(The Author’s Testimonial)
I’m very proud to be the citizen of a free society and the mem-ber of a free church. I chafe at any attempt to restrict what I can read, what I can believe, and where I can go. I accept the freedoms granted in the open Bible and the Bill of Rights as my most precious heritage. I despise all Old World dictatorial systems, whether politi-cal, judicial, priestly, aristocratic, or military.
Along with all these systems I dislike their attendant titles and ranks: “the honorable,” “the reverend,” “your honor,” “your grace,” “your excellency,” “commander,” “captain,” and “esquire.” Saluting, standing at attention, and other forms of obsequious behavior in the military should be recognized as beneath the dignity of every free-born citizen of this land. To my way of thinking all of these things clash with our basic American principles. And to me every other man is “sir” or “mister,” and every fellow believer is simply “bro-ther.”
Titles and ranks were largely left behind in the Old World when our American forebears crossed over to this continent. But in the systems named above, the European taint of class and rank has been perpetuated even in our otherwise democratic society. And the fact that this is so is a sign that many American citizens, who see some people as “better” than others, lack a true concept of consistent democracy. Thankfully, there are some indications nowadays that the democratic ideal is making headway in those denominations that have retained the “high church” tradition. And utopia will be finally achieved when hidebound judicial and military systems are eventu-ally reorganized along democratic principles.*
I applaud the Quaker of old, a real democrat, who would not take off his hat to any man. And I cheer the old uppity motto of my forebears, “Don’t tread on me!” For I bow to no man-made creeds, no
*For those who cannot see the possibility of a functional democratic army, it should be borne in mind that after the Russian Revolution that army got rid of its officers and elected leaders from the ranks. In deciding whether to attempt a military objective a vote was taken. That the system worked is exhibited by the extent that the Russian domains were expanded. Democracy is slow but sure, and in a military setting, some battles would be lost but the war eventually won.
charismatic rulers, no priestly interlopers into the pulpit or the par-ish. I resent arbitrary rules, literary censorship, and laws against victimless “crimes.” I prefer that education be employed in this lat-ter area, such as with seat belt and motorcycle helmet edicts, so that the enlightened citizen is left with his freedom of choice.
My esteem for equal rights and human dignity determines both my party and my faith. At the same time, however, I am frustrated whenever I encounter reverse discrimination or a minority group’s usurpation of the rights of the majority. For these same reasons, I hate to see my government’s sneaky attempts to undermine other political regimes that are freely supported by the majority of their citizens. I value the right to vote, whether in a political contest or a church business meeting. For me the populist ideal of equality best matches the congregational method of church polity.
I hold education - including public schools and Sunday Schools - in high esteem, since enlightened knowledge is the essential found-ation of a free democratic society. For church members of the Free Church heritage this can only mean a dedication to study and a de-sire to know everything possible in the realms of theology, ethics, church history, polity, and current denominational happenings.
Speaking as a Baptist layman and an American citizen, I defy any overlord’s authority and any trammels on my conscience or threats to my standing as an autonomous believer, as my own priest, and as a soul responsible only to God. Would that free men every-where might become aware of their high estate in God’s order and become more consistent in the exercise of democratic principles in all areas of life.
CIVITAS POPVLARIS IN OMNIBVS
(Democracy in Everything)