Which Will It Be?

By Doug Newman

 (September 14, 2003)

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions...upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

-- James Madison

In the Biblical book of Acts (Chapter 4), we read that the authorities had gotten bent out of shape over the Apostles’ teaching about Jesus. When confronted about this, Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.” In the next chapter, the authorities again have their trousers in a twitch over the Apostles’ teaching. To this, Peter and company reply: "We must obey God rather than men!” 1

Fast forward to  Montgomery,  Alabama , in August 2003. This question of whether we should follow God or man is the central issue in the controversy surrounding Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and the monument featuring the Ten Commandments that sat in the rotunda of the state Supreme Court building until last week. 

This storm has been brewing for quite some time. Chief Justice Moore has been reluctant to remove the 5300-pound granite monument. Judge Byron Thompson of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta recently issued an order that the monument be removed. The United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Chief Justice Moore that the order be overturned.

Critics of the monument claim that it violates the “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment. This is nonsense. Congress has made no law here. The monument neither makes Christianity the official religion of Alabama nor prohibits anyone from practicing another faith. It merely acknowledges of the Ten Commandments as the ultimate source of law.

America’s Founders were not all Christians. They did not desire top-down Christianity and they did give us a degree of religious freedom that had never been known until their time. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights do not say what they say because these things sound good. The Founders acknowledged that their rights came from a Creator. The Constitution does not give us rights. It merely guarantees rights given by God. To eradicate every mention of Christianity from the public square is to imply that Christianity had no influence upon America’s Founding.  

When the Founders spoke of God, they spoke of the God of the Bible. They did not speak of Allah, Vishnu or any other deity. If this offends you, I am sorry. It is a documented historical fact. You do not have to like it. 2

If our rights and our laws do not come from God, from whence do they come?

If our rights and laws come from God, man cannot take away our rights or pretend that his authority supersedes that of God. America was founded on this premise. The Founders severely limited the federal government because they believed a Higher Authority was the ultimate source of law. As God said in the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3) The prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king.” (Isaiah 33:22)

If our rights and laws are man-made, man can deprive us of our rights by passing any law he willy-nilly pleases. Totalitarian regimes, be they Nazi, fascist or communist, are founded on this premise. These governments act without restraint. When any government becomes too big, it eventually proclaims, “Thou shalt have no other gods before us.” This is the source of religious persecution.

It is not news that there is a major push in this country to expunge Christianity from all aspects of public life. This has been a major aim of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the Southern Poverty Law Center. And they will use any means necessary to achieve it.

I guess they will have to take down the Ten Commandments that are posted in the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. They will have to get rid of all state and federal government chaplains, including those in the military. They will have to take “In God We Trust” off our money. They will have to remove those offending crosses from all military cemeteries. They will have to insist that every town with “Saint”, “San” or “Santa” in its name change that name. And how about towns with biblically inspired names such as Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Providence, Rhode Island, and Corpus Christi, Texas? When will it end?

So here we have a federal appeals judge with a jones to squelch Christian speech who orders this monument removed from the rotunda of the Alabama state judicial building. What is his basis for doing this? The First and Tenth Amendments forbid such arbitrary and capricious action. His defenders keep yammering about “the rule of law”. Whose law? God’s or man’s?

When the eight associate justices on the Alabama Supreme Court suspended Chief Justice Moore, they wrote that they are "bound by solemn oath to follow the law, whether they agree or disagree with it."

I get it! Whenever a federal judge issues an order, it is a law.

This total misapplication of the phrase “the rule of law” is not just a Democrat’s disease. Contrary to the idea that the secular, hedonistic Clintonistic liberals have all been relegated to the dustbin of history and replaced by godly, righteous folk who know the limits of civil government and are bound and determined to make this nation once again a nation under God, consider the following.

Well la-de-friggin’-da. Bush lacks the backbone to comment on the events in Montgomery, so he has some underling make a namby-pamby statement like this. And besides, didn’t the Supreme Court already reject Moore’s appeal?

Where has our Christian Attorney General John Ashcroft been? I guess he was too busy turning America into a police state.

To their credit, Jerry Falwell, Alan Keyes and James Dobson have come to Moore’s defense.

American Christians need to look beyond the rhetoric of politicians who purport to be Christian and start looking and the fruit they bear. When these elected things aid and abet in the eradication of Christianity from the public square, Christians need to lead the charge to vote them out of office.

American Christians also need to become reacquainted with the concept of civil disobedience. Chief Justice Moore is but the most recent case in point of someone who has said, “I don’t think so” when confronted with unjust authority. We sing the praises of Rosa Parks, another Alabamian, who refused to give up her bus seat just because she was black and the man who wanted the seat was white. We applaud the northerners of good conscience who refused to return runaway slaves to their masters in defiance of the fugitive slave laws. We applaud all those who stood up to the Nazis and communists over the years.

We forget that this nation was founded by an act of civil disobedience. King George III was nowhere near the tyrant that our current president is. He only taxed us at three percent as opposed to the 49 percent at which our current regime taxes us. Among the 28 grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence, none has anything to do with the violation of religious freedom.

What if Christians had refused to comply with compulsory school attendance laws as they were implemented across the country starting in 1852?

What if Christians had continued to pray in school anyway in defiance of the Supreme Court’s school prayer ruling in 1962?

What if Christians had said that they would continue to say “under God” when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, regardless of the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling last year?

What if individual states started passing their own anti-abortion laws in defiance of Roe v. Wade?

The Bible is full of stories of God’s people defying the secular authorities. Daniel’s sons refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s god (Daniel 3:18). Daniel went to the lions’ den after defying an order not to worship to any other god but that of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 6). This essay begins by quoting Acts 4:19 and 5:29, where Peter makes it clear that Christians should follow God and not man. 3 Several of Paul’s Letters were written in Roman prisons. John wrote the book of Revelation in exile on the Isle of Patmos.

Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be God, and was therefore seen as a counterforce to Caesar.  People who had “no king but Caesar” led him to his death. (John 19:12,15) Our Lord and Saviour was a criminal in the eyes of the state.

Philippians 3:20 says that Christians’ citizenship is not of this earth. We may be in this world, but we are not of it. If our true citizenship is elsewhere, we Christians cannot obey laws that interfere with exercising this citizenship. This is not, as some claim, “establishing religion.” Rather, it is acknowledging our freedom to acknowledge our God.

When was the last time your pastor taught about any of this?

I want to mention two more points, and then I will close.

First, Antonio Gramsci was an Italian author and journalist, as well as head of Italy’s communist party. Rather than violent revolution, he advocated “a long march through the culture” and its institutions. Over the last several decades, we have witnessed a long march of totalitarian ideas through the business world, the media, the schools and universities and the churches. I am not only talking about the liberal churches. Almost all churches today have embraced the modern superstate. They rarely if ever question it, let alone teach about its inherent evil. Is it any wonder that so many Christians have become big government groupies?

I leave you with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: "God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever."

1 See Acts 4:19 and 5:29.

2 Religion and the Founding Fathers by Henrietta Bowman.

3 See this column and this column by Pastor Chuck Baldwin.

Recommended reading:

Freely Speaking: Essays by Doug Newman

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