Heroes in Our Time: The Surprising Return of Christian Civil Disobedience
It’s been a rough time to be Christian lately. Many of us have become what Pope Francis warned of: a bunch of sour-pusses, walking around griping, complaining and forgetting to manifest the joy of the Gospel.
In our defense, it is not hard to see why we’re so upset. We’ve been watching our culture, along with our nation and its laws, swirl down the toilet bowl of secularism. This has especially been the case during the Obama administration, under which the Left has scored success after success in shoving godlessness down out throats.
Things reached a fever pitch this summer with the historic and already infamous Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which made same-sex marriage a constitutional right in the United States.
Shortly after that decision was announced, I noted to myself that the real loser was the cause of the unborn. I had been thinking of the damage done by the judicial activism of Roe v. Wade—of how it had opened a cultural divide and created an almost insuperable barrier to passing remedial legislation. I could only conclude that the judicial activism of Obergefell would compound this situation, pushing us further in the wrong direction.
How very wrong I was. Just two weeks after the Obergefell decision was handed down, the earth shook. David Daleiden of The Center for Medical Progress released the first of a series of videos documenting the hidden atrocities being committed by Planned Parenthood.
Since the release of that first video, the national conversation has shifted in a way no one could have predicted. Just last April, Planned Parenthood had derailed a bipartisan bill to combat human trafficking because it did not include enough new funds to keep them happy. Today, there is serious and growing momentum for defunding the abortion giant entirely. And on August 22, we saw the largest nationwide pro-life demonstration in history.
But there would be more surprises. With so much controversy brewing from the release of Daleiden’s videos, the issue of same-sex marriage was temporarily shunted to the back-burner.
All that changed this week when a country clerk in Kentucky named Kim Davis denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples even after a series of courts had rejected her appeal.
Davis’ actions are in direct defiance of the lawless United States Supreme Court, which has forfeited any claim to constitutional legitimacy. She is standing up for truth against the lawless and powerful. As usually happens in such instances, this means that in the short-run Ms. Davis will lose but in the long-run she will win. She has already sent a powerful message to this nation on behalf of faithful Christians: we will not go quietly into that good night.
Daleiden and Davis show us the power we can exert when we choose to honor God’s law above man’s law. Their actions of defiance have sent ripples of fear through the enemy camp. The battle belongs to the Lord—and the Lord’s battle with America is not yet finished. One with God is a majority, as Martin Luther King said, because God has a way of turning a minority into a majority. Daleiden and Davis demonstrate what it means to be the salt of the earth.
The modus operandi of all true Christian civil disobedience is that a lesser violation is committed so as to uphold a higher law, or a higher truth. Thus, Daleiden committed an act of deception and sabotage in order to obtain the sting videos, but in doing so he revealed the truth about Planned Parenthood and exposed our media and political elites as frauds. Davis refused a court order, but in doing so she reminded a wayward nation of the truth of natural and divine law.
However, some Christians balk at these acts of resistance. They believe that Christians are bound to obey civil authorities in all matters and cite passages such as Romans 13 or 1 Peter 2 to make their case. However, neither of these passages command Christians to obey laws that violate their conscience.
The clear intent is to convey the message that one is not permitted to do evil just because one finds oneself living under evil rulers: “Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:12). The point is rather that, “By doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15).
Paul likewise exhorts his listeners to be subject to civil authorities in order to “do what is good” and “for the sake of conscience” (Romans 13:3-5). Christians always have a responsibility to do right by their neighbors. In the context of the early Christians living in a pagan society, the task was edification on correct Christian behavior. However, the task for us today living in a post-Christian secular society is somewhat different.
The Romans had many vices, but a general disregard for truth was not one of them. They were a brutal people—ignorant of the true God. They conquered, they crucified, they put people to death for sport. But they weren’t hypocrites. They had a manly sense of honor and a love of truth. They were simply ignorant of the revealed truth of God’s law. Today the situation has changed.
Our secular society is one that has already been Christianized. The prime vice of our society, unlike that of the ancient Romans, is self-deception and moral hypocrisy. People today are aware of God’s law and basic Christian teachings. It is because of this awareness that people are forced to adopt lies and hypocrisy in order to excuse their evil deeds. Hence, charity today means unmasking the truth.
Living in a post-Christian society is more like living in the matrix. We often find ourselves bombarded by a “tyranny of euphemisms” (as National Review recently wrote to describe the propaganda of Planned Parenthood). It is an empire of lies fabricated by the media and almost everyone in power; designed, it seems, with the purpose of keeping people anesthetized and in a fog of sin.
One of the most charitable actions we can do as Christians is to help break the bonds of sin that enslave our neighbors. But today, more than ever, this means smashing the matrix of lies that controls them. The hypocrisy of our elites needs to be exposed for all to see. Wicked court rulings need to be directly challenged and nullified in order to show how hollow and meaningless they truly are—and that requires acts of civil disobedience.
David Daleiden and Kim Davis have inspired us and shown us the way. I thank God for them.
“But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:18).
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