Here I Stand, Progressives, I Can Do No Other
Paul Gordon Collier
Martin Luther Defies Civic And Sacred Authority To Stand With God’s Authority
I’m going through Holy Week this year with my family. My wife has scheduled off work and I also have scheduled off work. We are working at walking through the week together with Christ. Yesterday we walked through Palm Sunday and today we walked through Monday. On this day, Jesus was still loved, though the Pharisees have now decided they must kill Jesus.
As I have experienced Christ’s week so far, what has pressed me is the sovereignty of God. On Palm Sunday, the people did not make Christ their sovereign, they made him their politician, the man who would get them the stuff they wanted, the Romans out, prosperity to return, safety and security across the land. They did not submit to the Messiah, who fulfilled all the scriptures that needed to be fulfilled to show these people that He was their spiritual King.
They had a worldview that they thought aligned with his, but they are about to find out something different in the coming days, and, I would argue, they saw a taste of this contradictory worldview today in Christ’s cursing of the fig tree that did not bear fruit.
So long as their worldviews were aligned with Christ’s, or perceived to be, they loved this earthly King, this new politician. But when they found out He was speaking of a Kingdom not of this world, when they discovered He was talking about a life that offered no guarantee of earthly security and comfort but rather a life of complete submission, in fear and love, to a spiritual King, they soon called out for his unjust execution.
Christ had built a nation, a people (not a state) that swore their de facto allegiance to the King, but when the King revealed a worldview that actually contradicted their own, they quickly deposed their king and the new nation of Christ almost completely dissolved, hanging on by a thin thread held in the hands of a few petrified followers who fled from the battlefield.
As I thought about this, I had an imaginary debate with a gay rights supporter over gay marriage. I do these types of exercises regularly to test ideas and assumptions and sometimes end up in surprising places. I challenge myself and sometimes am unable to answer my own rebuttals to my own assumptions of ‘truth’.
The purpose of this exercise was to investigate the gay marriage debate from what I call ‘God’s righteous standards of Freedom and Liberty”. The question I was asking myself was this, “If God allows for sin to be unregulated by civic authority, what standard applies that would compel me to compel my state to regulate ‘sin’ with the power of the magistrate, or, the gun?”
In this case, I ended up producing a monologue and not a debate. Every time I started to answer the question, why are you against gay marriage, I would stop myself and say, “no, that’s not the root” until eventually, what I got to was a root that had little to do with gay marriage and everything to do with worldviews, nations, and states that govern nations.
My first attempt at dialogue had me asking the gay rights supporter if they recognized scripture as authority. In this scenario, I wanted to imagine a Christian gay rights supporter who might challenge my assumption that God views homosexuality as a sin. That scenario quickly fell apart as I came to realize the debate, in a civic context, was not about (or rather, should be about) whether a sincere religious belief should give me the ‘right’ to discriminate against another belief system, behavior, or even ethnicity.
So I went deeper, and I began the debate with this question, “How does a state determine which peoples, which behaviors and which ethnicities should be afforded state protection in the sacred, the social, and the market authorities”?
I should clarify that the people I fellowship with break down authority in these four groups, sacred, social, civic, and market. The civic touches all four authorities but is bounded by those authorities as those authorities also touch the other authorities but are bounded by them.
So far, there is little attempt by the state to interfere with disparate points of view on gay marriage that rest in the sacred (though the beginning forays into that authority can be seen). There is not state intrusion into social authority, but attempts by gay rights activists to create a non-governmental ban on views counter to the homosexual lifestyle have become a major part of our social climate today.
However, in the market authority, the state has already made significant invasions on prescribing de facto acceptance of homosexuality in the form of ‘anti-gay discrimination laws’ where businesses are now being forced to serve homosexuals, cater to homosexual marriages, even build ‘transgender’ bathrooms.
As I asked myself that question and had an imaginary back and forth with my gay rights counterpart, I found myself quickly halting that line of discourse. I took myself down a path that, in the end, left little objective authority for the state to mandate to the marketplace that it not discriminate against any group, be they religious, ethnic, or behavioral in nature. I found myself in the uncomfortable place (for me) of the libertarian.
My exercise shifted from trying to understand what God’s righteous standards of freedom and liberty tell me about gay marriage to understanding the very nature of ‘nation’ and state. I left scripture behind in this exercise and pursued a ‘pragmatic’ analysis of governance. I did so not because I belief in the pragmatic approach to civic governance but because I live in a culture in which the pragmatic approach is largely the accepted approach to civic governance in a so-called ‘pluralistic’ society.
Without absolute values, a nation is free to decide the standards of governance based on its dominant worldview. When I say it is free to decide, I do not mean in an absolute sense but in a pragmatic sense. A collection of people will form only if they have shared core values that satisfy the vast majority’s varying, but similar, worldviews. The greater the harmony of worldviews within a nation, the greater the unity of the nation and the more successful that nation will be in forming a state which truly reflects the worldviews of the people it governs.
In some instances, civic authority can come to rule over many nations with very different worldviews. The greater the role of the civic authority in managing the lives of the individuals within its authority, the greater the need of the state to either have laws which reflect the core values of the disparate worldviews of the nations it governs or wield great coercive power that prevents the disparate nations from separating from one another and thus dissolving or reducing the territorial authority of the state.
The question then is not whether homosexual marriage should be legalized or not legalized, or even whether the state should decide to wield civic authority over the marketplace for discriminating against groups the state arbitrarily decides it wishes to ‘protect’. The pragmatic answer is this- the state can do whatever force or national consensus allows it to do.
This state began with a collection of nations with many different kinds of identities and worldviews. The overwhelming majority of nations held core values in common that allowed a new nation to emerge, America. That nation was not defined by the state, but rather the state became an expression of the people’s worldviews. One could argue which came first, the nation or the state.
In the case of America, I would argue there were nations that held some core values before the Constitution and the Bill of Rights from which the architects of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights became a reflection of those shared values. But, in the course of a few decades, the emergence of an overarching nation, with many nations still within it, occurred and a people called “Americans” were born.
In America today (and by that I am only referring to the territorial authority of the Federal Government), I came to a startling conclusion. This conclusion prevented me from continuing with my imaginary dialogue on homosexual marriage.
The Rule of Law concept of America is based on an assumption of individual liberty and sovereignty, where the individual is a means in and of him or herself. The purpose of the state is not to create better people but to get out of the way of people and their inherent right to fail or succeed, to be ‘good’ or to be ‘bad’ within the confines of extending the same recognition of other people’s rights.
Our Republic began with a Federal Government significantly limited in scope and power. Over the course of the past two plus centuries, power has sought pathways to create, extend and preserve itself, as is the nature of human beings when they come together collectively to govern over larger groups of peoples.
Our Republic also began by fundamentally violating the very standards it upheld in the Bill of Rights, applying these rights selectively and not consistently protecting the rights of the people against unjust oppression. We also failed to consistently practice basic freedom and liberty standards with other governments, choosing at times to support dictators for the sake of wealth and our own perceived security.
The enemies of Freedom and Liberty, the enemies of Individual Liberty found a nation and a state wide open to invasion and with ample examples of hypocrisy with which to convert “Americans” to new national identities, progressives, communists, socialists, conservatives, liberals, etc.
The Republic itself gave the people and the state the tools to self-correct when things went off-course but neither the nations nor the State representatives chose to do so, at least not at sufficient numbers and with sufficient power to back them up. The inroads into the heart of “America” were incremental and bore no great damaging fruit to the vast majority of people. Even the income tax started off as a very small cost which could be easily absorbed by a reasonably prosperous people.
The Americans still held their shared worldview of individual freedom and liberty and lived out these standards for the most part among themselves. They even largely believed their government was doing the same.
As the second half of the 20th century pushed on, the hypocrisy of our own nation, coupled with the separation of the understanding of why it was essential to preserve a state bounded by the notion of the individual being a value in and of themselves, accelerated the conversion of Americans to other national identities that bore little in common with the parent nation.
The state was able to increase its incursions into new lands, where the Constitution could be circumvented either through silence by the other branches of government or by outright assistance by the Supreme Court, which, we have discovered, is hardly an objective arbiter of Constitutional Law but simply an arbitrary political body whose decisions are largely determined by which nation is able to nominate and confirm its members to sit on that diminished body of oligarchs.
And now, when the remnant of Americans is all that is left, we live in an all-but lawless land, where our laws are determined by small bodies of men and women who do not make pragmatic decisions based on the most effective method of governance, but are almost entirely governing to create, extend and preserve power. Our governors, our representatives in the civic arena are reflections of new nations that share little in common with Americanism.
The debate, then, over gay marriage in America is moot. The issue of gay marriage, in reality, is this, it is what the state says it is. Nations within the state’s borders must decide if they will continue to recognize the authority of the state or if they will begin to simply disobey the state’s laws, as has happened throughout history.
The State of the Union is this- there is no Union, friends. America, such as we hoped she would become, is dead. The nations within the borders of the State of America have little in common with one another. Progressivism, collectivism, is anathema to the values of the American Constitution and would not have been implemented under Teddy Roosevelt, FDR or Barack Hussein Obama if the Constitution had actually been upheld and the governed and the governing had actually done the work of preserving the republic.
We granted the Federal government the power to seize lands from states under Teddy Roosevelt. Under Wilson, we created the Federal income Tax, which gave the Federal Government the power to manipulate the economy like it never could before. We also returned the Senate to mob rule, democracy, when we took away the power of state legislatures to elect their representatives. Under FDR, we granted the Federal Government the power to guarantee us security in our old age.
All of these steps alone destroyed the Republic, but not the people. Now, 80 years after the rise of FDR, we sit in a land where the state and the people no longer reflect the freedom and liberty standards of the nation that once stood, America.
There is across this land a sizeable remnant of Americans, ones who will have to ask some tough questions over the coming years. This land is no longer ours alone, it belongs to progressives and other nations who cannot co-exist with freedom and liberty peoples. If the remnant won back control of the state, could they effectively govern over these anti-individualist nations? I would argue no, they could not.
Just as surely as the progressives are about to discover that they cannot govern over the remnant, the remnant cannot govern the progressive nation. A state cannot hold itself together if it lacks sufficient power and national unity. I would argue that this state, the American state, lacks both the power to coerce 300 million people, of which at least 60 million (maybe more) will find more and more they will simply have to stop obeying the laws of the progressive state, and the laws which necessarily reflect the shared core values of its disparate nations within its borders.
For the remnant, the same is true in reverse. The progressives will not retreat. They will not accept a restored republic where American Rule of Law is restored. Furthermore, their progressive institutions have created life and death dependencies in the form of welfare nations in our cities and Social Security nations all around us. The progressives will be forced to simply not obey the laws of a true American state. The best that we can hope for is an amicable divorce.
How long will it take for this reality to play itself out? I cannot tell if it will be a few years or 20 years, but I do know this- unless the remnant changes and becomes overwhelmingly progressive in their views or the progressive nation changes and becomes overwhelmingly American in their views, these two main nations are headed to civil war, divorce, or a complete dissolution of the state.
I began with a question, one in which I cannot answer in the context of this state and among these competing nations within the state. My answer is this- the question is now moot. The state will dissolve and new states will rise. Some of these states will choose to legalize gay marriage and some will not. From a pragmatic perspective, neither state is right or wrong. It is rather only important that the new states which form possess sufficient power to coerce disparate nations to follow its laws or its laws reflect the core values of the worldviews of the nations within its borders.
In the age unfolding, where the power of the state to coerce individuals by force is becoming increasingly costly, the necessity of states to reflect the core values of the worldviews of the nations within their borders will become increasingly essential to the survival and prosperity of that state.
The age of the nation state, the vast and powerful welfare state is coming to an end. The rise of micro-nations and city-states is soon to come.
From a Christian perspective, I am fortunate in that I do not have to fret about the dangerous times to come. I have responsibilities to do the next right thing, to continue to be a good steward to the state my God has placed me in, and to continue to do the work of becoming a Kingdom of God Citizen who does the work to lift up others to do the same.
I have a path that does not depend on the accuracy of the predictions in this self-examination. Being a Kingdom Citizen, building other Kingdom Citizens, through the Holy Spirit, is the right thing to do whether this state collapses tomorrow or lasts for a thousand years. It is the right thing to do if I live in China or if I live in Australia. It is the right thing to do if I live in a restored American republic or a fascist state. It is ALWAYS the right thing to do.
With this realization and the realization that I live in a lawless land, I have no real desire to engage anymore in an American civic debate about the merits or de-merits of legalizing gay marriage. I recognize the arbitrary power of the state and thus see my role now more in a prophetic sense (though I would never call myself a prophet). I will proclaim righteous standards. I will defy laws that attempt to force me to violate these righteous standards.
A state who defies the natural laws of God does so at its own peril. But I am not the wielder of that judgment, God is. It is my role to tell this state that you are in danger of God’s wrath if you defy His natural laws. If you pass laws that celebrate sexual immorality, such as homosexuality is, then let God judge you and let me proclaim. If you pass laws that legalize and even sponsor the murder of the unborn, then let God judge you and let me proclaim.
Perhaps there will someday arise new states with nations within them that will come back to those Judeo-Christian values. Perhaps they will not come. I do know there is a Kingdom which is already here, a Kingdom not of this world and yet a Kingdom that is already among you, whether you believe in this Kingdom or not. There is also a Kingdom to come where Christ will claim once again the direct civic authority over the nations of the world.
It is more than enough for me to know of His coming Kingdom, but it does not compel me to sit on the sidelines and wait for His return. Rather, I will continue to proclaim God’s righteous standards of Freedom and Liberty. I will continue to exhort this state to turn back, to repent of its sins passing laws that violate God’s natural laws, come what may. I will do so not based on an intellectual understanding of our American Constitution (since we only arbitrarily and inconsistently follow its standards) but on a spiritual understanding of the sovereignty of God and how He exerts that authority, in a bounded way, through natural, civic laws.
The progressives have long ago left the standards of Rule of Law, yet they seek to incorporate ‘Constitutional’ arguments to support their special causes, abortion, gay marriage, the codification of secular values in our courts, our legislatures and our state-run schools. I am now done with that engagement. I will stand purely on the righteous standards of Freedom and Liberty, come what may.
I will defy the laws that defy God’s laws. I will not comply with laws that defy the social contract I have with this state, bounded in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Here I stand, progressives, I can do no other.
Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.