All Around Us

BREAKDOWN OF RESPECT FOR THE LAW

There have been serious and growing problems recently in this country in law-enforcement. Articles have appeared in the daily papers telling of the opposition of other-wise “lawabiding” citizens to the efforts of police to enforce the law of the land. Up until recently, law-enforcement agencies and police forces of cities and communities have been able to concentrate their attention on fighting crime and violence. They could expect for themselves a relative immunity from harm, for it was considered extremely dangerous to attack or harm or kill a police officer in the pursuit of his duty. But this is rapidly changing. According to a recent rather lengthy article in the U.S. News and World Report, the police are no longer safe. In U.S. cities and communities 48 policemen have been killed and 9,261 have been injured—some permanently.

The opposition to police takes many forms. In the past, if an officer was making an arrest and needed assistance, he could expect the help of nearby citizens who would hasten to his aid and help him when he could not handle the situation alone. This is no longer the case. Increasingly, policemen report that they are left to their own work while citizens stand idly watching. Nor is this all. Sometimes, and more and more as a rule, near-standing citizens are siding with the arrested criminal and giving him support either by their words and shouts or by their actions. Bricks, clubs, knives, glass, bottles—anything handy have been turned into weapons against officers. Besides, there is a sharp increase in mob attacks on policemen. The result is that police run the risk of frantic violence and fierce attacks when they try to enforce the law, quell troubles and stop potential riots. When once the presence of police was a sure way to disperse mobs and break up rioting and mob-action, now the presence of officers of the law is often an occasion for the gathering of mobs which release the furious passions of hatred and disrespect. Instead of assistance from people, police have come to expect and to fear the chants of by-standers who shout in unison, “Police brutality; police brutality.” The result is that much time and energy must be spent in defense of law officers and in fighting of5 harassment while criminals and law-flaunters and violators go free.

Those who have given time to an investigation of this growing problem come up with several reasons. There is the usual charge of communist agitation—which charge seems to be supported somewhat by the fact that communist literature has been flooding the country in which instructions are given on methods of paralyzing law-enforcement agencies by rioting and opposition. There is also, according to authorities, a certain amount of blame that must be laid at the feet of the courts who so often react kindly toward criminals if there is any evidence, no matter how slim, of “police brutality.” This has even, on occasion, been used as an excuse to set free an evident criminal when he resisted arrest and had to be forced to accompany police to his cell. These same courts have been extremely lenient with criminals—especially juveniles—when no “brutality” could be proved. The result has been a growing disrespect for law because people are aware of the fact that no punishment will be meted out to them. There is a great deal of pressure put upon courts by organizations of starry-eyed do-gooders, crackpots and pressure groups who see and hear no evil and who usually side with “persecuted youth” and “man-handled innocents” and look upon police as a sort of Gestapo. Besides, there have been more than the usual amount of scandals among the police themselves, so that they too must partly take the blame for lack of respect for their organizations. These scandals often involve not only crimes among policemen themselves, but also the seeming immunity of organized crime which escapes again and again the clutches of the law. Men like Hoffa and other under-world leaders go free while the petty criminal is apprehended.

Yet, surprisingly enough, listed also among the causes is an admission that there is in this country “a general breakdown of respect for the law, starting with lack of discipline in the home.”

Pondering these things, one wonders how there can yet be so much pious talk of improvement in the world, of giant strides towards making this world a wonderful place to live in, of progress towards causing the influence of Christianity to be felt in every sphere of life. One wonders how people can cling to these ideas when they are mocked by the hollow laughter of upsurges in crime and violence that mark so many cities in this country. Rather than making progress toward Christianizing the world, there seem to be some startling set-backs and retreats for those who would have the kingdom of Christ here below.

And, no doubt it is true that, while much of the blame can be laid at the feet of law-enforcing agencies—olice forces that are corrupt and lenient courts—evertheless the most basic fault still lies in the home. The home is the basic unit of society. Society stands or falls with the home. But in America the frightening disruption of the home goes on and, in fact, gathers momentum. Divorce is only one part of the picture. Mothers who either work out or leave their children with others so that they may enjoy “social life” is another part. Lack of proper relationships between husband and wife reflects itself in a loss of authority and obedience between parents and children. The rapid progress of a social gospel which sees nothing but good in children so that they will develop properly and fully to good citizens if left alone without the restraining hand of discipline to guide and correct them is yet another. If there is no lesson taught in the home of the fundamental relationships of the authority of Christ conferred upon parents to be exercised over children, if obedience is not demanded for God’s sake, then what else can be expected but that this same scorn for authority will manifest itself in other spheres of life—especially the state?

How essential it becomes for believers to resist and oppose these mighty forces that would sweep our world into chaos and anarchy. How important it becomes that the seed of the covenant be taught to “honor, love and obey their parents,” be subject to higher authorities for God’s sake and honor the king.

WHAT IS SIN?

In two recent issues of Our Sunday Visitor, rather interesting remarks appeared concerning the question of what is sinful and what is not. These remarks were made in answers to specific questions that were submitted by the readers. There is a column in this paper in which readers submit questions with regard to doctrine or their personal life, a sort of a spiritual “Ann Landers” column. One question had to do with the rightness or wrong of evil thoughts which come into the consciousness unbidden; the other with profane language which an individual was periodically making use of when, e.g., he would hit his thumb with a hammer while pounding a nail.

The answers to these questions were quite startling. In answer to the question about wicked thoughts, this counselor said that a thought was only wicked when one thinks

about a sinful action with approval of what is sinful. Thoughts are sinful when they express willful approval of evil . . . Willful approval of evil is quite different from the involuntary sense of approval or desire that comes upon almost any one . . . A tempting thought, when quietly put aside for love of God, is not sinful, no matter how long it endures, but is an occasion of merit . . . The evil thoughts you mention were not sinful because you did not want them.

In answer to a question of the use of profane language, the counselor replied: “What you said when that hammer hit your thumb was not a sin either, because you did not have time to think.”

Obviously, this individual takes the position that only premeditated and deliberate and presumptuous thoughts and actions are sinful. Anything else is not sin at all, but is to be excused because it comes unaided and uncalled into the consciousness of our thoughts and into our actions.

This brings up the interesting question of the accountability we sustain before God for the sins which we constantly commit habitually and unconsciously. Certainly Scripture teaches that all our sins proceed from our corrupt and depraved nature. This evidently the Catholic priest who answered these questions denies. In his denial he becomes guilty of Pelagianism—that each man is naturally and morally clean and pure, and learns sin only by imitation and habit. He sins only when he deliberately pursues the path of sin in the full awareness that it is wrong.

Besides this. Scripture and our Confessions teach that we are not only accountable for the sins which we actually commit, but also for our corrupt nature against which we must constantly fight. For example, in Lord’s Day XXI, 56, the question is asked: “What ‘believest thou concerning ‘the forgiveness of sins?’ That God, for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature against which I have to struggle all your life long; but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God.”

This certainly implies that all the evil and corruption that arises in my mind and heart and that comes to concrete expression in my life is evil in the sight of God-evil which must be punished or forgiven through the blood of the cross of Christ. This is true not only of involuntary thoughts or unpremeditated actions; it is also true of all that we do habitually without ever giving any thought to it at all and without even being conscious of the fact that we have done it. Certainly with these things also God is displeased. We are admonished to love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and will and strength all the time and in every thing we do. In as much as we do not, we sin.

For that matter, it is no doubt true that there is no one single action of our life either inward or outward, either in thought or desire or action or deed, either conscious or unconscious, which is not preceded by an act of our wills. Even that which is done habitually and unconsciously must be preceded by an act of our wills which are, apart from regeneration, held in the chains of sin. David prays in Psalm 19:12: “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.” And Moses in Psalm 90 prays: “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.”

The Roman Catholic Church takes a very superficial view of the depravity of man and of the horror of sin. The result is that they also take a very light and superficial and heretical view of the cross of Christ.

—H. Hanko