One of the most alarming trends to be found in our degenerate age is the growth of lawlessness. We are rapidly becoming a country which totters on the brink of anarchy.
There are many evidences of this.
The streets of our, cities are filled with crime. We are told by law-enforcing agencies that a murder is committed in our country at least every five minutes. Within the past two months two mass murders—one in Chicago where eight nurses were systematically butchered and one in Austin, Texas where fifteen people were killed and thirty-one wounded by a rifleman who was himself killed—have shocked the nation. But all kinds of crime increase yearly at n alarming rate. So much is this true that it has attracted the attention of our national legislators. the recent Supreme Court And all this is abetted by decisions which weight the law in favor of the criminal and make it increasingly difficult for law-enforcement agencies to maintain order within our, society. It has become all but impossible to convict a murderer with the full force of the courts on his side. Gangs fight in the streets. Mobs of hoods, riding high-powered motorcycles create mayhem; and the law seems helpless to stop them. The result is that one is no longer safe walking at night on many streets within our larger cities. And one wonders how long he will be safe behind the doors of his house. The courts seem little concerned with the agony and suffering, the rights of the victims of crime, but overwhelmingly concerned with the rights of the criminal.
This growth of lawlessness has become especially evident in the whole field of the civil rights struggle. Demonstrations, freedom marches, sit-ins are so common that they scarcely warrant space in the newspapers any longer. But demonstrations have become riots; and our cities this summer are being torn by looting, burning, strife, murder, and bitter racial war. This is not limited to the South; indeed the cities of the North are the scenes of racial upheaval. Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Detroit, Lansing—these are but a few of the cities which have had to contend with riots this past summer. Looting and arson have been carried on before the eyes of watching police who do nothing to prevent these crimes from taking place, either out of helplessness or fear.
Encouraging this sad state of affairs has been, on the one side, the government, which does not consider, evidently, this rioting to be criminal and a violation of law and order, but which rather excuses it all on the grounds that these underprivileged masses have been so badly treated that they cannot help what they do. Social studies and psychological analyses take the place of law-enforcement. Increased government grants to build new homes and businesses are pouredinto the areas when the participants ought to be prosecuted. Even our vice-president was recently quoted as saying that he too would riot if he was forced to live in a ghetto.
On the other side of the picture, encouraging this massive resistance to the law stands the church. The National Council of Churches has long encourages lawlessness in the mad pursuit of civil rights. Many church assemblies have gone on record as favoring “civil disobedience”—something which the Reformed Church of America accomplished yet at this summer’s synodical meeting. By civil disobedience is meant the right of every individual to obey those laws only which he chooses to obey while being given the full right to disobey the laws which he does not care to obey. And while all this is supposed to be limited to the field of civil rights and racial equality, these limitations were not expressed in synodical decisions, and can therefore be applied to all relation to authority, so that any man at any time has the right to disobey any law which he does not happen to like—if those pompous ecclesiastical assemblies are to be believed.
From this lawlessness in the civil rights movement has grown what is referred to as the movement for “black power.” Floyd McKissick of CORE and Stokley Carmichael of SNICK have joined the militant negro movements and brought their civil rights organizations into the struggle to attain black power. Carmichael has called the Negroes to unite themselves with colored people to gain their ends by force and power. They are determined not only to attain equal rights, but to gain for themselves power over the whites. And they are quite outspoken about their intent to gain this power by forces outside the law when legal processes move too slowly to suit them. They will use with violence, threats, hatred of white people, and contempt for the nation.
These are the latest evidences of lawlessness in a nation which has been lawless for many years. In fact,Time was moved to report recently that the country, born in rebellion against authority has not outgrown the effects of her birth.
What is new is the alarming increase of lawlessness and the backing which lawlessness gets from the churches. There is this indication also of wholesale apostasy in ecclesiastical circles. The church, which ought to stand as a barrier against lawlessness, has come out forcibly in favor of it. There was a recent incident in California which strikingly illustrates this. Unions in this country are founded on the principle of lawlessness and have the right of existence in coercion and defiance of constituted authority. But the churches have taken a role in this violence of unionism as well. Grape-pickers in California recently finished a month-long, 300 mile march from Delano to Sacrament as part of their bitter fight with grape-growers and to be recognized as a union. With them marches Roman Catholic priests and nuns and Protestant ministers. Their right to organize was endorsed by California’s eight Roman Catholic bishops, including Francis Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles and Archbishop Joseph McGucken of San Francisco. Bishop James A. Pike also urged his congregation to join the march. The National Council of Churches formally endorsed the strike. This was done because these leaders believe that they are called to join the fight to attain justice and equality; but they throw justice and law to the winds.
All this has spread rapidly to the whole field of Christian morals. Not only the law of the land is being violated on every side, but the law of God is trampled. It is not surprising that this should be so, for obedience to the authorities in the state is obedience to God who has given them their authority. When the laws of the land are despised, this in only because the law of God is hated.
There are increasing evidences also of man’s total unconcern for the moral law of God.
It was only about eight years ago that advocates of planned parenthood were agitating for the removal of laws banning birth control. Today they have not only accomplished their purpose, but have succeeded in gaining the approval and financial support of the government.
A short time ago some agencies in the country were beginning to press for legalization of abortion. They did this rather quietly and with a great deal of emotional appeal. But today the movement has grown to such an extent that there is an open campaign to permit abortion in the case of known or suspected mental and physical deformity (such as in the recent thalidomide scare). And these same advocates are arguing that no woman should have to give birth to a child she does not want. If she believes that the birth of her child would bring economic hardship or nervous tension or too much work, she should be permitted to request abortion through legal means. Some countries (Japan, e.g.) have adopted this; there is no reason to believe our county will not follow.
From birth control and abortion, it is but a small step to euthanasia—mercy killing. And the advocates for this position are increasing in number. Not only aged people, but also infants born with handicaps should not be permitted to put their burden on society, but should be put, mercifully, out of the way. In fact, with respect to the aged, these insist that every man should be permitted to determine the time of his own death.
And from euthanasia it is but another short jump to eugenics. In this field also there is increased progress and agitation. Scientists are promoting the idea that the most basic processes of life can and ought to be tampered with to produce children of pre-determined physical characteristics and of unheard of intellectual capacities. They advocate artificial insemination of barren mothers or the birth of children through unknown donors for barren fathers.
We have commented before on the increasing influence of the “new morality.” Bishop John T.A. Robinson was recently quoted as saying: “I recognize to the full that all of us, especially young people, have to have working rules. My point is that when these arequestioned as they are being questioned, the Christian is driven back to base them not on law (fornication is always wrong) but on love, on what deep concern for persons as whole persons, in their entire social context really requires.”
Following this lead, Rev. R.N. Waugh, a Presbyterian clergyman wrote: “When maturing people are given their heads and are capable of weighing their responsibilities in the light of pre-marital or extra marital sexual experience, then, given their situation their decision may be moral. . . yes, even the Christian thing to do.”
The next step is quickly taken. A certain Margaret Mead (quoted in Our Sunday Visitor) proposes destruction of marriage as it now exists. She proposes that people who decide they would like to live together be given permission to do this. This will give them opportunity to learn whether they wish to be married. They would not be permitted to have children, however, during this trial period. If they later decided it would be best to be married they could apply for a “parental marriage,” which is a more permanent form and in which they would be allowed to have children. But before they could enter this state, they would first have to show that they are economically and psychologically prepared to have children—perhaps to some government agency. If they could not show this, they would have to abandon thoughts of marriage at least for the time being.
And you may be sure that presently the church, tickled by any new doctrine, will soon be pressing for this too.
And so it goes. How many more instances could not be cited in our lawless society.
What must we say to all this?
It ought to be evident, in the first place, that Scripture itself points us to lawlessness as a sign of the return of Christ. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 24:12: “And because iniquity (literally, “lawlessness”) shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold;” Paul “writes, in II Thess. 2:7, 8: “For the mystery of iniquity (RV has “lawlessness”) doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way; And then shall that Wicked be revealed (RV has “And then shall be revealed the lawless one”), whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”
All this surely means that what is now so terrible will get much worse until it reaches its climax in the days of Antichrist, just before the return of the Lord.
And the basic evil is that men despise God’s law. They toss it aside in contempt and set up laws of their own fashioning which will give them the liberty to live in moral degradation. Despising God’s law they despise all law and become a law unto themselves. It has to be admitted that there is no hope now or in the future for such a world as this.
But the people of God have a solemn obligation in the light of all this. They have an obligation both towards themselves and their children. They must impress upon their children the overwhelming importance of obedience to God’s law. They must emphasize anew that the law of God has, through the power of the cross, been engraven on the hearts of the people of God; that this is the perfect law which alone can give liberty—the liberty of obedience and love to God. They must show the solemn obligation of fulfilling the perfect law of gratitude.
There is another point that needs to be made. It is sometimes argued that civil disobedience is condoned by Scriptures’ principle of “obeying God rather than man.” It is ironic that those who rail at Scripture’s authority nevertheless find it convenient to quote Scripture at times. But be that as it may, this deserves an answer. The fact of the matter is that the Christian must be a law-abiding citizen. But his obligation is also to obey God rather than men. Yet this implies:
1) That he obeys man for God’s sake, recognizing that he is duty bound to subject himself to all in authority over him.
2) That if those in authority over him in the state demand of him something that is contrary to the will of God, he must indeed disobey for God’s sake.
3) That this disobedience is a far cry from the civil disobedience so openly advocated. He has not the right in himself to determine what laws he shall obey and what laws he shall not obey; he has only the Scriptures before which he must bow. And only when he cannot bow to the authority of men without doing violence to his. supreme commitment to Scripture does he have the right to refuse obedience.
4) But even then this is different from the “civil disobedience” of which men speak. The disobedience of which men speak is rebellion and revolution; it is defiance and contempt of law. The disobedience which is the Christian’s sacred trust is a passive disobedience which permits him to continue to recognize the authority of those over him. He bows before a heavenly King.
The child of God must not sink into the moral cesspool of our modern age. He must not be persuaded to drift into the devious paths of evil while straying: from the road of righteousness and truth. He must be obedient to God and to man for God’s sake.