Sunday, June 28, 2015

Resisting tyranny

i) I think some Christian Americans suffer from too much defeatism in light of the Obama era. But Christian Americans still have tremendous political resources at our disposal. We've barely begun to fight back. We've barely begun to mobilize our legal and political assets. Christians in America greatly outnumber of the power elite. Defeatism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. 

There's too much talk about the church going into "exile." Or "God has removed his hand of blessing from America." 

That's presumptuous. We don't know what the future holds. This is not a time to be either optimistic or pessimistic. We don't know how events will turn out. We just need to do what we can every day–day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. 

Whether or not God has removed his hand of blessing from America is hardly something we're in a position to say. Maybe his hand of blessing was never on America. Or, more likely, maybe his hand of blessing was always selective. God blesses individuals–not indiscriminate collectives. 

Having said that, let's consider how Christians can or should respond to a worse-case scenario. Depending on the situation, there are different models of resistance to tyranny. Degrees of resistance to tyranny. Let's consider a few. 

ii) For a long time there was a standoff between Jews and Romans. The Jews were too weak to be politically dominant, but too strong to be easily subdued. The Romans had to put up with the Jews. Accommodate the Jews. So Jews enjoyed a measure of semi-autonomy in the Roman Empire. 

They were too belligerent to subjugate. The effort to do so would be too costly in terms of Roman manpower. So long as Jews didn't revolt against the overlords, Roman officials tolerated Jewish identity and the exercise of their religion. 

We have a similar example after the dust settled on the Reformation. Initially, European monarchs tried to impose religious uniformity on their subjects, in the belief that religious diversity was too politically unstable. However, the very effort to suppress religious diversity destabilized their nations. It provoked civil war. Destroyed national economies.

As a result, some European monarchs relented. Accommodated different religious groups. Instituted civil tolerance of religious diversity. 

iii) In Nazi Germany, some Christians openly dissented. They typically died in concentration camps. Classic martyrdom. Heroic virtue.

iv) During WWII, you had Christians who sheltered Jews. Cori ten Boom's family is the most famous case, but hardly the only one.

Rather than open dissent, this was quiet, low-profile resistance. It didn't publicly confront the evil regime. Rather, it defied the regime by silent, private actions to the contrary. 

And it required the complicity of neighbors. The neighbors were aware of what the ten Boom family was doing. But they didn't rat them out. Even if the neighbors weren't sheltering Jews, they cooperated with the ten Boom family by keeping a secret.

v) Compulsory membership in the Nazi party or Hitler Youth was paradoxical. The problem with compulsory membership is that it dilutes ideological commitment. People belong, not because they believe, but because they have no realistic choice. (And of course, many volunteered simply for the social benefits.)

Due to compulsory membership, you had "Christian Nazis." There were two kinds of "Christian Nazis":

a) Zealous Nazis who were nominal Christians

b) Zealous Christians who were nominal Nazis

There were undoubtedly some devout Christians who were technically Nazis. Who worked for the Nazi regime. But in effect they functioned as double agents.

They were secretly opposed to Nazi ideology and Nazi policies. And there were a multitude of modest, unobtrusive ways they could counter the regime. Just by practicing Christian virtues like honestly and kindness. Or by letting Jews slip through the sieve. For instance:

As one of the OSS’s most experienced operatives, this first SEAL planned and executed a parachute mission deep into the Third Reich in the fall of 1944. After Taylor and his team were captured far behind German lines in Austria, he found himself with other high-level prisoners in Gestapo headquarters in Vienna. 
During Taylor’s arrest, the officers twisted his arm backward until the cartilage and tendons in the elbow joint were “torn loose.” It took five weeks for him to be able to move his arm enough to button his pants. Despite the pain, Taylor and his fellow prisoners brought a ray of humanity and Christmas spirit into their spartan cells. They obtained a small wreath and candles from a guard who was a former police officer and secretly opposed the Nazis.

If you have enough people inside the system who oppose the system, that's a very insidious. They can weaken the system from within. Indeed, the "enemy within" can damage the system ways an external adversaries cannot. 

vi) A final example is how the Chinese underground church has managed, not only to survive, but thrive despite existing in a police state, despite suffering official persecution. God can cause roses to bloom in the desert.

Resisting tyranny takes many creative forms, both large and small. 


  1. Republicans control most governorships and most state legislatures. They control both houses of Congress. We're just one judge short of a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Only one of the current conservatives is near death or retirement. By contrast, two of the liberals and the moderate on the Court are in that position.

    Though Democratic candidates have gotten more of the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, look at the Republicans who ran in those races. It's no coincidence that voters keep picking the candidates who seem more likeable to them on a personal level. If the Republicans run more candidates like Ronald Reagan and Marco Rubio and fewer like Bob Dole and John McCain, they'll win more often. The voters who decide presidential elections tend to give inordinate attention to matters like a candidate's physical appearance, communication skills, personal background, sense of humor, perceived empathy, incumbency, etc. That allows those voters to do less research and think less, freeing them up to spend more time on television, sports, and other things they'd rather do. They want to choose a president largely on the basis of shallow criteria, and Republicans need to accommodate that. Find the most conservative candidates who are also highly appealing by the most popular shallow standards.

    Most Americans don't have much commitment to same-sex marriage. But they want to think of themselves as compassionate, tolerant, and such. The hardest part of reversing what happened last week wouldn't be getting the Court to reverse itself. The Court can easily do that. In fact, Friday's ruling was a reversal of the Court's tacit rejection of a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage in Baker v. Nelson in 1972. We're just one vote away from a return to the Court's previous position. And the majority's decision last week repeatedly refers to how the Court has reversed itself on various issues over the years. Supreme Court decisions aren't as final as people often make them out to be. What would be more difficult would be to get any state, even the most conservative, to remove recognition of same-sex marriage at the state level. Any attempt to do it would likely be met with a large and forceful campaign of opposition. But if we can pick one state to become the first one to do it, if we can find a state wise and courageous enough to reject same-sex marriage after having been forced to accept it for a while, that will create a precedent, and we can expand our efforts from there. It would be difficult to do, but it's a reasonable possibility.

    1. Jason, you really think the republicans will attempt to undo what the pornocracy has done? I have news for you: The GOP are not your friends. They want to bring about a totalitarian, socialist state SLOWER than Dems. They want to take more time dropping our nation into moral chaos. They want to bankrupt the federal govt a bit more slowly.

    2. The GOP is a political coalition. It's not ideologically monolithic. It includes social conservatives, libertarians, hawks, businessmen, and country club Republicans, among others. However, between the two politically viable parties, the GOP is the only party where social conservatives have significant influence. In terms of political parties, it it's the best vehicle we have for now.

    3. Even Rand Paul and Ron Paul are/were Republican politicians. They understand the futility of a third party. So you seem to think not even Rand Paul and Ron Paul are ideologically pure enough.

    4. Ex N1hil0,

      I see no reason to think Republicans as a whole, or even a majority, want "a totalitarian, socialist state" in general, much less on every issue. As far as the Supreme Court and same-sex marriage are concerned, all it would take is one more judge willing to vote the way the four conservatives voted in the case concluded on Friday (assuming John Roberts would be consistent the next time a vote occurs).

      What's your alternative? A third party? We've addressed the problems with that option in previous threads. It's not even close to being a reasonable choice under these circumstances.

      There are a lot of problems with the Republican party, and I doubt that nationwide state recognition of same-sex marriage will be reversed in my lifetime. But it is a reasonable possibility, it should be attempted, and the Republican party is the only plausible vehicle for getting it done in the near future.

  2. "And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." - Luke 18:1

  3. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to Christ…” – 2 Cor. 10:4-6 (ESV)

    The recent promulgation on SSM by the SCOTUS is quite simply yet another stronghold, or fortress, that’s been erected against the knowledge of God.

    This should come as no surprise to Christians, because fallen man in his vain imaginings is ever industrious building philosophical strongholds in which he tries to hide himself from his Creator and Judge.

    There are all manner of these spiritual fortresses, and they take many forms, but they’re all alike in that:

    i.) they are the works of men
    ii.) they stand over against the knowledge of God, and
    iii.) they are in opposition to Christ

    They are also alike in another important way – they can be destroyed by the weapons of our warfare, with which God has equipped His people.

    It’s very important for God’s people to think deeply and Biblically so that we may be equipped to destroy the strongholds (and arguments) of the fallen world system which are not in submission to Christ.

    For many this may mean spending more time in prayer, in God’s Word, and with God’s people in order to be better equipped to "Go therefore..."

  4. Brilliant analysis which every concerned Christina should read and feel encouraged by. My only problem is\, will we do as you advise, or will too many drum-beaters waste time on open confrontation and draw more fire upon the rest of us? Anyway, I've been encouraged.