In an issue (Sept. 6, 2018) of the New England Journal of Medicine this month, two professors have written an article calling for euthanasia of the elderly to harvest their body parts for organ donation, “if consent is obtained.”
In England, “a homosexual student group at Goldsmiths, University of London, is under fire for a series of tweets defending the idea of sending dissenters to ‘gulags’ for forced re-education.”
In Washington, D.C., Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to be justice of the Supreme Court by a president applauded for his commitment to the defense of the unalienable right of liberty. Yet, during his confirmation hearings, Mr. Kavanaugh praised retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy as a champion of liberty. He did so even though Mr. Kennedy perpetuated the SCOTUS’ murderous abortion jurisprudence while asserting an understanding of liberty that substitutes licentious freedom for the choice of right according to our Creator’s will – that makes liberty an unalienable characteristic of human nature.
Throughout the world, individuals, governments, and private corporations and groups of various kinds are claiming that it is their prerogative to screen all forms of human communication and eliminate those they find offensive. In addition to totalitarian regimes like the government of China, Twitter, Google and Facebook – the largest private corporations providing electronic services and accommodations to the general public – appointed themselves censors of the global information empire.
They claim to be doing so for the sake of “progressive,” “humanitarian” and pacific aims including especially tolerance, humanitarianism, inclusivity, as well as the elimination of hate, racism and other forms of unjust economic, emotional or behavioral violence, discrimination and domination. But they more and more verge toward pursuing these aims by police-state methods that resemble the paraphernalia of surveillance, intimidation, coercive conditioning and thought pre-emption (information control) deployed by atrociously totalitarian regimes ultimately responsible for the most shocking mass murders and abuses known to human history.
This should not come as a surprise. Atrocious repression has been a feature of many of the governments and movements that rose to prominence on what Alexis de Tocqueville observed to be the rising tide of democracy that rose in earnest during the 19th century. As the 21st century comes into the full light of day, the democratic tide seems may be past its height. The rhetoric of democracy’s egalitarian aims is now being used to re-forge the tools of elitist despotism that fatally inhibited democratic rule in every era of human history before the inception of the United States.
As Plato and others frequently observed, brief democratic moments have routinely been part of the usual cycle of human governance – in which some variety of elitist rule inevitably predominates. America’s founders sought to break the cycle, using democratic forces to modify, absorb and regulate the habitually inordinate ambition characteristic of elitist regimes. Though they did not question the wisdom, ages old, that held democracy to be incapable with orderly, sustained and defensible government, they trusted in what they called the “genius” of the American people. Why did they believe the self-government of the people of the United States would prove to be the exception to this ancient rule, so contemptuous of democracy? Because Americans were willing to embrace an understanding of divine right in which the standard of right did not fall, with the outcome of battle, into the hands of the victor.
According to America’s creed, it is upheld, even in the moment of egregious humiliation and defeat, by the eternal God of all Creation who, in coming into the midst of our humanity, “has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts … put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree.”
The Christian understanding of right focused on the divine right of a King who triumphed, even in utter defeat, over the empire that gripped humanity most powerfully, the empire of death. Christ’s triumph brought the authority of God within reach of all “those who fear him from generation to generation.” By freely accepting to do His will, exemplified in human form in Jesus Christ, even the lowly are set free of the yoke of laws imposed by material compulsion. Becoming, through Christ, “children of promise”: “not children of the slave but of the free …” (Galatians 4:28, 31). They are heirs to the “liberty wherewith Christ has made them free … no longer entangled with the yoke of bondage.”
The rulership this liberty entails begins, by the authority of God-in-Christ, in the heart of everyone who willingly submits to walk in his way. Christian deeds of valor register, in material form, in the battle that pits “the desires of the Spirit … against the flesh.” Victors in this battle being “led by the Spirit … are not under the law.” They become, with Christ, “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,” living thereafter to say, with the Apostle Paul, that “I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
But Christ is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15). He is “the firstborn of the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth … (Revelations 1:5). He is “the Lamb … and those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful.”
People who live in accord with Christ and God can claim to be a law unto themselves. They may live without constraint because they act according to God’s will. This freedom from the law arises from their union with God-in-Christ – who is, beyond all other law, the substance of justice, right and goodness. It is the liberty wherewith Christ makes them free. But this liberty is not the license to do as they please. It is the authority to do what pleases God, without let or hindrance from any merely human power, except a power authorized by common consent to do for the sake of all what each desires to do for God’s sake.
Combined with the obedience to God, by nature possible for people of good conscience not yet familiar with Christ (Romans 2:14-15), this understanding of liberty provides the basis for the self-government of any community of people, who consent together to do right according to the terms of God’s endowment of right to all humanity. It does not dispense with the battle that may be required, against those determined to impose unjustly upon them. But it does dispense with the argument that power determines right, without regard to the standard of God’s justice, for, win or lose, that standard remains within reach of all.
But what will happen to this dispensation once human rules, enforced by willful power, in defiance of God’s endowment of human nature, usurp the self-rule that rightly belongs to all who act according to do God’s will? If the cascade of events now underway continues unabated, Americans are tragically like to find out. Judging by the atrocities of socialist totalitarian regimes in the last century, we will do so the hard way.