Uncivil Obedience

There is a passage in the New Testament that says “obey the laws of the land.” Recently this has been pressed by a movement that advocates mindless obedience, at the cost of authenticity, from the pulpit and the bimah. This atavistic view is reminiscent of the Divine Right of Rule espoused by contemporaries of the Henry VIII of England. Such uncritical devotion to authority is contrary to sound faith and practice. Not only is the Judeo Christian tradition one of thought and study, the Laws of God must always be held as a higher authority than those of any earthly entity or regime. Authenticity is often the narrow, winding path that leads around loopholes in common law and executive order. At others it requires direct confrontation and disobedience of that which is unjust or evil, even when that evil is subtle or invisible to the democratic majority.

At one time the law of the land and public opinion held that everyone must bow to the statue of the Babylonian king, and enjoy what wealth and power they could garner from enforced exile. But the prophets defied the oven, and death by hungry lion, to persevere for what was clearly illegal, but morally right. They prevailed.

At one time the law of the land commanded that all must worship and sacrifice at the altar of the Roman King. The faithful held to the higher law of the Torah and the Gospels and endured public mutilation and death by the sword or wild beast. They prevailed and took the nations by storm.

At one time it was the law of the land that African Americans must be kept illiterate, captive, and enslaved. Authentic Christians of the Wesleyan movement taught them in secret, provided a means of escape, and moved heaven and earth to change the law of the land even to the extreme of civil war. They prevailed.

Once it was the law of the land that those whose ancestors once were Jewish or Hindu, along with those of diminished capacity and the infirm, must be euthanized or worked to death as slave labor and prostitutes. The world united to destroy the German Socialist nightmare. We prevailed.

Last night I watched a program on the US federally funded PBS that advocated the perspective that the law of the land demands that believers compromise core distinctives that define authentic Jewish and Christian faith. The commentator claimed that it was atavistic as well as illegal for the church to enforce the Judeo Christian principles on marriage, fornication, abortion, gender normalization, etc. The entire tenor of the show was an unsubtle attempt to menace compliance and helplessness into the church, while encouraging those who are mustering support to redouble persecution of the authentic believer.

To the Church and to the Synagogue, where they can hear, I say, the eyes of the world are watching and they will not be kind if you hold to the Torah and the the Gospels as written. But the eyes that matter aren’t the eyes of Daniel in the pit. They aren’t the Maccabees at Masada or the Martyrs in the Arena. They aren’t the American slaves being rapedĀ  and beaten, while the Democrats sipped julep in the Big House. The eyes that matter are the eyes that rove restlessly to and fro about the earth. The eyes that matter are those of your Creator and his law is higher.