Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Loyal Opposition

By Mitchell

Our good friend (and frequent commentor) Badda makes a welcome return with this thoughtful piece on how Republicans (and conservatives in general) ought to react to last week's election results. In short, with maturity - as opposed to how, say, liberals have reacted to recent election defeats. This is a sentiment echoed by Cathy of Alex, who urges us to show a little respect.

Understandably, this is not an outlook shared by everyone - witness some of the comments Dirty Harry received when he voiced a similar attitude.

Now, far be it from me to add gas to the fire, but I would simply offer, for your perusal (and make sure you've got some serious time to read it), the landmark (and controversial) 1996 symposium by First Things entitled, "The End of Democracy?" As prescient now as it was then, it includes this passage from Charles Colson, to which we must all supply our own answers:

The uniqueness of the American experiment provides an opportunity for a Christian critique of the legitimacy of the current regime. When the republic was founded, the biblical tradition and the Enlightenment—two distinct and often antagonistic understandings of the world—seemed to find a patch of common ground. God’s authority was acknowledged (“All men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”), but sovereignty was vested not in God but in the people who consented to be so governed. The subsequent experiment in “ordered liberty” was achieved because, while some saw their liberty secured by God and others by their status as human beings alone, all agreed to be bound together for the sake of that liberty.

To use a political term of the time, a “social contract” that included biblical believers and Enlightenment rationalists was the basis of the founding of the United States. Whether Christians ought to have agreed to that contract is an interesting historical and theological question, but not really of much significance in our present circumstances—for agree to it Christians did. Our pressing question is rather whether the successor parties—today’s governed populace and their judicial governors—still recognize the essence of the contract. If one party no longer does, that party has breached what lawyers call a “condition precedent”: the essential promise by which the other party’s agreement was secured.

If the terms of our contract have in fact been broken, Christian citizens may be compelled to force the government to return to its original understanding—as even Enlightenment rationalists have acknowledged. John Locke, a principal Enlightenment force behind the theory of a social contract, advocated the right of citizens’ resistance to enforce the terms of the contract. The writings of Thomas Jefferson, who spoke openly of the necessity of revolution, could also be called upon for support.

It seems to me, however, that only the Church in some corporate capacity, not the individual Christian, has the authority to answer the question of our allegiance to the present regime.


Only the Church collectively can decide at what point a government becomes sufficiently corrupt that a believer must resist it. But, with fear and trembling, I have begun to believe that, however Christians in America gather to reach their consensus, we are fast approaching this point. Most orthodox Christians are likely to find it impossible to support a political regime under which the judiciary—without any legislative license—sanctions abortion, euthanasia, and homosexual marriage. Few believers are likely to pledge their allegiance to a government under which the courts—in the name of “constitutional rights” they themselves have sole authority to read into the Constitution—can systematically close off any form of political opposition by declaring it to betray the “inevitable inference” of animus.

Remember, Colson wrote this twelve years ago. Has anything changed since then? Colson asks this sobering question: "And if, after prayerful deliberation, Christians corporately determine that our present government has violated its God-given mandate, what then?"

What, indeed? Has it come time to ask and answer this question? There are many hopes, fears, rumors, of what the new administration will do, what actions the new leader will take. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, as the old saying goes. The future, it is true, will be decided by fact and action, not rumor and fancy. And, in fact, can it be said that Christians can corporately determine anything anymore? Or is the time coming when individuals will have to take their own stand?

These questions remain on the table, before the house. As for the answers - well, that, to me, seems to be what the next four years will be all about.

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