1. Understanding Our Crisis: Whom Shall We Obey, God or Caesar? (Remastered)

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 15 2024

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  • Series: Obedience to God or Caesar? (Remastered)
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Understanding Our Crisis: Whom shall we Obey, God or Caesar?

R.J. Rushdoony

Our subject this first session is ‘understanding our crisis, whom shall we obey; Christ or Caesar?’ About eighteen years ago, I spent a few days with the chairman of the board of a major oil company. He wanted me to go to work for him full-time trying to combat modernism in the churches and socialism as well. I refused, much to his disappointment, he was not used to being turned down, because I said I was not interested in documenting our downfall, but rather in going out and conquering in Christ’s name. He then proceeded to tell me that he felt there was no hope for anything, except to preserve a remnant against the far distant future. He said moreover that he expected to see the entire world go into a dark age by the end of this century, and that we would not emerge from it for at least two centuries. And he said “you have seen nothing yet in the way of regulation and control, what we now…,” this was early in the sixties, “...see is small compared to what will come ten, twenty, and thirty years from now.”

His weak prognosis is common to many scholars today, I do not share it, I do believe it is a possibility. I do believe this decade will decide whether or not we go down into a long darkness and slavery, or whether we again take over this country, and use it as a base to bring the whole world into captivity to Jesus Christ. This is the key decade. We are today in a world crisis, we are in the last days of humanistic statism. Man since about 1660, and in this country since about 1860, has believed in an alien plan of salvation; salvation by the state. Cradle-to-grave security and salvation from big brother. And candidates for presidents in the country, and candidates for high office elsewhere run as though they represented The Second Coming of Jesus Christ, as though everything depended upon them. But I think politics offers us a false hope. And increasingly we are seeing today, a worldwide cynicism with regard to this savior, the state.

As far as a dark age is concerned, I believe we are in it right now and we need to work our way out of it. At the beginning of the sixties Elliot, an English scholar, wrote ‘The Twentieth Century Book of the Dead.’ Although the century was only slightly more than half gone when he wrote that book, what he did was to document the number of deaths all over the world through war, revolution, famine, slave labor camps, mass executions, and the like. And he found that a higher percentage of mankind has been killed in the twentieth century then in any other era of all human history. We are in the dark ages right now, the question is “will we work our way out?”. And I believe there is no other way than through Jesus Christ, and through restoring this country to a relationship to Christ as Lord, again to be a covenant people.

Since Elliot wrote his book on The Twentieth Century Book of the Dead, the situation has become far worse. As a matter of fact, some of the worst mass murders have taken place since then. Steve and Marshall were with me in Washington, D.C. recently when I spoke to the round table, we had one speaker of a different sort, a young couple the Tangs from Cambodia. Since 1975 half, half! of the population of Cambodia has systematically been eliminated, executed by the Khmer Rouge, the Communists. Any and all who belong in any one of six categories have been executed. These six categories are; connected with the old order, either having been a government official, an army man or related to someone who was, or a Christian, or educated – able to read and write, or having ever traveled outside the country, or having worked for a foreigner, or having lived even in a city, and thereby having had a taste of a different kind of life. One of the first things they did, the Tangs reported, was to order every person out of Phnom Penh, the capital, two million people. Why? Supposedly the Americans were going to drop nuclear weapons on Phnom Penh. It was an excuse to get them out and little by little to eliminate them. Much later the Tangs reported they didn’t use excuses, they lined them up and came along from behind and one by one knocked out their brains.

The dark age? Well it’s very possible. There are people who say it can’t happen now, with the advanced civilization we have. But other civilizations have had remarkable advancements. We’re just beginning to discover some facets of it. For example, one very obvious one is the Minoan civilization in ancient Crete, in the days long before the Greeks. They had hot and cold running water, they had flush toilets, they had all the amenities of civilization, but they’re gone! And civilization went back to barbarism; when Rome fell, and, by the way it fell, with millions in population against a few tens of thousands of barbarians, who just wandered through. What with the high taxes and the over-regulations, no-one in Rome felt the country was worth fighting for. As a matter of fact many families went out to meet the Barbarians as they moved in, and their attitude was “Well our woman folk will be raped once, and we will be robbed once and maybe after that it will be freedom again.” And so they greeted the barbarians. I recall reading almost twenty and thirty years after the fall of Rome the account of the group of prominent citizens, coming together in their villas for their social affairs, and going fox hunting, and telling themselves “all this trouble will be over, civilization will re-assert itself!” But in the few years, they were gone and Rome finally diminished to the point that a city of millions, had a population of five hundred living among the ruins.

We are in a world crisis, we are in an American crisis. Steve mentioned that I have been involved in the Christian school movement, in the past two years especially I’ve been involved in trials, trials of churches, trials of Christian schools, trials of parents. Let me tell you what’s happening. In California we have sixty-one churches who had their tax exemption revoked. They were taxed, they refused to pay the taxes. The county sold their properties to the state and in due time the state will auction off those churches for non-payment of taxes. Now, lest you think that’s unusual, like everything else in California, let me tell you that there’s federal pressure behind that, and federal policy, and we’re getting a trial run in California. And the same form 199-B that was used there I ran across about six weeks ago in South Carolina, and there was only one minister in the state who was aware of what was happening, and alerted to the danger of that, and no-one else would listen to him.

What happened to these churches? Why they became political, and therefore they were clobbered. How did they become political? There was a ballot measure on gay rights and they took a stand against homosexuality. In fact, the first church to get hit had a little ad in their local small city paper, “what the Bible says about homosexuality,” that made them political. If you have an opinion on abortion, you’re political, and you can be wiped out, and you better believe that they intend to do it. But, of course, not one paper in the state has had a story about that case. Or the fact that parents who spank their children, Christian parents, are arrested for child abuse. Did you know there was a case in Dallas, where a seminary student who needed an eight hundred dollar loan sent his wife to a bank to get it and a little boy, about four years old, was reaching onto the loan officer's desk and grabbing things, and she said “You do that one more time and I’m going to slap you.” He did, and she reached out and slapped his hand. Two women promptly called the welfare department, and reported a case of child abuse. Before she got to her car she was under arrest and her child was taken from her.

I could spend an hour telling you of like cases across the country. Parents who are arrested for no more reason than putting their child in a Christian school. In fact, Jim Olen, a farmer in Ohio, put his children in the school next door to his farm, an Amish school, and he was promptly arrested for contributing to the delinquency of his minor child. The trial was held fourteen months later, the testimony indicated that Jennifer, having completed grade one, tested between high third and low fifth grade. Obviously the school was a good one, but he was still convicted.

Earlier this year, one of the trials I was at, I’m going to be in two trials next month, was a trial of some Mennonite children in Nebraska, all arrested because they were going to a Mennonite school in a state that decided to either make it to submit to the state board or shut it down; so all the children were arrested as juvenile delinquents, on the grounds of truancy. The defense attorney got up and he read the state criminal code and he said:

“Your honor, I move for a dismissal because the code defines delinquency as lawlessness in home, school, or society, and these kids are, by no stretch of the imagination, lawless. And it defines truancy as; ‘absence from home or school,’ and it does not define the school as a state-approved one, or a public school.”

The judge ruled that was a narrow reading of the state code. I testified for some time, but I don’t know whether my, (since the decision has not been rendered), my testimony was allowed. The judge, after a long argument in the courtroom and in chambers, of about an hour or so, said I could testify, but he reserved the right to drop it from the record before rendering a verdict. Why? Because my testimony had to do with The First Amendment and the state attorney had said in his objection against my testifying, (and this was not the first time I’ve heard this), The First Amendment is of historical interest only. In some instances we have had state attorneys go back for legal precedence to Henry VIII and Henry II, tyrants who persecuted the church, and cite six hundred years of precedence in English law, and never mention The First Amendment, and the court buys the argument, because it wants it.

We are increasingly told that the church is a charitable trust, in some states, and across country this will be done. The IRS is behind this, the church is quietly being reclassified as a charitable trust. Now that doesn’t affect your tax exemption so, most places where this happens, if they even know of it, the churches are not concerned. They’re still tax exempt. But what does it mean? Why, a charitable trust, like United Way, is totally, totally accountable to the state and/or The Federal Government for all use of funds, assets, and properties which must be used without regard to race, color, or creed. And that last is a tip off, what they intend to do is to say, that, in due time, when they’re ready, that a church must give equal time to Buddhism, and Mohammedanism, and Humanism, and every other faith. And if you think I’m jumping to conclusions let me tell you, we have a key case in California where the state maintained precisely that, and won. And the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the argument, refused to hear the appeal.

We have the argument that ‘tax exemption is a subsidy,’ we have the argument coming from federal and state sources that ‘the church is not entitled to tax exemption in terms of the first amendment because The Sixteenth Amendment makes no exception for the churches.’ So that the church is now liable to an income tax, a property tax, and any other kind of tax. That all it has is a statutory exemption, not a constitutional one, and therefore at will that exemption can be revoked.

As a matter of fact, on one occasion, when I was having a long argument with a bureaucrat who had a briefcase full of federal directives that he was throwing at me. I kept hitting him with “what does The First Amendment mean to you?” And finally after about an hour he answered and he said, and these were his words:

“The First Amendment means the right of any priest, rabbi, or minister, to preach from the articles of his religion, and from the scriptures thereof from a given physical pulpit in a given physical building, but the right of that pulpit and of that building to exist is totally subject to government licensure, regulation, permit, and control.”

And I said “that’s exactly the situation we have in the Soviet Union.” And he did not answer.

We’ve had in a few states attempts to control church nurseries. The church nurseries that are for the working mothers in the church, because some of them have found that they cannot put them in a state nursery, some of them are giving elementary sex education, are giving humanistic training and what-not. But also we’ve had attempts to move in, well in two states there have been arrests and trials of women and of pastors because women’s groups meeting during the week have had one of the young mother’s take turns each time taking care of the children in the nursery. After all, if they’re going to get the young mother’s to the women’s guild meetings, they’ve got to have someone look after the children in the nursery and that constitutes, we are told, a childcare facility that is unlicensed.

If you think that’s far-fetched let me tell you that we have had a legal opinion that hinted at, and an oral opinion from one Attorney General’s office, that the Christian school is not under the first amendment because it is educational, and that the same applies to the Sunday School, it’s educational, and to the sermon, because the sermon is educational. What then has First Amendment immunity in a church service? Why simply the liturgy, the singing, but maybe they’ll get that in due time. After all, in one court in The South it has been ruled that no one is entitled to any tax deduction for a gift to a church, if services have been rendered; the services can include schooling for their children, pastoral counseling, heating and air conditioning, lighting, carpeting, seats, well what is tax-deductible then? Now that’s not yet gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, but you can see the direction of things.

Of course, the battle for control of the Christian schools is a major one. After all, we are tackling a ninety billion dollar a year industry, and it does not want to give up very readily. It’s one of the biggest industries in the world. It’s badly hurt by two things; first its own incompetence. By federal statistics there are thirty million graduates of the public schools who cannot read or write. They’re illiterate. There are thirty-four million more who read so poorly they cannot follow directions, and they cannot figure out change when they’re given change for a ten dollar or a twenty dollar bill. Sixty-four million out of two hundred and twenty who are uneducated, we’ve never had it worse as far as literacy is concerned. The second reason why the public schools are failing is because the Christian schools are giving a good education and a Christian education. And as a result, three or more new schools are established every day by Christians. By the time they reached the twelfth grade in Christian school on the whole, they are three to five years ahead of the public school students in their achievement.

Between twenty and thirty percent of the children of this country are in the Christian schools. An editorial in the February, 1980, ‘Nation’s Business’ was titled ‘Doomsday for Public Education?’ And it did indicate by the end of this decade Public Education would be a minority item. They’re not going to take that very readily, they are out fighting to destroy the Christin school movement, to control it; lock, stock, and barrel, to incorporate it into the state system by controls. In one trial, which we won, in Kentucky I believe it was, or North Carolina, I believe it was Kentucky, they actually were going to take it over so totally that it would be a part of the Public School system, with one exception, they would in the goodness of their heart allow fifteen minutes a day for Bible or worship, everything else had to be totally as it was in the Public Schools.

We have a fight on our hands, we are in a war and you had better know it! And the way to fight a war is to take the offensive. Sometime, within the next year or two we’re going to have a measure on the, an initiative on the ballot in California, the Canfield-Hickey initiative to abolish the public schools permanently, by law, and I think we’ll get it. And one of the things we think we’ll get that scares the public educators half to death is most of the black vote, because they feel the public schools are turning their children into hoodlums that they themselves are afraid of.

But you know the worse fact in this whole picture is not what the enemy is doing, they are logical. They’re fighting for their life, they recognize that if they don’t destroy us soon, by the end of this century this is going to be a Christian republic, with practically every child brought up with a Christian education, in a Christian school and believing the Bible from cover to cover, and that scares them to death. I know, because they’ve told me. But do you know that in virtually trial I’ve been in some minister or Christian leader gets up and testifies for the state, against us? And that we have a whole legion of people out there who, if you tell them what’s happening, they say: “well they must have done something wrong to be on trial.” In other words, it has to be the fault of the Christians, it can’t be the fault of the bureaucracy, they’re infallible apparently. And do you know that’s not unique to this country? It’s a cop-out, and in The Soviet Union if Ivan Ivanovich, who’s in the apartment next to you, gets hauled away in the middle of the night, what do you say? Not “this is a horrible government we’re living under” “Well Ivan Ivanovich must have done something wrong, after all he got arrested and I didn’t!”

But perhaps the most deadliest strategy which is now in process of implementation by The IRS is its demand that churches and schools conform to public policy. Carter is emphatically in favor of it, last year, because of the tremendous flood of letters, Congress passed the Dornan and Ashbrook amendments to the Treasury appropriations bill handcuffing The IRS for the fiscal year. Carter asked that those handcuffs be dropped, although even with those handcuffs The IRS has been going after churches. They went to a church I know, a large Baptist church about twenty to thirty years old with a Christian school of six hundred or more, and demanded that they produce evidence and turn over their books to The IRS so that The IRS could determine whether they were a church. They demanded all these things and said; “answer within thirty days!” The pastor wrote back and said; “why are you asking us these questions? Answer within thirty days, p.s., under separate cover we are sending you a copy of our constitution, it is titled The Holy Bible.” He got a stiff letter back saying that it was not a sufficient document.

But, the idea of public policy means that anything that is decided by the state, the church must conform to. Now, the pretext used to impose this doctrine is segregation. Supposedly, Christian schools were segregated. The reality is, of course, they were not, perhaps there are a few here and there, I know of only one when Jerome Kurtz, commissioner of The IRS was on the stand in the house he was asked how many such schools he knew of, he could only cite one. Now in the name of one school, he was going to control every Christian school in the country. Friend of mine, Bill Kelly in San Diego, got up and testified against the regulations, I was there also as one of the people testifying. It was a pleasure by the way to stand before the top brass of The IRS and tell them what you thought of them, and document it. At any rate, Bill Kelly said: “now we have a system of Christian schools in San Diego, we are going into the Mexican and the black areas and establishing Christian schools, we have a higher percentage then you require legally, except at one point, and in terms of that we would be called a segregationist school and shut down.” And he said “We are below the required percentage of teachers” and I forget whether it was black or Mexican, “although we are way above it on everything else, but you would still shut us down in terms of your regulations?”

Well, this public policy position means that, if it is public policy to integrate, you do. Well the schools are already doing that, but what about public policy as far as abortion is concerned? Do you teach abortion in your school, and provide abortion counseling to your children? That’s what the policy means. Any and every policy that the federal government adopts becomes public policy, and the church will be required, and the Christian school, to conform. Thus we have a problem, a very serious problem. A world crisis, an American Crisis, a war, a religious war, and we had better know they are shooting at us or we’re finished.

But we have a theological crisis as well, and we had better wake up to that. What is the theological crisis? The whole issue is one of Lordship, or to use the more modern term, sovereignty. They’re the same thing. Do you know that that U.S. constitution does not ever refer to sovereignty? They did not use the word because they believed only in the sovereignty of God. On the fiftieth anniversary of The Constitution at the great celebration in New York City an ex-president, John Quincy Adams, was the speaker. He gave a magnificent address, it used to be, you know, in the readings for grade school children, but since the 1860’s it has disappeared. What John Quincy Adams did was to attack the doctrine of state sovereignty and federal sovereignty. And he said “if the framers of the constitution were here they would witness to us that sovereignty is not in us, not in man, not in the government, but it belongs to the Lord God of hosts and to him alone.” As late as 1919 at the Versailles Treaty, Secretary of State Lansing objected to the use of the term ‘sovereignty.’ He said “it is not an American doctrine”. Now it is. And we are told that the state, and the federal government have sovereign powers, it’s the same thing as saying divine powers. After all, every modern political philosophy stems from Hegel, whose religion was this; that the state is God walking on earth.

I don’t know how many of you have heard tapes of the talk I’ve given to groups that are facing court battle on ‘Molech worship and the Lordship of Christ,’ any of you? A couple of you, alright. Let me just go briefly into the matter. One of the central things in the scriptures condemned by God in the giving of the law is the worship of Molech, or Moloch. We also encounter the word as ‘Melech,’ ‘Malick,’ and ‘Milcolm;’ it’s our English name ‘Malcolm.’ It’s a good word, it means ‘king.’ Molech worship was the worship of the state, every parent was expected to go to the government center, where there would either be an image of the king, or his battle standard, or a flag, and there would be a low fire with a few coals and he would hold his child and pass his child over that fire and say “I dedicate my child to the state, to the king, to the sovereign, so that he is to live and die for our Lord the king, our lord the state.” In the time of crisis that child could actually be sacrificed, one or two would be ritually sacrificed to the state. It meant that you and your children belonged to the state, and God pronounced this as one of the greatest of all abominations!

This was the same thing required of The Early Church in Caesar worship. Rome wanted Christianity to apply for a license and be a legalized religion. It begged the church to come forward, and they said “we’ll waive most of the regulations for you; we just want you to be legalized.” In fact one emperor went so far as to have an image made of Jesus, and put in his private chapel, and let the word be passed around that he thought the world of their Jesus, in fact, he often prayed to Him. “So what’s the trouble with you Christians, why don’t you come and get a license? Have our Roman IRS make you a church and put up our certificate” they actually gave them a certificate, “in your place of worship. That’s all! Except when you do, you just go to the battle standard and say “Caesar is Lord”” What did these Christians do? Paul said that the confession of the Christian, Philippians 2:9-11 is this “Jesus Christ is Lord” and the early church required every convert to stand before the congregation and make that testimony, which meant putting his life on the line with the Roman government to say in either three or four words “Jesus Chris is Lord” or “Jesus is Lord”. And they said to the Roman authorities “Caesar is not Lord over Christ, Christ is Lord over Caesar”. And for this they were executed, they believed in the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Now it’s the same battle today; in Texas, in California, in North Carolina, Florida, Nebraska, North Dakota, all over the country. We are at war, the humanists are determined to root every vestige of Christianity from this country, and step by step to make it a humanistic country. They will never admit to being at war with Christianity, they’re doing it in the name of a number of regulations. And do you know in the Soviet Union they have never officially said they are at war against Christianity? They’re at war with abuses, they want everything controlled, they believe in freedom of religion. In fact, they have a longer statement in their constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion. And yet, I’ve been in two trials in two different states where old state statutes that required that The Ten Commandments be posted in a school building or in a courtroom be declared unconstitutional. I guess they’re afraid that some child seeing “Thou shalt not steal” will have a trauma or something. We mustn’t have such a thing hanging on the wall where the dear little children can read it.

In one state we won, and it’s on appeal, and the other state we have lost. But it’s something as insignificant as that. Just The Ten Commandments posted somewhere in the building on the wall. Every vestige of the Christian faith they want to uproot. We are at war, it’s time, isn’t it, that we started fighting? I believe that we can and must win this war; I believe this is the critical decade. Four years ago I was (and with this I will finish) speaking at a legal seminar at The University of Notre Dame Law School. It was on the fiftieth anniversary of Pierce versus Society of Sisters, a very famous trial. The whole of the legal seminar was on the Christian school issue, they asked a Supreme Court Justice to give the summarizing and concluding address. He was ready to come until he found out what the subject was, and he refused and every other federal judge refused also. And their answer was the same “we expect” they said “that in the next decade the major type of case facing the courts will have to do with the Christian schools, and religion.” They could see where the battle is, will you and your churches see it as clearly? Your life and your faith is at stake. Thank you.

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