Through a glass darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)KJV

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Ends Do Not Justify The Means?

I came across this article while on the Yahoo! site. Someone asked if one's personal beliefs make it okay to commit a crime. While there may be circumstances when civil disobedience may be in order such as a refusal to obey unjust law - the lunch counter demonstrations and Rosa Parks during the civil rights movement, conscientious objectors refusing to go war, Christians refusing to obey totalitarian laws prohibiting prayer, owning Bibles or meeting together are examples of this, there is a difference between refusing to obey a law and actively planning action to subvert the justice system or government.

The woman in the article chose the path of subverting the justice system by committing perjury and fraud in order to try to get this man on death row. She chose to commit a crime that undermined the integrity of the criminal justice system out of her belief that the Death Penalty is wrong. I don't share her views on the Death Penalty but I also disagree with anti-abortionist that bomb clinics or assassinate clinic workers. Where these tactics differ from the civil disobedience described earlier is that the civil disobedient refuse to DO something such as sit at the back of the bus or they prefer to disobey man to obey God's command while the others do something considered immoral because they do not trust working within the system to change the law they disagree with. The ones committing crimes to gain their ends are also trying to avoid detection/prosecution of their unlawful actions while those who are committing acts of civil disobedience disobey openly and are willing to accept the consequences of their actions.

Paul writes in Romans 13:

"Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.
Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority."

The idea here is that Christians need obey government authorities and will suffer the consequences when they don't. Some people point the American Revolution as an example of Christians not obeying Paul's admonition, but these revolutionaries did attempt to redress their issues through normal political means -they resorted to rebellion when those peaceful means resulted in more repression from an occupying government. The Colonists formed their own government and the Revolutionary War was fought under the direction of the Continental Congress. Even then, as we read in the Declaration of Independence, they were prepared to sacrifice their "Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor". This not the same as bombing abortion clinics, committing fraud or committing acts of terror.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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