Right, Wrong, Laws, And Bethlehem

Sometimes, buried in a post about a specific issue lies a deeper truth that needs pulling into the light on its own. There is just such a gem in the March 27th, Mark Steyn piece on Terri Shiavo. Mark quotes Canadian columnist George Jones on then Prime Minister Peirre Trudeau’s failure to grasp the obvious.

It seemed not to occur to him that it isn’t wrong to burn down barns because it’s illegal, but it’s illegal to burn down barns because it’s wrong. Like other statist politicians, Mr. Trudeau . . . either didn’t see, or resented, that right and wrong are only reflected by the laws, not determined by them.

Let’s repeat the point loudly (which in writing means bold), “…right and wrong are only reflected by the laws, not determined by them.”

The underlying principal, frequently lost on politicians (who if not anything else are supreme manipulators of whatever is at their disposal to facilitate their desired ends) is that all laws of lasting value come from moral prerequisites and when wrenched from their relationship with right and wrong lose their essential authority. That is why jury nullification is such an important legal principal in the United States. When laws lose their moral authority (or never had it in the first place) and no one is willing to repeal them, then civil disobedience and jury nullification are the only recourse until public opinion can produce legal movement.

I think the major problem in the Shiavo case was that it never got before a jury (hence no chance for jury nullification of Judge Greer’s rulings and Michael Shiavo’s insistence) and no one or at least not enough people seemed to be willing to commit civil disobedience to preserve Terri’s life. One or two thousand Christians walking arm in arm to Terri’s hospice (ala the march on Selma) never materialized. One wonders why and as I watched a calm and deliberative Randall Terry talk to the media I knew that we had no Martin Luther King for life. This is not to denigrate Randall, for he has sacrificed much, but to state the obvious.

It then came to me that what the anti-abortion and now anti-euthanasia effort was missing was real leadership. There is no contemporary Martin to stand up and be counted. Whatever you thought of Dr. King’s moral failures, there are two things you cannot take away from him: his oratory and the courage of his convictions. He was not afraid to take a stand and he had the mouth to back it up. He was a walking example of a lawyer arguing jury nullification as he willingly accepted the consequences of his civil disobedience.

When Jesse Jackson sauntered down to Florida and made a last minute attempt at relevance, I wondered for a moment if he had rediscovered his soul and would step forward and find his true calling. Alas, it was not to be. And alas there was no one else. Where were our Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, those willing to enter the furnace in the service of God?

What does this lack of a champion: a Joseph, a David, a Daniel, a Nehemiah, a Luther, yeah a Martin, say about the state of our Christian community? For is it not God who raises up those who stand in the gap, gives them a mission and empowers them. Yes, they must answer the call and say, “Here Lord, send me.” But if not them, then another, for God will not be thwarted. So, if we are truly championless, why is it? Why are all our victories small and all our defeats large? Why do we keep losing ground? I am reminded of the lyrics of a Dashboard Confessional song, The Good Fight  (YouTube video).

Consider the odds, consider the obvious
The martyr is meaningless, the campaign has died
In the planning stages and the fallen faces are the singular proofs
That it was ever alive
This purchased rebellion has been outdated
Denounced and rescinded and left to die
Championless, championless, championless

Instead, we fight each other, arguing over winds of doctrine within the gates of our besieged city, while outside the enemy advances like Goliath and the Philistines, with no David to stand in the gap. The world lurches toward its new Bethlehem, as Joni Mitchell sang in her 1991 song based on W.B. Yeats’ famous poem The Second Coming called Slouching Towards Bethlehem (YouTube video).

Surely some revelation is at hand
Surely it’s the second coming
And the wrath has finally taken form
For what is this rough beast
Its hour come at last
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born

Is the time of champions past? Has the blood dimmed tide been loosed upon the world? What is the day; what is the hour? Do we know the season? God knows and maybe he will tell us; maybe he won’t.

There it is done. Sometimes things come like a flood and pour out like a river. Almost always I file them away or press delete, the catharsis having served its purpose. Not this time. It has seen the light of day, illuminated by electrons and crystalline delight and others can judge whether I am prescient or not, a clanging gong blowing in my own wind. But sometimes, the questions we would ask of God need to be heard by others, for they may be asking the same things and it is important to know when we are alone and when are not.