Backfiring" to Save the Issue

Backfiring" to Save the Issue

A look at religious world trends.

By W. H. HACKETT, Associate Religious Liberty Secretary, Columbia Union

Anyone who has had any experience with brush fires or grass fires knows the advan­tage of the practice of backfiring as a means of combating the flames. A few men can be as ef­fective in fighting a major brush fire by using the backfiring method as a small army of men can be in concentrating all their efforts in fight­ing the principal blaze itself. They do this by going ahead in the path of the blaze and inten­tionally starting a fire and directing its spread back toward the main blaze. Thus when the two flames meet, all the fuel in the path of the fire will have been consumed. In this manner backfiring has often saved lives and property.

The lesson in backfiring may appropriately be applied in combating a legislative conflagration threatening to consume the rights of free­dom of religious worship. To an Adventist whose daily lot is to work in the legislative field, it is utterly amazing to see the number of workers who are indifferent to the present flames in the form of bold threats to religious liberty and freedom for religious workers. They can see no farther than Sunday legisla­tion. But it is not necessary to stay awake at night to visualize the difficulty the average Sev­enth-day Adventist minister would have with the problems of his flock should a calendar-re­form bill be passed.

Three or four men in the Religious Liberty Department cannot be everywhere fighting all these flames which are now menacing us. The time has arrived t6 do some backfiring.

The sooner our ministers and workers realize that national legislation is largely influenced at the grass roots—meaning the people back in the Congressional districts—the sooner the work of the Religious Liberty Department will be more effective, yes, many times more effec­tive, in the halls of Congress. There is entirely too much of an attitude portrayed by the old phrase "Let George do it," meaning let Elders Votaw, Longacre, and Yost fight our religious liberty battles.

Fortunately some of our laymen have caught the vision of the importance of backfiring. Two communications have just come into my pos­session which so realistically portray backfiring and its effects that they are here submitted as effective illustrations. A layman in a certain State recently became impressed with the threat contained in pending calendar reform legisla­tion, and wrote the man in Congress represent­ing his district as follows:

"Dear Congressman:

"The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will have before it for consideration in a few days two bills, H.R. 1242 and H.R. 1345, both having to do with the proposed change in the calendar.

"I, with thousands of others, have written to Chairman Eaton registering my opposition to such a change, and asking that the bill be defeated in the committee.

"The purpose of this letter to you is to ask that you keep an eye on the developments and should the bill be reported out of the committee and brought to the floor for discussion and vote, that you register in my behalf a very decided opposition to the meas­ure. I am sure that I need not call to your attention the disadvantages to which the thousands of Seventh-day Adventists in your district would be put with such a change as proposed. Fancy a people with a roving Sabbath all through the years. Only once in seven years would we be able to keep Sabbath in harmony with the calendar.

"I am sure I can count on you to convey our wishes to the House of Representatives if it be­comes necessary."

This layman did an effective job of backfir­ing. How? Because he was not willing to take chances on the bill being killed in committee. He informed his own Congressman of the dan­ger in advance. Many times bills are reported out of committee on one day, and presented to Congress for passage in the next few days. No time then for the Religious Liberty Department to relay word to the preachers. No time then for the preachers to write letters or circulate petitions. Let us not forget that Congress is now—in this session—functioning under a re­organization law, the purpose of which is to streamline its activities. Let the member of Congress who answered this layman tell you how it is done. In his reply to the layman he said:

"Sometimes these bills go through simply because there is little activity on the part of the people. If the person introducing the bill is aggressive, and little opposition develops, there is always a chance that legislation will go through which, if the people understood, would not be permitted to become law."

It is time to build a fire for backfiring pur­poses! Here is a most interesting addition to this factual account. I was curious about the extent of the "opposition" referred to by this member of Congress, and wanted to learn more about it. First I ascertained that there is an academy with a sizable staff of teachers, capa­ble of writing letters, located in this particular Congressman's district. There is still another S.D.A. institution in the district. Also there are numerous churches and Sabbathkeeping com­panies in the district. So I asked, "How many letters of opposition have you had on calendar legislation, Mr. Congressman? His answer ? H said this was the first and only letter from his district protesting against a change in the calendar. But, he added, he is regularly bom­barded with literature from the calendar re­form association,- favoring calendar change.

Your answer? It's up to you. You can make that "opposition" referred to by the Congress­man really effective if you, and you, and you, ministers and elders, will write your own mem­bers of Congress now—not after the bill has been reported out.

*Brother Hackett is secretary to Congressman Crawford of Michigan.—EDITOR.

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By W. H. HACKETT, Associate Religious Liberty Secretary, Columbia Union

June 1947

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