Voluntary Associations and the Tithe - RR144F11

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: 11. Voluntary Associations & the Tithe
Course: Course - American History to 1865
Subject: Subject:History
Lesson#: 11
Length: 0:43:38
TapeCode: RR144F11
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
American History to 1865(7).jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.

Well I think we can begin, but first of all are there any questions? I didn’t leave you time for questions at the end of the last session. Are there any questions about anything we dealt with in connection with De Tocqueville? Have you been reading De Tocqueville? Are you finding him interesting reading? Now I’ve assigned you the key portions in terms of what we are going to be studying in these sessions, you will be reading much more in the second book, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to read the rest, for your own satisfaction because De Tocqueville is good reading. So sometime at your convenience when the course is finished perhaps you can pick up and read all of De Tocqueville, and you will find him a gold mine of very interesting comments and observations.

Now, we are going to pick up one of the strands of thought that De Tocqueville mentions. We will deal with it again briefly next week. Remember I quoted De Tocqueville as saying “Society governs itself for itself.” Nothing is more striking to a European traveler in the United States than the absence of what we term government or the administration. We cannot understand early America apart from this fact. [00:01:57]

De Tocqueville recognized that real government of the...[edit]

De Tocqueville recognized that real government of the United States was not what was called government. It was what he called “Private Association.” Private Association. Now what were these private associations? They were tithe agencies which were created by people to deal with a variety of problems. These tithe associations were formed by the people, for just almost any problem, that appealed to them. Any idea, any concept, any cause that struck their fancy. There were literally hundreds and thousands of them. For example one very early traveler in the United States, Achille Murat, the eldest son of Joachim Murat, who was king of Naples under Napoleon, and as a boy was the crown prince, wrote a very critical work about the religions of America, and in the course of his discussion on America he said: “The great number of religious societies existing in the United States is truly surprising. There are some of them for everything. For instance, societies to distribute the Bible, to distribute tracts, to encourage the (latest journals?) convert, civilize, educate the savages, to marry the preachers, to take care of their widows and orphans, to preach, extend, preserve, reform, purify the faith, to build chapels, endow congregations, support seminaries, catechize and convert sailors, Negros and loose women, to secure the observance of Sunday, prevent blasphemy by prosecuting the violators, to establish Sunday schools where young ladies teach reading and the catechism to little robes, male and female, to prevent drunkenness, and so on. And he goes on to ridicule the idea of societies being created to deal with every problem under the sun. Now to Murat it was a joke, but in reality it was real government in America. [00:04:52]

Monday when I was at Roanoke, speaking to a ministerial...[edit]

Monday when I was at Roanoke, speaking to a ministerial group there, I told them what tithe agencies did in early America, the voluntary associations and tithe agencies. And I cited the example of Salem, Massachusetts. In 1795, Salem had approximately 2500 people, just a small town. In 1854, 50 years later, it had a population of 45,000. Now that of course was a considerable multiplication. It meant that every few years Salem doubled and redoubled its population. From a small puritan village it had become a small sized city. And yet is character did not basically change. How with all the foreigners pouring in had they been able to keep Salem basically with the same kind of Puritan character? Well Salem was doing what every community across the United States was doing. They were organizing societies, sometimes calling a pastor or layman to be their officer, and established Sunday schools to teach immigrants, establishing churches for immigrants, Christian Schools to teach immigrant children, special schools to teach at night to teach the immigrants English, and help Americanize them, and prepare them for life here. Special training sessions to teach the immigrant wives homemaking in America, how to can food, how to use the kinds of foods that are available in America, many of which they didn’t know anything about. Chapels as points of evangelization for sailors, Tract societies, Bible societies, Societies to evangelize particular groups of immigrants, societies to do any number of things, you can hardly begin to imagine the endless variety of societies that were provided.

In fact, I ran across one once, this was with regard to England where this same kind of movement spread, a society to provide (?) for indigents and injured working men. Now that sound ridiculous, but if you were a poor working man and you were laid up and there was some group to provide you with a trust so that you can go back to work, you’d be pretty grateful. What it meant was that Christian people were saying: “Anytime there is any kind of need we can imagine, we’re going to try to meet that need.” So that at every community there were literally hundreds of groups and organizations, ranging from a handful of women to a great number of men and women, who were dedicated to ministering to a particular cause. And a lot of time and money and effort was going into that cause. [00:08:45]

You cannot understand American History up until the...[edit]

You cannot understand American History up until the last Century apart from these groups. Now consider one fact alone. A vast number of the immigrants who came to this country were Catholic. These tithe agencies, because they ministered to them, maybe it was just teaching them English, or maybe job training, or education for their children, and they immediately had a rapport with them, and large numbers of them… (?) The Irish potato famine for example brought boatload after boatload after boatload of Irishmen, a tremendous wave of Irish immigration to the United States. I was very interested not too long ago to read a very interesting analysis by a brilliant Catholic Priest and sociologist, in which he pointed out the overwhelming majority of Irishmen in the United States are Protestant. A very large percentage of them (?) How did that happen? You don’t think of Irishmen as Protestants. But most of them in this country are Protestant, simply because of these tithe agencies. So that you can see what a tremendous impact they were making on the country from one end to the other.

Moreover, what this did do was to establish as the basis for operation the voluntary principle, so that the people of this country felt that if there is a problem, we can take care of it. And as a result, nowhere in the world did the Red Cross take off to a greater extent than in the United States. Now the Red Cross happened to get its start in Switzerland, under a man named Dumont. But it very quickly spread all over the world, and it got its greatest start in this country. During Clevelands administration there was I believe a flood in the mid-west or south, and someone proposed that congress pass a relief measure to take care of the people. and Cleveland refused. And he said “We’ve always taken care of it as a people, out of our own resources, voluntarily. It’ll be a sad day for the United States when the people don’t take care of it by themselves and the Federal Government or the State government has to step in and do it. Well things have changed a little bit since then have they not. [00:12:07]

But, when you realize that all the relief agencies...[edit]

But, when you realize that all the relief agencies that ministered to every kind of situation that arose in this country, and then to every need that arose all over the world, you realize what a tremendous factor the volunteers of America was. In fact every cause of every needy group all over the world found a sympathetic friend in the United States. Was it Hungarians who were trying to overthrow the Hapsburgs? They would come over to the United States, pass the hat around. Very sure that because Americans loved freedom they were going to help the Hungarians who wanted to be free. Was it the Jews who were being oppressed by the Czar? Well then again they could be sure that nowhere in the world were they going to find more sympathy and help than in the United States. The amount of relief money that flowed out of the United States all over the world was enormous. The amount of missionary money that went out from the United States all over the world, from one denomination or another, was again a tremendous factor. Missionary movement of the last century as it developed out of protestant countries and especially out of the Unites States and continued up until World War 2 continued to be a very powerful factor it was stated since then to a great extent. It is one of the most remarkable things in the world. It created more schools, did more to educate various parts of the world than most Americans realize. American ideas, American education standards, American traditions were carried all over the world. [00:14:20]

We had as a result a vast reservoir of good will all...[edit]

We had as a result a vast reservoir of good will all over the world which we have unfortunately abused by getting involved in world politics. We had a tremendous reputation, as the hope of the world, the country that was ready to help every other people in time of need, and did so. And at the same time we were doing so much within our own borders, to an unbelievable degree. What his meant then was that the real government of the United States was not what we think of as government. Today when we say government we think of Washington or the Statehouse or something like that. Now as the college students know because they undoubtedly read my This Independent Republic and some of my other things, When you go back to the colonial period, the people in that area, when you said government did not think the Statehouse. For them Government first meant moral, the self-government of the Christian man. That was the basic Government.

Then second it meant the family. The family is the basic government of every man; it’s the first government you are born into. Your parents, believe me, govern you. And you govern your parents. The family is the first government, the first church, the first school, it’s the first society of every man, it’s a very real government.

Then third there was the church, the church was a government.

Then fourth there was your work, your work governs you. Believe me, if you doubt that it’s a government, just think about when you’re going to get up in the morning. You are governed; you have to get up at a set time because your job requires you to. You do certain things because your job requires you to. That’s government, your work governs you. [00:16:55]

Then fifth, there are the governments exercised by...[edit]

Then fifth, there are the governments exercised by society. The groups you live among, a very important aspect of government. After all, you are not likely to go, say to a meeting or to a dinner party, dressed in Levis, and without a tie if you figure everyone is going there in formal dress. You might like to go that way, but you go the way you are expected to go. I recall some years ago in California this very prominent Philadelphia minister was out there teaching at a conference, he thought that since it was California way out west it wasn’t going to be formal, as things were in Philadelphia, so he started to go in to the dinner meeting on the conference grounds to speak, and he happened to look in and everyone there was dressed in a tie and coat. So he ducked out, hurried back, changed, and then came in. He was being governed. I think I can tell you a favorite story of mine about the same sort of thing. Some years ago I knew and met and talked awhile with an Irish Presbyterian pastor, he was in California visiting at the time, and he said that his sister in California sent him a very fine wool shirt, a checkered shirt. And he was delighted with it; it was a present to him for his birthday. He thought this was ideal, I’m going in to the football match, it was outback tomorrow, football match was what we would call soccer, it was a big game for them there, and he would be good and warm in it. Well in Ireland of course all the Protestant clergy were clericals, with the clerical collar and all, so the next day he went down, in this checkered wool sports shirt, with (?) enjoyed the football game good and warm, felt wonderful, the Americans really have some good ideas about sweaters. Came back and found his wife and daughter in tears. Why? Well half the town had seen him go to the railroad station, and rumors were racing all through town, (?) is up to no good, dressing up as anything but a man of the cloth like some racy American. Well you can be sure he’s not up to any good, maybe he’s going into a house of ill fame. So his wife and daughter were reduced to tears by the time he got home. Well he was so horrified by the incident that he put the shirt in the closet, he said he didn’t even have the nerve to put it on around the house. And he said I brought it with me here to America because I figured I could wear it here. But he said you know when I put it on once here I felt like I was going to go out and sin or something. So I took it off and put it in my suitcase again.

Now that’s government. The government of the society around us. We are all governed by our society, so it’s a very important aspect of government, even though society doesn’t pass the rules, and say “Now if you do thus and so we’re going to penalize you”, but the penalties are there if you break societies rules. [00:21:09]

And there are other forms of government that we are...[edit]

And there are other forms of government that we are all party to, but then let’s put down next the state. What they called civil government. The only time the puritans for example were talking about what we call government was when they said civil government. Apart from that it was not to be considered as anything but one of these, self-government or the family or something else. Well it was in this area of society that De Tocqueville said that “Society Governs itself.” How? It creates all kinds of voluntary agencies and institutions which in one way or another effectively govern everybody. They reach out into one area of life after another, and they minister every need. Society governs itself for itself. Nothing is more striking to a European traveler in the United States, than the absence of what we term government, or the administration.

Now, it is when society ceases to govern itself that the state begins to take over. In the basic government as it existed then, and De Tocqueville wasn’t here long enough to know, was connected with the church. The church, was creating, Christians were creating in connection with the church, all kinds of voluntary associations. [00:23:15]

This is why, and here we are dealing less with history...[edit]

This is why, and here we are dealing less with history but with the conclusions we draw from history, wherein does our future lie? (Precisely in the same sort of thing again?) After all, social financing is an inescapable fact. And if voluntary agencies don’t supply social financing, for health, education and welfare, the government is going to do it, is it not? This is why in terms of scripture the tithe is so important, because it is through the tithe that you minister to these various areas of life, you create agencies and institutions, and of course this is what our organization, Chalcedon is try to do through its work. It is trying to create, to revive, the effectiveness of the tithe so that Christians will begin to see their responsibility again, to create voluntary associations and again to take over the basic government of society.

If social financing is not provided for by people, voluntarily, the state is going to provide it. This is where the conservatives are way off base. They talk about eliminating taxes, wiping out all these welfare grants and so on and so forth, but what is going to happen then? There always are needs. Now they are going to be met illegitimately, they are going to be met with padded welfare roles, padded relief roles, with padded help roles for those who are needy and indigent, and it’s going to be (?) until the government does it.

But when Christian people do it through voluntary associations it’s a different thing. Somebodies got to do it. When it is done legitimately, it can be done honestly as well. This is our problem. As the voluntary associations that De Tocqueville was describing began to wane and disappear, civil government began to pick them up in one function after another. But as civil government took it over there was always corruption with it. (?) There were sometimes some groups that were corrupt, but if they worked (?) that was their end. If you’re giving on a voluntary basis to me you see, and you feel that I am misusing the funds, you quit giving and that is the end of my work. But you can’t quit giving to the state. It has the taxing power, and I don’t. The only way I can raise money for Chalcedon is to sell my services to you in such a way that you feel that I’m providing your needs. The same way that this school survives because it sells to the parents a product they like. We are both rendering a service, we are in a form voluntary associations, we are an aspect of society governing itself, providing schools, providing ideas, without taxation. And we are both subject to the market place, we either deliver or we’ve had it. [00:27:13]

Now this was the all important factor in De Tocqueville...[edit]

Now this was the all important factor in De Tocqueville’s analysis that many people miss. Now De Tocqueville did not take time to go into all the associations, in fact he didn’t really know much about them. All he knew was that they existed. Now he went on to say, there are two methods of diminishing the force of authority in a nation. The first is to weaken the supreme power, and (?) by forbidding or preventing society from acting in its own defense under certain circumstances. To weaken authority in this manner is what is generally termed in Europe to lay the foundations of freedom. The second manner of diminishing the influence of authority does not consist in stripping society of any of its rights, nor in paralyzing its efforts, but in distributing the exercises of its privileges among various hands, and in multiplying functionaries, each of whom the degree of power necessary for him to perform his duty is entrusted. There may be nations whom this distribution of, that there may be nations whom this distribution of social powers might lead to anarchy, but in its self it is not anarchical. The action of authority is indeed thus rendered less irresistible and less perilous, but it is not totally suppressed. The revolution of the United States was the result of a mature and deliberate case for freedom. Not of a vague or ill-defined craving for independence. It contracted no alliance with the turbulent passions of anarchy, but its course was marked on the contrast by an attachment to whatever was lawful, and orderly. It was never assumed in the United States that the citizen of a free country had the right to do whatever he pleases. That’s what you hear today, isn’t it. [00:29:34]

On the contrary, social obligations were there imposed...[edit]

On the contrary, social obligations were there imposed upon him more various than anywhere else. No idea, was ever entertained of attacking the principals, or suppressing the rights of society. But the exercise of authority was divided, to the end that the office might be powerful, and the officer insignificant. That the community should be at once regulated and free. In no country in the world does the law hold so absolute a language as in America, and in no country is the right of applying it invested in so many hands. The administrative power in the United States present nothing either central or hierarchical in its constitution which accounts for its passing on prestige. The power exists, but its representative is not to be (discerned?)

A very telling passage. De Tocqueville makes clear that precisely because of this kind of thing there is more authority in the United States spread out. The citizen instead of being free to do what he pleases is not free, he has more obligations. This is a different kind of freedom, it is a responsible freedom. Did you know the idea that freedom is the right to do what you please better apples to Cuba today? And to the Soviet Union? Why? Because in that irresponsible sense what is life like there. You earn money, but can’t buy many clothes with it. You stand in line to buy food and a pair of shoes. So what do you do with your money? Well you can use it on pleasure. Life in Cuba it is said is a perpetual fiesta, according to Doctor (Hans Zimler?). Why? Well the people are making money, so you don’t what them to be unhappy because they can’t get good clothes or good food, so you make sure there is always a fiesta, always cultural activities, so you do what you please, live it up, have a good time. Entertainment is the big industry. Every little town in the Soviet Union has the opera house. Its cultural center. What is there to spend money on for but amusement, culture. And so it is the growth industry in the United States in entertainment. The more freedom that is taken away from men to be responsible, the more freedom is given to them to be irresponsible. To do as they please, in an irresponsible sense.

As a result, the decline of the voluntary associations was marked by a decline of personal responsibility. Of self-government. [00:33:16]

As the idea of self-government as the basic government...[edit]

As the idea of self-government as the basic government declines, these voluntary associations declined, and there were fewer and fewer agencies to take care of the various things. We still have more than most countries. We still for example minister to children all over the world, we have various relief funds for children, we maintain orphanages in Korea and Vietnam and elsewhere, and we to a great extent were responsible for relieving a great deal the famine in Africa this summer, when famine conditions were so prevalent there. So that we are to a great extent still very heavily under the influence of voluntary associations. But what we do today is a shadow compared to what was a century and half ago. It was then the real government in the United States.

You know the anarchists and the (pacifists?) today talk about abolish all government. well we were as close to that as any people could be. We had so little government that it was next to non-existent. It was in the hands of people through voluntary association. And it is never going to return to that kind of thing until you have again the self-government of the Christian man, with his willingness to tithe, and his willingness to give.

Are there any questions now? Yes?

[Inaudible question]

[Rushdoony] Yes, we shall be dealing with this very soon; I think we will get to it tomorrow night. But you are pointing in the right direction. It was one of the most tragic aspects of American history, this arrangement unique in history has disappeared, we have only touched the surface tonight… well, we have touched more than the surface, we touched half of it, a very important half. And we will next consider tomorrow night almost certainly, the other half of this story, how this came about, how it was maintained. We still have the fundamental principles with us. They are very important. [00:35:59]

[Inaudible question]...[edit]

[Inaudible question]

[Rushdoony] No, of course it is not. You always need the state for the criminal you see. Yes Incidentally I forgot one, a very important one, the school. The school is a very important governing agency in your life for many years. Yes excuse me, please continue.

[Inaudible question]

[Rushdoony] Yes, he’s at odds with the whole thing, he is at war with everything.

[Inaudible question]

[Rushdoony] You don’t absolutize anything except God.

[Inaudible question]

[Rushdoony] Yes, the united funds in a sense are products of this background, but they are also a product of the state trying to control this tradition. So I am not altogether happy with the united funds because they are trying to take over to too great an extent, and say the only good voluntary associations which are in our circle. Now in Los Angeles county we have this problem in a particularly acute way, both good and bad. Some few years ago because there were some fraudulent groups, and medical groups, and by medical I mean not formed by doctors but for medical causes; to relieve this or that disease and raising funds for this and that disease, and many of them were fraudulent. And maybe they would raise several million and maybe a 100,000 or 200,000 would go to the cause they were talking about. This was true for a long time of (Christmas deals?) a vast amount of money was being raised supposedly in the early days to deal with tuberculosis. A small portion of it finally they found out was actually going to deal with TB. Since then supposedly they’ve had a cleanup in the organization. But for some time it was beauracracy ridden and it was a good racket for a good many people. Well what LA county did was to say: “We are going to set up an organization to investigate every one of these associations that makes an appeal within the county, to see how much money is actually going to the cause they profess, and how much is going for administration and for publicity and the like. And they were giving very excellent reports on all these organizations, so that at any time you could ask for a report on the heart fund, or on a (?), or on (Christmas Eels?), anything. You would be told exactly where every penny collected across the United States or in LA county was going. So it was a tremendous asset in that you had a very healthy check on these organizations. But it does lead to a danger because the state commissioned doing this. When you are protecting people against themselves you are taking away a certain amount of responsibility (?). That’s the essence of socialism, you protect people against themselves, against their own ignorance or folly or sin. So the state commission wants now, increasingly to tell any organization whether it’s a Christian one or otherwise that if it’s going to make a public appeal for funds that well, let us see, your books, you organization, and we will tell you whether we will approve you or not. And you have page after page of questionnaires to fill out before they approve of you or not, even apart from your financial structures. So this becomes a kind of governing system. Well now Chalcedon is a tax exempt organization and it has no administrative expenses because we don’t even have an office. (?) scholars full time and a number of others part time writing (?) but I wouldn’t submit anything to them, when one or two people who were writing on a payroll deduction basis gave a little bit to us each month, because what they were in effect saying was “We are going to determine whether you are a valid institution or not apart from you financing. So you tell us all about yourself and allow us to be a judge over what kind of organization you are. You see, it can, the United Crusade or the United Fund can create some serious problems. [00:42:56]

Now in some places I may be wrong on this so don’t...[edit]

Now in some places I may be wrong on this so don’t take my word on it, I think Salvation Army has pulled out, because they got unhappy, I do know that a Salvation Army person a few years ago, an officer told me they were thinking of doing this because they were unhappy with the kind of supervision and government that was beginning to creep in. So it does have perils. Any other questions? We have time for one or two more. Well if not, we can call ourselves adjourned now. [00:04:38]