-backed policy is to trample His pledging of His Own life underfoot.

Some might seek to evade the force of this conclusion by postponing the deliverance because God said that He willrequire the flock at their hand (implying a future event) but A. R. Fausset declares that translation to be faulty: the clause should be rendered “I require the flock at their hand”-as in now.16  This better rendering is also adopted by Lange.17Besides, one must question the value of a deliverance that’s indefinitely postponed.

That the deliverance is not to be postponed follows from Ezekiel 34:16-17, as Lange noted,18 for the shepherds having been discharged from their office are now on the same level as the flock, wherefore God now says “Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep.” Should such men genuinely repent,19 they may rightly be restored to fellowship and communion but not restored to office.20

Addressing Objections to the Lead Parachute

Objections to looking to Ezekiel 34 for guidance fall into several basic categories. The first objection is that the shepherds in view in that passage are political rulers (kings) and not spiritual rulers. The objection is based on the fact that Jeremiah 2:8 apparently distinguishes shepherds (“pastors” in the King James Version) from the priests and prophets, so that the men being demoted are kings and princes, not spiritual leaders. A closely related objection is that Psalm 119:96 doesn’t apply here: the commandment is not exceedingly broad and we shouldn’t apply the notion of general equity to this passage.

Nevertheless, let the consensus21 of Biblical scholarship speak to these objections:

The prophecy in Ezekiel 34 is kept very general, and does not connect itself closely with specific occasions and circumstances, hence admits (apart from its typical bearing on the experience of Israel, outward and spiritual) of manifold applications to all states, churches, families; and with justice, for it is really designed for all that could be named figuratively shepherd and flock, like a mathematical formula which expresses a law that may be applied to innumerable cases. (Heinrich Schmieder)22

The shepherds of Israel were the chief rulers, both political and ecclesiastical, princes, magistrates, prophets, priests, and Levites. (William Greenhill on Ezek. 34:2)23

Those that are set over the people in church or state are shepherds, and ought to be like unto them towards their flocks. They should govern them gently, protect them constantly, provide for them carefully, and feed them faithfully, and seek their good diligently. (William Greenhill on Ezek. 34:6)24

Even scholars who held that the shepherds are the kings acknowledged that the spiritual component of their reign remained the emphasis. Patrick Fairbairn is representative of this line of thinking concerning the king:

He was the head of a theocracy which, from its very nature, was predominantly spiritual in its aim, and sought nothing in comparison of the moral and religious interests of the people … Bearing this in mind … we have a sufficient explanation of what seems at first a peculiarity in the passage before us-its charging upon the kings all the evils that had befallen the heritage of the Lord.25

Further, applying this passage to kings but not Christian ministers would mean that God’s standards for kings are much higher than His standards for leaders of His flock. St. Paul would probably have some strong things to say about that claim.

One final objection should be addressed, which arises from those who cite King David’s case as a parallel to Christian leaders who have “fallen” (a weasel word26 if there ever was one). If David can continue in office, it is argued, then Ezekiel 34:10 cannot be applied: we must follow the example set in David’s life.

But that alleged “parallel with King David” would only be a true parallel if the “fallen minister” were to offer his youngest child up to die: then the situation would actually match David’s situation. However, if the minister were to offer up his youngest child to die, that act in itself would disqualify him from the ministry. No man can ever enjoy “parallel status” with David without adopting the whole Davidic package deal announced by the prophet Nathan, and no one can shoehorn himself into David’s situation without becoming a moral monster to his own family.

Dressing All the Wounds

There are as many kinds of abuse as there are sinful impulses in the heart of man. Physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, and ecclesiastical abuse must never be depersonalized or smeared with the vocabulary of collusion. Where abuse has in fact occurred, it must be dealt with in a godly way. Ezekiel 34 can help us grasp the manifold facets of such abuse and harm that can be inflicted on one or more sheep.

Consider Lange’s comments on Ezekiel 34:3-4: “What should have been protection had turned into simple domination.”27The “weak” became that way either “through sickness or overdriving.” The “driven away” were driven away “in consequence of harsh treatment.” The Hebrew phrase used of the victim’s resulting mental state denotes “to lose one’s self.” In response, “God procures for the suffering sheep justice against the malicious,”28 namely, the loss of the leader’s office which provided the power base from which the abuse was launched.

But if we fail to take God’s oath seriously, and move to retain individuals in capacities where the harm they inflicted can be repeated, we will have placed ourselves firmly on the side of injustice. Small wonder that the modern church is filled with the walking wounded (see R. J. Rushdoony’s The Cure of Souls for valuable insights on how to reverse this deadly trend). Deuteronomy 16:20 reads “Justice, justice shalt thou do,” not “Injustice, injustice shalt thou preserve and protect.”

When God’s law lays out the parameters for restitution, we note a remarkable thing: many kinds of restitution involve restoring more to the victim than was taken or lost. When the victim received the restitution, they realized that God had their back! He really cared for them, as the overabundant scale of the restoration testified. God valued them by making good their loss in a concrete way: not only the loss of property, but the loss of time as well.

Imagine now a situation where a person’s life has been ruined by the actions of a Christian leader, actions that make clear that the covenant of trust has been violated. Such harm to the victim might easily defy efforts to quantify it because its impact can encompass every dimension of life. Where loss of time and opportunity has been inflicted, one could see how a ten-fold restitution based on Biblical precedents could follow. Whatever the incalculable harm is, the restitution would need to exceed it by a factor of ten before the victim can know that God is truly “the repairer of the breach” (Isa. 58:12).

Imagine that the first step this hypothetical church or ministry takes is to relieve the leader of his office: this in itself represents justice to the victim in light of Ezekiel 34:16. “Mercy to the flock imperatively required the execution of judgment upon those who had betrayed and injured them,” explains Fairbairn.29 The freedom this unleashes is most precious, putting the healing process on track. Betrayal of any number of sheep greater than zero must trigger these sanctions. This replaces humanistic mechanisms (countless regulations to manipulate the environment to counter the effects of today’s limited liability slap-on-the-wrist mindset) with something infinitely better: God’s answers, deeply rooted in the concept of full liability.

But now imagine a very different but altogether more common scenario: the church turns the victim into a pariah while retaining and protecting its spiritual leader. By circling the wagons, that church has renewed the assault on the victim’s personhood on an exponentially larger scale compared to the original transgression of boundaries. To fail to remove the leader from office is collusion and involves the church or ministry in collusion against God’s law as well as collusion against the victim. To protect the transgressor is to harm the victim (and often spawn future victims). R. J. Rushdoony often put it this way: mercy to the perpetrator is hatred toward the victim. As with the sons of Eli, the protected parties will wax worse, provoking God to place more severe sanctions onto the household that failed to intervene (1 Sam. 3:13-14).

And this is what motivates the removal of candlesticks by the Lord Who walks in the midst of them (Rev. 1:13, 2:1, 2:5). “The LORD watches and is displeased, for there is no justice. He sees there is no advocate, He is shocked that no one intervenes” (Isa. 59:15-16 KJV+NET).

The victim of such abuse can be likened to a bruised reed or a smoking flax. The Lord has revealed the end game for all such as these: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and a smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth justice unto victory” (Matt. 12:20). Christians who dismiss God’s law and scoff at His swearing against His Own life won’t hesitate to break the bruised reed and quench the smoking flax, to marginalize the victim and aggrandize the abuser (with or without a timeout in the corner). But Christians who put God’s law and justice first, who repair the breach rather than whitewash it (Ezek. 13:1-15), who make liberty from abuse and mercy to the injured their first priority, He will honor. Such men work to insure that “they shall neither hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain” (Isa. 11:9, compare Heb. 12:22).

There are, then, two paths to take. One path will take you to justice and victory. The other leads to destinations that are unprintable.

1. Martin G. Selbrede, “The Perpetual Kindergarten,” Faith for All of Life May-June 2007, 14-19.

2. In a particularly notorious example when such statistics were first being recorded, one Mrs. Marcia Bezak hanged herself a week before her testimony against a minister was proven to be true. It appears that her case is the tip of an inadequately-reported iceberg.

3. See for the original formulation by Dee Miller. While I disagree with Ms. Miller on causes and cures, I believe her work on the dynamics of collusion is valuable. It has stood the test of time. But like virtually all other researchers, she advances humanistic solutions to problems of a moral nature. You cannot manipulate the institutional environment (via educational conditioning, regulatory mechanisms, etc.) to solve a moral problem. Antinomianism lacks the power to offer moral answers and can mount no consistent challenge to spiritual incest. This fatal disconnect is bridged only when the entire Word of God is consistently applied.

4. R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1973), 567.

5. Derek Carlsen, “Rape and the Victim’s Sexual Purity,” Christianity and Society 16:1, Summer 2006, 52-54.

6. William Greenhill, An Exposition of Ezekiel (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994, orig. publ. 1645-1667), 685.

7. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, A Commentary Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), Volume 2, Part 2, 217.

8. R. J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1994), Vol. 2, 761.

9. Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, n.d.), Vol. 4, 950.

10. Charles John Ellicott, ed., Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, n.d.), Vol. 5, 299.

11. Carl L. Beckwith, ed., Reformation Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2012), Vol. 12, 167.

12. Greenhill, op. cit., 685.

13. C. F. Keil & Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1983), Vol. IX, Part 2, 85.

14. Joseph C. Morecraft III, Authentic Christianity: An Exposition of the Theology and Ethics of the Westminster Larger Catechism (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press/Minkoff Family Publishing 2009), Vol. 4, 367.

15. Walther Eichrodt, Ezekiel (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, [1966] 1970), 471.

16. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, op. cit., 333.

17. John Peter Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Ezekiel & Daniel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, reprint n.d., Eng. Orig. 1874), 316.

18. Lange, op. cit., 320.

19. The critical need to work toward restitution would be a key part of any such repentance, but restoration to spiritual authority remains off the table. The repentant offender is the one who refuses to take up the reins of leadership again.

20. The thief on the cross next to Jesus was forgiven but nonetheless suffered the temporal consequences of his deeds, consequences which he (being truly repentant) endorsed. Christ’s parables about stewards and husbandmen never speak of restoring those who violate their trust: such restoration is an alien concept premised on turning forgiveness into a self-serving abstraction rather than a concrete reality.

21. A few commentators take the view that the shepherds are exclusively political in nature. G. Currey is representative in taking Jer. 2:8 as the basis for this minority view. Cf. F. C. Cook, ed., The Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, [1871-1881]1981), Vol. 6, 144. See also A. R. Fausset in this regard (loc. cit.) as well as Carl F. Keil (op. cit., 81-82).

22. Lange, op. cit., 324.

23. Greenhill, op. cit., 682.

24. Greenhill, op. cit., 683.

25. Patrick Fairbairn, An Exposition of Ezekiel (Minneapolis, MN: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, [1851 T. & T. Clark] 1979), 369-370. See his extended discussion beginning on page 367.

26. According to this dangerous view, the “fallen” leader just needs to live out the defiant chorus of a song by the band Chumbawumba: “I get knocked down, but I get up again; they’re never gonna keep me down!” The convenient wedge used to secure such illegitimate restoration also fits the lyrics of a more famous song: “All you need is love.” If all you need is love, you surely don’t need God swearing about something or other in Ezekiel 34!

27. Lange, op. cit., 318.

28. Lange, op. cit., 321.

29. Fairbairn, op. cit., 370.

Martin G. Selbrede is Chalcedon’s resident scholar and Editor of Faith for All of Life and the Chalcedon Report.

Have Churches Become Agents Of The State?

By Chuck Baldwin

Then-Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson devised what has proven to be a brilliant strategy in which to silence and neuter America’s churches. His bill, which created the 501c3 tax-exempt corporation status for churches back in 1954, has, over the decades, effectively muted America’s pulpits. The vast majority of churches today are thoroughly and completely intimidated by the threat of losing their tax-exempt status under the 501c3 section of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC).

As a result, the vast majority of pastors are unwilling to address virtually any issue from the pulpit that could be deemed as political. Add to the fear of losing tax-exempt status the egregiously slavish interpretation of Romans 13–that Christians and churches must submit to civil government no matter what–and a very legitimate argument can be made that Mr. Johnson not only silenced and neutered America’s churches, but that he has, in effect, turned them into agents of the state. More and more, the federal government is using pastors and churches to promote its big-government agenda.

Most readers are familiar with how FEMA created a program called “Clergy Response Teams” several years ago. Under this program, tens of thousands of pastors were instructed on how to assist the federal government in the event of a “national emergency.” Pastors were encouraged to teach Bible lessons from Romans 13 in which church members were told that God instructs them to always submit to civil authority unconditionally. They were taught to encourage their congregants to turn in their firearms and to be willing to relocate to government-provided shelters if that is what the government told them to do.

The last report I read noted that these Clergy Response Teams have been established in over 1,300 counties in the United States. For those readers who are even casually acquainted with history, is this straight out of the Nazi handbook, or what? Now we learn that churches are being used to help the federal government promote and sell Obamacare.

According to, “Community organizers are joining pastors across the country to educate and help parishioners sign up for Obamacare. The coordinated initiative, called ‘Health Care from the Pulpit,’ is being implemented by Enroll America, a non-profit with the goal of maximizing the number of uninsured Americans who enroll in health coverage made available by the Affordable Care Act.”

“The program has already reached a number of churches across the nation. In Jacksonville, Fla, Pastor John Newman is among those who invited community organizers from the group to his church to talk about the cost of Obamacare and the enrollment process. “During the event, Enroll America invited congregants to fill out cards with basic information about themselves or people they knew who might be in need of health care.”, WJXT-TV [Jacksonville, Florida] reports.

“‘Our pastor, he keeps us real informed and grounded in what’s going on in the community, and he’s always bringing stuff to help us, so I love him for that.” said one parishioner named Michelle Fletcher. “Enroll America knows that pastors are trusted members of the community, which is why churches are a focus for education and information on the health care law.”

“Through ‘Health Care from the Pulpit,’ the organization is working with faith leaders to ensure that people hear about availability–and with a captive audience in the pews, the move makes logistical sense. Pastors are trusted messengers. They’ll be able to get the story across, they’ll be able to relate to that story and they’ll be able to ask people to enroll in health insurance.” Enroll America organizer Anthony Penna told WJXT.

“From Oct. 25-27, the organization launched its pulpit program as part of the Get Covered America campaign. Enroll America pledged to help churches who wish to enroll congregants or provide people in the community with information and resources. A press release from Oct. 22 on the Get Covered America website further explains the purpose of the in-church events.

“‘The Treat Yourself to Coverage Weekend will also engage dozens of faith groups for the first nationwide push of Health Care in the Pulpit. Get Covered America’s faith engagement program reads. “Working with a diverse group of faith and lay leaders, Get Covered America will host over 50 events across the country to further engage the faith community in education about enrollment in the marketplace. Other initiatives are bringing churches into the Obamacare fold as well.” Dr. Michael Minor, pastor of Oak Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Hernando, Miss., was recently given a federal grant to help enroll individuals in the health care program.

Through the $317,742 grant, Minor will work with Cover Mississippi, a cohort of advocacy groups organized by the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program. He has already put together a group of 75 to 100 ‘navigators’ (trainers) around the state to provide information and access to Obamacare. While his efforts are unaffiliated with Enroll America, they serve as another example of a church getting involved in the health care roll-out.

Think about this: before a bill becomes law, pastors are forbidden to address it from the pulpit, because it would be interfering in politics–a violation of the separation of church and state; but after a bill becomes law it is now the obligation and duty of pastors to support (and promote) it, because it is now the biblical thing to do, per Romans 13. Was Johnson a diabolical genius, or what?

By the way, I strongly urge readers to purchase the book on Romans 13 that was co-authored by me and my constitutional attorney son, entitled, Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission. This book shatters the misinterpretation of Romans 13: that Christians are commanded by God to submit to the state no matter what. The Apostle Paul was not introducing a new topic in Romans 13–not at all. The subject is covered throughout the scriptures. This book needs to be read by every pastor and Christian in the country.

In the same manner that the Nazi government co-opted the churches of Germany, the federal government in Washington, D.C., is co-opting the churches of America today. During the rise of the Third Reich, Germany’s pastors and churches were taught the same misinterpretation of Romans 13 that pastors and churches in America are now being taught. And in the same way that Hitler used Germany’s pastors and churches to promote his big-government socialist agenda, America’s pastors and churches today are being used to promote the big-government socialist agenda emanating from Washington, D.C.

Mr. Bush used the churches to promote the FEMA Clergy Response Teams, and now Mr. Obama is using the churches to promote the federal government’s socialized health care system. I remind readers that during the Hitler years, the vast majority of German pastors and churches enthusiastically embraced the Nazi agenda even to the point of flying Nazi flags and giving the Nazi salute during the worship services in Germany’s churches. But who among us remembers the names of any of these pathetic pastors? Yet, we do remember (as does history itself) the names of plucky pastors such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller who led the spiritual opposition to Hitler’s encroachment into the church.

Instead of the federal government’s draconian “Clergy Response Teams,” we need to resurrect Bonhoeffer’s band of heroes, which was known as the “Pastors’ Emergency League.” This was a group of German pastors dedicated to resisting the Nazi agenda–especially inside the church. The creed of Bonhoeffer’s Pastors’ Emergency League was:
1. To renew their allegiance to the Scriptures.
2. To resist those who attack the Scriptures.
3. To give material and financial aid to those who suffered through repressive laws or violence.
4. To repudiate the Nazi cause.

Bonhoeffer’s Pastors’ Emergency League soon became a nationwide movement called, the “Confessing Church.” In his masterful book, “Hitler’s Cross,” Erwin Lutzer summarizes the creed of the Confessing Church as being, “No human sovereign should rule over the church; it must be under the Word of God to fulfill its role.” (Page134)

Lutzer also noted that the Confessing Church soon realized that “blind obedience, even in matters that belong to the state, might be a violation of the Christian mandate.” (Ibid)
Lutzer further wrote, “Many of our Christian heroes were lawbreakers. Whether it was John Bunyan, who sat in a Bedford jail for his preaching, Richard Wurmbrand, who was beaten for teaching the Bible in Communist Romania, Christians have always insisted that there is a law higher than that of the state.” (Ibid) And, again, to quote Lutzer: “If we say that we will always obey the state, the state becomes our God.” (Ibid)

The brave Bonhoeffer rightly said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” He also said, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel.” The names of the cowardly and compliant pastors who succumbed to Hitler’s ignominious intimidation are forever lost, while the names of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller will live forever.

In fact, are not the vast majority of highly revered Hebrew and Christian heroes the ones who RESISTED the power of the state when it became tyrannical? From Abram, who resisted the “kings of the nations;” to Gideon; to Samson; to Queen Esther; to the prophet Micaiah; to Daniel; to Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego; to Simon Peter, who told civil leaders, “We ought to obey God rather than men;” to William Tyndale; to John Hus; to John Wycliffe; to John Bunyan; to Savonarola; to Martin Luther; to Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and to Jonas Clark, the names history regards most fondly are the names of men who RESISTED the power of the state when it attempted to interfere with man’s duty and devotion to God.

However, what do we see today? We see pastors and churches once again becoming the pawns of evil men in government. Pastors are not so much messengers of God and watchmen on the wall as much as they are agents of the state. They are not so much shepherds who fight and give their lives for the sheep as much as they are facilitators of the wolves who seek to prey on the sheep. And in modern history, the seed of this compromise and complacency began in 1954 when Lyndon Johnson introduced the devilish 501c3 tax-exempt corporation status for churches.

I am absolutely convinced–now more than ever–that America will never experience any sort of spiritual awakening until pastors and Christians abandon the 501c3 government churches and repudiate the devilish doctrine of unlimited obedience to Caesar. Until we return the Church to its rightful owner, Jesus Christ, the tentacles of oppression and tyranny will continue to strangle our land and our liberties.