I was reading a few op-ed pieces recently about the rather illicit measures taken by our current President, and I was struck by an idea. I will not attempt to go into all of the ways that the President has broken the law in order to get done what he wants done, but consider just a few: he did not cut off foreign aid to Egypt when the coup to oust Morsi occurred (violation of law); he has assassinated American citizens multiple times (violation of law); he has tasked his subordinates in his vast bureaucracy to hassle and sue many thousands of individuals and groups who are political opponents (if not a violation of law, certainly a violation of everything we hold dear about living in a free republic); he has unilaterally declared that certain parts of his “Affordable Care Act” (Obamacare) not be enforced (violation of law) – and other parts enforced that are unenforceable (e.g. collecting fines in states which have not set up health-care exchanges – violation of law); he made recess appointments of cabinet members (unconstitutional); he is enforcing an abortifacient mandate on employers which violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (source: National Review). There are many more violations of law, convention, tradition, logic and morality which could be outlined in the long list of Obama monarchical actions, but these will suffice for the point which I want to make.
The lesson which I want to focus on is not entirely about President Obama, nor even about tyranny in general. Instead it is looking a bit deeper at the cause itself. We could spend a lot of time engrossed in the conversations about violations of law, disregard for the conscience of others, vulgar discount of the value of human life and silly reasoning which pays no attention to thousands of years of lessons learned on human behavior, or we could look at all of these actions as simply symptoms of the root cause … a rejection of the conscience.
In Romans 2 we are introduced to a rather strange concept, that “when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them” (vv. 14,15, NIV). In the context, Paul is stating that many people, who were outside of the Hebrew law, understood instinctively the requirements of it and were then held accountable to that by God. In other words, their conscience acted as the law to which God would hold them accountable. This continues to this day – with the exception that the old covenantal Law (big “L”) God gave to the Hebrews has been superseded by the new covenant given through His Son Jesus Christ.
Earlier in the chapter he states that when people do evil, judgment will come on them, first for the Jew (who was the privileged recipient of God’s Law in the past) and then for the Gentile (only given the law of his own conscience). Since God held, and still holds, all people accountable, regardless of their position by birth (whether knowing or not knowing the actual words of God – under the old or new covenants), it is clear that God has placed in the heart of man something extra-human which needs to be obeyed for the good of that person as well as society. Interestingly, this extra-human part is probably one of the things which make us made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). It is, after all, no surprise that this corresponds to the twisting of the truth by the serpent in the garden. The tempter said that if they [Adam and Eve] ate the fruit “you will be like God, knowing good from evil” (Gen 3:4) an obvious half-truth amid the accompanying destruction of innocence that came to fruition (pun intended) in the immediate awareness of nakedness and exposure after eating. God has given us the double-edged sword of the conscience which alternately accuses or defends us – but either way reveals the natural law.
The reason I go so deep into this, after bringing up the President to begin with, is because I want to illustrate the situation that gives birth to his lawlessness. I mentioned how we can spend epochs of time discussing the symptoms of lawlessness, while completely disregarding the causes. The fact that we have not only a President who is lawless, but also enablers in his cabinet and in the other two branches of government, is a symptom of a more complete divorce of the intellect from the conscience within the population in general and even beyond that, a more complete divorce from the God who created the natural law.
The fact is that we could go on and on debating about how to fight the lawless acts of Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Sebelius, Kerry and Holder (something with certainly some value), or we can focus on how to make it never, ever happen again (my preference)! Admittedly, with my belief in the entropic effects of sin and the continuing spiral into depravity, I’m fairly certain that things are only going to get worse before the skies open up and the Son of Man returns glorified. But I’m also fairly certain – backed up by examples through history – that God’s people can do amazing things through the strength of God by bringing a more complete understanding of love, mercy and grace to the world. Case in point: think of the incredible work of men like William Wilburforce and John Quincy Adams in bringing an end to slavery in the West. Their work was not the result of a more enlightened view of the horror by the society as a whole, it was the strength and love of God, resolutely presented through the words and actions of faithful men that reversed a millennia-held practice of the horrible dehumanizing of entire populations. Similarly we can make a huge impact on history, for good and for morality, but we must understand that we aren’t JUST fighting the symptoms of sin … we are fighting the cause of it (“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Eph 6:12).
If we want to be light and salt in this world, we must change hearts. We must bring to the fore not only the law (little “L”) of God which resides in the hearts and minds of the one who accepts Him, but we must also make the conscience a more valued governor of human behavior within society as a whole. By our society’s continual glorification of the depraved and the situational, we degrade the power of the right versus wrong direction of the natural law within moral man. We must therefore fight the tyranny of our “leaders” by eroding the foundation of their power: the independent and individual decisions to disregard the conscience.
Going back to the laundry list of Obama’s offenses, do you think it probable that he sits around, spending hours a day trying to look for ways to get around the limits of his powers clearly printed in the black and white of law? Certainly not! (His time on the golf course alone shows that he’s not that hard of a worker.) Instead he has surrounded himself with people who answer him in the exact same way each time that he asks them what the limits of his power allow him to do. They all answer, clearly and succinctly, “What do you WANT to do, Mr. President?” It’s not about what the law says, it’s not about what is best for the American people, and it’s not about even what poll numbers might reveal … it’s all about a man with advisors who have become so complacent about the subjugation of the personal conscience to the expedient desires of the present, that they can answer every time with a simple answer that says ‘you can do it all.’
Every wrong action has at least two consequences – the consequence that is seen and the consequence that is unseen. In the case of the President, the physical consequences are clear to the 300 million Americans who now have to deal with Obamacare, increased inflation and a dehumanization of the citizen (through assassination or regulatory audit). But the unseen consequences make the physical consequences minuscule … the sad step back from the moral, the honorable and the virtuous is much harder to reverse than the stroke of a pen transforming a bill to a law.
Let us do our best to focus on the root cause of problems (the disrespect shown to God’s law), to affect change at that level and to not lose sight of the powerful force for good the conscience can be when it is upheld as one of the most precious of God’s gifts. The conscience is the force that keeps man higher than the animals, to disregard it is the avenue to a certain brutish and base condition.