Acton Institute Powerblog

‘Soul-Killing Collectivism’

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I like to think of J. Gresham Machen as the American Presbyterian Chesterton — though he is sometimes more explicit in his societal commentary than his British Catholic counterpart. In my Sunday reading, I keep coming across interesting lines from his selected shorter writings (edited by D.G. Hart) that call to mind current campaign rhetoric, especially from senators Obama and Clinton, about the need for expanded or universal preschool and state-subsidized education in general. Here are a few quotes from Machen’s 1933 address titled, “The Necessity of the Christian School”:

…The tyranny of the scientific expert is the most crushing tyranny of all. That tyranny is being exercised most effectively in the field of education. A monopolistic system of education controlled by the state is far more efficient in crushing our liberty than the cruder weapons of fire and sword. Against this monooply of education by the state the Christian school brings a salutary protest; it contends for the right of parents to bring up their children in accordance with the dictates of their conscience and not in the manner prescribed by the state.

Every lover of human freedom ought to oppose with all his might the giving of federal aid to the schools of this country; for federal aid in the long run inevitably means federal control, and federal control means control by a centralized and irresponsible bureaucracy, and control by such a bureaucracy means the death of everything that might make this country great.

Against this soul-killing collectivism in education, the Christian school, like the private school, stands as an emphatic protest….The only way in which a state-controlled school can be kept even relatively healthy is through the absolutely free possibility of competition by private schools and church schools; if it once becomes monopolistic, it is the most effective engine of tyranny and intellectual stagnation that has yet been devised.

A Christian boy or girl can learn mathematics, for example, from a teacher who is not a Christian; and truth is truth however learned. But…the bearing of truth, the meaning of truth, the purpose of truth, even in the sphere of mathematics, seem entirely different to the Christian from that which they seem to the non-Christian….True learning and true piety go hand in hand, and Christianity embraces the whole of life — those are great central convictions that underlie the Christian school.

Anthony Bradley Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics in the Public Service Program at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.


  • Excellent post, Brooke. Thanks for this. I especially love the last paragraph – so true…

  • Carl V. “Sam” Lamb and I served side-by-side as rifle-squad leaders; Fox Company, ‘Chesty’ Puller’s 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division. He wrote a book about our experiences in the Korean conflict, 1950-1951. He included my remarks about an incident in which one of our people threatened to punch-out a fellow squad-leader-guideon who had black skin.
    The page follows:

    + + +

    by Carl V. “Sam” Lamb Page 296 (ref: 1951)

    James Fletcher Baxter

    “Sam” and I had a lot in common. We both resisted evil. After I
    got out of the hospital, Big Jim Causey told of driving along
    in his police cruiser and hitting a black man in his head
    with his pistol. He thought it was funny how the guy sprawled
    into the street. When he made this comment we were in a card
    game. I didn’t say anything, but then he said he was going to
    kick the ____ out of Joe Goggins and I had heard enough.

    I said, “If you’re going to try that, you’ll have to go through
    me to get to him. I’m willing to give my life for a country
    that values each individual. If that isn’t true, I don’t want
    to fight for that country – but, it is true, so I’m not going
    to let you rob me of the very good reason I may lose my life
    tomorrow or next week. If you attack him, you attack me. I
    may lose, but I guarantee I will make it very expensive for
    you to get to him. Let me know what you decide.”

    He got up from our card game and said, “I’ll have to think
    about it.”

    I said, “Let me know. I’ll be here.”

    He came back a little later and said, “You’re right. I was
    wrong.” I thanked him for his manliness.

    Joe Goggins came to me later and thanked me. He had wet eyes.

    + + +

    5/10/07 JFB
    Shortly after the above event, Jim Causey was called home for family
    member medical problems. On his way back to the States, he passed
    through a Naval medical facility. While there, he ran into my brother,
    Sgt. Howard “Barney” Baxter, 5th Marines, who had just been sent
    stateside for his Chosen Reservoir frost-bitten feet.

    Causey told my brother what had happened and said “how much it
    had changed his life.” He said Joe and I had forgiven him and he
    would “never go back to the old collective point of view.” He was
    really joyful because he was honestly able to forgive himself! He
    became a more manly man – a good Marine – with honor.

    I’m pleased the Rutgers women accepted Imus’ apology. They, and
    others, need to forgive. We all need to grow. Good examples are
    always in short supply. God bless my Country and its Individuals.

    vincit veritas
    Jim Baxter
    Sgt. USMC
    WWII and Korean War
    5th Grade Teacher – 30 wonderful years! ’57- ’87
    semper fidelis


    by James Fletcher Baxter

    The Old World method of measuring human value was,
    and still is, by the group. Whether tribe, clan,
    city-state, color, ethnic, or gender, the Old
    World, ancient and modern, measures by the plural
    unit. Individuals had and have no value of them-
    selves but only as they were and are part of a

    When Y’shua Jesus died on the cross, the veil of
    the Temple at the Holy of Holies parted from the
    top down. The individual believer in the congrega-
    tion had, for the first time, a face-to-face, one-
    on-one relation with his Creator. The Creator,
    Himself, had validated each individual for the
    first time.Thus, the Individual became the corner-
    stone for later human value measuring systems:
    socio-political, philosophical, religious, educa-
    tional, economic, etc., henceforth and forever.
    Western Civilization, America, English Law, civil
    Rights, the ‘democratic’ process, etc., all sprang
    from that single event. (Greco-Roman ‘democracies’
    were 95% slave throughout their entire histories.)
    Biblical principles are still today the foundation
    under Western Civilization and the American way of

    Many social systems attempt to borrow ideas of
    “democracy” without the basic premise in The Indi-
    vidual. Such a system is only superficially and
    temporarily ‘democratic.’ The cornerstone of the
    democratic process is The Individual and the
    cornerstone of the value of The Individual is
    Y’shua Jesus! It is not possible to have one with-
    out the other. There is only One Source – there is
    no other.

    It is additionally interesting to note that all
    value measuring systems are based on the single
    definitive unit of the system. Ex: Number, Time,
    Distance, Weight, Heat, Money, Angle, Volume, etc.

    Only humanism makes the abusive error of measuring
    human value by the plural unit and attempts to
    build social structures, relations, and institu-
    tions thereon. Such man-made systems can only be
    abusive and oppressive because in reality there
    are only individual persons. Groups or collectives
    are merely convenient verbalizations about indi-
    viduals. They are not reality.

    I have yet to see a ‘group.’ All I have ever seen
    are individuals.Have you ever seen a group – or is
    it a verbal convenience? Reality is only in the
    individual person. And, such a validation never
    derived from a human source without the initiative
    of the Creator. (The French Rationalists of the
    18th Century favored the fruit – but rejected the
    branch, tree, and root.)

    Today, wherever Y’shua Jesus is rejected, the
    group or collective is still the basic way of
    measuring human value – or human non-value.

    We thank the Lord God for revealing His validation
    of each individual person. We thank Him for creat-
    ing each person uniquely, in His image, and call-
    ing each one to a courageous ascension by Y’shua
    Jesus, who said, “I AM the Way…”

    Praise the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and
    His Son of Man, Y’shua Jesus.

    Reference: Exodus 25:30,40 Hebrews 9 Matthew 27:51
    Mark 15:38 Luke 23:45 KJV

    vincit veritas
    Jim Baxter

    Q: ? “How many more Columbines and VA Techs
    before we ‘get it?’ ” jfb

    +++++++++++++++++ + ++++++++++++++++++

    Santa Maria SUN January 11 – January 18, 2002

    Opening Santa Maria’s Eyes

    I am sure your readers are as pleased as my wife and I are
    that Andrew Petty and the Sun have recently published
    the article, “Manhood paid with women’s tears.” [Sun,
    Dec. 28, 2001] Such cowardly, abusive, and oppressive
    behavior by men in the Latino community will never buy
    them manhood, but does purchase contempt from their
    women and children and rejection and earned and deserv-
    ed contempt and rdicule from civilized members of our

    The problem, however, is larger than one ethnic group
    and will not be resolved until the basic cause is recogniz-
    ed and dealt with appropriately. It can be observed through-
    out our city, state, and nation, from the immature over-
    compensating, self-doubting male, exhibiting feelings of
    inadequacy, low self-esteem, and a rampant inferiority
    complex, who seeks a false outlet by way of crimes against
    women and innocent children and their slavish submission
    to his “muscle-mind.”

    Gang membership and activity, trendy road-rage, and youth
    violence are all evidence of male feelings of inferiority and
    will not disappear from our society from resulting police
    action alone — unless and until we successfully educate to
    the prime solution: individual value and individual character.

    Measuring human value by a group is not the American Way.
    Until our males recognize and choose to live lives of unique
    and individual value, we will all be burdened by those whose
    inaccurate, mediocre, and sloppy definitions of manhood
    will require one or more kind of patty-cake baby sitter. Can
    he take the challenge?

    The young ladies of Santa Maria need not focus so much on
    boyfriend’s hip-hop “personality,” as his self-definition,
    principled intelligence, spirit, and manly virtue. Can she take
    the challenge?

    Jim Baxter
    Santa Maria
    vincit veritas

    + + +

    Individual Value or Collective non-value ????