What a week!—the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, polls showing that millennials prefer communism to capitalism, murderous hatred displayed in a small Baptist church, and calls on the federal government for stricter gun control laws. There is a common thread here if we will but see it.
The Bolshevik Revolution was a response to many social evils flowing from the rule of the czars, but communism, at its root, is atheistic. And for the leaders of the revolution, the solution to those evils was a change in the form of civil government and social structures, a human solution.
Millennials no doubt see much greed and corruption within the marketplace, associate those evils with capitalism, and, as with the Bolsheviks, turn to civil government to bring a human solution.
Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman who killed at least 26 people in the recent Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting, was doing on an individual level what, on a corporate level, the Bolsheviks did and what millennials would have us do—coming up with a human solution to a human problem. Murderers don’t act for no reason. To the murderer, murder is a human solution intended to achieve a better or perhaps more just end than what “nature” has been dealing out to him or her.
And, of course, the response of many people to Kelley’s evil, like the response to abuses by the czars and capitalists, is to turn to civil government for a human solution—more gun control.
In each of these situations, there is a problem, and increasingly a majority of us turn to civil government for its solution, even though it repeatedly fails to solve anything. Why do so many instinctively turn to civil government?
Jean-Jacque Rousseau, whose writings laid a foundation for the French Revolution, gives us insight into that question:
This is the great problem to solve in politics: to find a form of government that puts the law above man. If such a form cannot be found—and I frankly confess I think it can’t—I think we should go to the opposite extreme and put one man as far above the law as we can, and consequently create the most arbitrary despotism possible. I would like the despot to be a God. In short, I see no middle way between the most severe democracy and the most perfect Hobbism.1 For the conflict between men and laws, which puts the state into perpetual civil war, is the worst of all political states. (emphasis mine)
In other words, says Rousseau, there is no law of God that is over us all (“above man”) and to which we are all subject. But we must have some means by which we avoid the “state of war” that Thomas Hobbes described as our natural condition in which it is “every man against every man.” And in the absence of a willingness on our part to acknowledge God’s law over us and turn from our refusal to heed that law, we turn to another power and to its law—civil government, which must, of necessity, accumulate more and more power in order to “control” that war.
When we turn to civil government for the solution to every problem, we are tacitly, if not admittedly, saying, “Be god over us. Bring us the salvation we need.”
It probably seems odd for me to say that since I have been laboring in the field of politics for more than 20 years, but I labor not so much for “solutions” from government as to urge those who govern us to acknowledge the law of God that is over us and from which our human laws must draw the justice and righteousness we need to allow for human flourishing.
Admittedly, many professing Christians in positions of influence and power in the past have abused that influence and power and have done awful things. But instead of trying to correct where we have gone wrong in the past and bring ourselves into greater alignment with the law of God that is over us, we have thrown out that law and the God who is its author.
Civil government and law have their place and have a role to play; they are not unimportant. But we have come to expect them to be god in place of the God we’ve rejected and look to them to bring us salvation.
I look forward to the day when we’ve run out of man-made solutions, consider the real nature of our problem—our rebellion against God and the rejection of the law that governs His creation—and focus more on trying His solution.
- Merriam-Webster defines Hobbism as “the philosophical system of Thomas Hobbes; especially the Hobbesian theory that people have a fundamental right to self-preservation and to pursue selfish aims but will relinquish these rights to an absolute monarch in the interest of common safety and happiness.”
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David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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