Tyrants have always known that they must either infiltrate and control the clergy, or destroy it. For in the tyrant’s mind there can never be two sovereigns. If God is your sovereign, then those who run the state are not, period. The word of God cannot be used to challenge the word of kings, princes, and potentates. It is potentially a lethal challenge to their supposed “authority” over anyone and everyone.
Ancient monarchs claimed a “divine right of kings,” implying that anything the king said or did was, by definition, divine. Disobey the king, and you were disobeying God himself. The clergy of the day were rewarded with pelf and power in return for supporting this false religion.
In more modern times the Soviet Union simply murdered thousands of priests. What little remnant was left of religion in the world’s biggest socialist paradise was staffed by KGB agents posing as priests, as Yuri Maltsev, a former advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev and now an American citizen, has said. These Potemkin Village churches allowed the Soviet regime to tell the Big Lie that there was still freedom of religion under communism.
American politicians are not much different from any other in that they possess a lust to dominate others. That is why they are politicians in the first place. But America’s political tyrants have never relied on voodoo-like theories of their own divinity, with the exception of the myth of Abraham Lincoln (affectionately known as “Father Abraham” to Lincoln cultists). Nor have they generally gone about mass murdering priests (although they did murder Mormons in the nineteenth century, and New Englanders were once quite intolerable of those whom they claimed to be practicing witchcraft). Instead, in quintessential American fashion, religion has come to be largely controlled and neutered by the state through the instruments of the tax code and the federal budget.
It is rare for a self-proclaimed “conservative” minister to ever voice anything but the mildest criticism of government, for they are all in mortal fear of losing their tax exemptions for doing so. Not only that, but many churches receive direct grants from the government and are therefore bribed into silence. Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, and the Jewish Federations receive more than half of their revenues from governments, for example.
President George W. Bush dealt a death blow to true religious freedom with his “Faith-Based Initiative” that dishes out several billion dollars each year in taxpayer dollars to (presumably politically well-behaved) churches. Obama has continued and escalated these subsidies.
Even ministers who personally believe that the welfare/warfare state is immoral and destructive – especially of families — rarely, if ever, bring the subject up with their flocks for fear of losing their tax exemptions, subsidies, and consequently their salaries, perks, and prestige in the community.
There is nothing “wrong” with churches becoming politicized per se in the eyes of the state, however. There is only a risk of losing your tax exemption if you, as a minister, preach opposition to the state. The federal government has never lifted a finger to harass all of the left-wing black churches and ministers under the direction of highly politicized Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton-style preachers, for example. Preaching the lies of the state – especially the lies used to “justify” the state’s wars – is welcomed and often rewarded with “faith-based” subsidies of all kinds.
As Pastor Chuck Baldwin of Liberty Fellowship in Kalispell, Montana (www.libertyfellowshipmontana.com) recently pointed out in a sermon, there are even ministers of “mega-churches” who fly around the country in private jets paid for by foreign governments “to preach global warfare” to their fellow “evangelical” Christians. (I would have said “paid for by a foreign government, in the singular, but that’s just me).
In fact, Pastor Baldwin has given up his 501(C)(3) tax exempt status so that he can preach the truth and speak truth to the power of the state without worrying about the state trying to put his small Montana church out of business. (Lew Rockwell similarly gave up his tax-exempt status for LewRockwell.com when Ron Paul ran for president so that we could all feel free to speak the truth about Ron and what he stands for without being harassed by the IRS).
If one were to visit Pastor Baldwin’s Web site (www.libertyfellowshipmontana.com), one could listen to sermons and read his columns calling the police, with some exceptions, “an occupying military force” in America that has been unconstitutionally militarized primarily by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. PATRIOT Act. One could hear him telling his fellow parishioners that the Republican Party has two great loves: “foreign wars abroad and a police state at home.” He is not praising the GOP for these things.
The “silent pastor” who says nothing of this to his parishioners, says Pastor Baldwin, is “helping to put the chains [of the state] around your neck.” He condemns the “Gestapo-like tactics of the Boston police” after the Boston Marathon bombing and is a fierce advocate of the right to bear arms. It is a man’s Biblical duty, he says, to make himself capable of protecting his family. So if you do not own an automatic rifle, get one, he advises.
Chuck Baldwin has successfully raised thousands of dollars to help other like-minded ministers create what he calls “Liberty Churches” that, because they are not tax exempt, can freely speak truth to power. He does not advocate that the government eliminate the tax-exempt status of churches, and neither does yours truly. His objective is for more and more churches to become educational vehicles about the evils and immorality of the state. He is taking on the state-worshipping ministers of the “mega-churches” who have essentially sold their souls to the state for power, money, and prestige.
Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; ;Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe, How Capitalism Saved America, Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution – And What It Means for America Today. His latest book is Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government.
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