Agape, Even If By Force
Thursday, October 18, 2007
It was uncomfortable, but I read Francis Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto yesterday.
If you have not read this book, I strongly recommend that you get a copy and do so right away. We’re talking about a pillar of the Christian intellectual community, who wrote statements like this:
“…since tyranny is satanic, not to resist it is to resist God.”
“…at a certain point there is not only the right, but the duty, to disobey the state.”
These are startling words from a conservative evangelical, although as Schaeffer points out, we of all people have inherited a mantle of revolutionary responsibility directly from the founding fathers. And as one reads Schaeffer’s words, they take on more impact when it becomes apparent that here was a true prophet. He predicts the continued rise of courts that overstep from neutral judicial interpretation of existing law into the realm of making law, by actually commanding the legislative branch (!) to create new laws in conformance with court opinion, and in defiance of the will of the majority of the people. (Consider the recent Massachusetts court decision recasting the basic definition of “marriage,” and then demanding that the legislature create a law to support its ruling.) He predicts the rise of science as a form of religion, with its own dogma that brooks no contradiction. (Think of the plight of those who dare to question global warming science, and are publicly compared to Holocaust deniers.) He predicts a blurring of the lines between “conservative” and “liberal,” until there seems to be little difference and therefore little true democratic opportunity for change. (One thinks of “conservatives” who are supposed to be fiscally responsible, yet cannot be trusted to control government spending, and “liberals” who are supposed to advocate the rights of the weak and underprivileged, yet openly support the very same forms of American eugenics that led directly to the real Holocaust.)
Remarkably, Schaeffer predicted all of this over a quarter century ago.
Way back then he also warned that the Moral Majority movement would probably fail. He offered a scathing indictment of evangelical leadership’s inept responses to a rising tide of secular humanism in the century prior to the Moral Majority’s founding, and gives little hope of a change now without a change in tactics.
Fortunately, from beyond the grave Schaeffer offers clear guidance on what to do next. He calls for the Christian use of force to resist the evil consuming our freedoms. That’s right, he calls for force. But he draws a distinction between force and violence. In that regard (and in many others) he sounds very much like Rev. Martin Luther King, as quoted in the wonderful compilation of sermons, A Knock at Midnight:
“We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail. We will go into those jails and transform them from dungeons of shame to havens of freedom and human dignity.” (Martin Luther King, sermon, “The American Dream,” delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, July 4, 1965.)
One thing that struck me again and again in A Christian Manifesto, is the power that comes from Schaeffer’s calm voice in combination with his absolute refusal to compromise the truth. This is such a contrast with the strident tones and rampant non-constructive hyperbole so commonly adopted by some evangelical leaders, and the wishy-washy responses to humanism offered by others. Here was a man who knew how to project the love of Christ while simultaneously speaking the truth boldly, an ability I fear we Christians have nearly lost. Think about our many pitiful attempts to be “relevant” as you watch this excellent video, and if you’re wise, after you’re done laughing you might cry a little.
Dr. King was taken from us in 1968, and Dr. Schaeffer’s book was published in 1981. It’s long past midnight now, and they're done knocking. Is it too late?
I think brother Martin and brother Francis would say that depends on you and me.
Posted byAthol Dickson at 12:29 PM