Dan Popp
Lawless law
By Dan Popp
February 21, 2012

And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and for all times, and there will be one master and one ruler, that is, God, over us all, for He is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. — Cicero

It seems to me that lawlessness is the second biggest problem in the world right now. We're experiencing a pandemic of the delusion "the rules don't apply to me." God's rules, the nation's rules, society's rules — they're all much too puny and parochial to encompass the expansive egos of visionaries who are really (to be kind) not that impressive. In case you're wondering, I think the number one problem is godlessness, which is the root of lawlessness. Without God, wrote Dostoevsky, "everything is permitted." Over a short series of essays I want to think with you about this problem, starting with lawlessness in those who would make our laws.

Leftists believe they have the "moral high ground," and that conservatives are wrongheaded at best for insisting that the government obey the Constitution. But I would define morality as conformity to the moral law. The leftist denies the existence of universal moral law. He is refuted from either side: if there are no moral absolutes, then "good" and "moral" are indefinable terms. He is found to be abusing the language to hide the fact that his "morals" are only his preferences. If, on the other hand, divine law exists, then lawless people like himself are not good, and cannot do good.

To the leftist, "goodness" is something nebulous having to do with warm feelings in his heart toward the poor (which seldom make it down his arm to his hand, and out to his pocketbook). His self-esteem is derived in large part from these feelings. It shouldn't be surprising that leftists are extremely hostile to the suggestion that their Agenda (doing "good") should be constrained by the Constitution (law). They have missed or destroyed the connection between good and law. Their view could be distilled to this sentence: You will do what I say because I mean well — and I have a gun.

Or: might makes right.

Of course, "might makes right" is shorthand for immorality. It's the old "divine right of kings" theory that fell out of fashion for a couple of centuries in the West, though it's making a comeback. America in particular was designed to be "a nation of laws, not of men," where even the rich and powerful had to bow to the law. There were to be no nobles here. The toadies of the old world muttered, Rex Lex (the King is Law); our founders shouted, Lex Rex — the Law is King!

Rex Lex is reflected in the recent HHS ruling that trampled real religious rights in order to provide new, imaginary rights. You saw it in the President's "compromise," which was to point the gun at someone else. This is classic playground maladjustment: when the bully meets resistance, he looks around for a weaker target.

You see this arrogance of being above the law in the left's premise that the government can and should and must intervene in every malady of life. When you ask where government is supposed to get the power to do all this, you'll hear: "From us — from We, the People." But the People created a binding legal instrument to protect our rights against the power of the government. The Constitution is a restraining order keeping the tyrant's good intentions off our property. No person or group may misuse the government to violate the rights of other people. That's the law.

This argument is met with bewilderment. What? You think the federal government can only do what's on that piece of paper?!? I don't care about the Constitution; I only care about Helping People!

So the government doesn't have to obey the laws we made for it; but we must obey the laws it makes for us.

But without the sanction of the Constitution, the leftist's "law" is only violence. And without deference to God's Law, he is only imposing his values, which (he has told us) are no better than anyone else's values.

There is much more danger here than the perpetual child realizes. When the hoi polloi come to feel that their rulers do not follow the rules, they may begin to question the whole concept of abiding by the law. The Supreme Court may wake up one morning to find that ordinary folks have declared them unconstitutional, along with the rest of the government. So said Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 33: "If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify."

The left can't have it both ways. Only those under law can make law.

Power always thinks... that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws. — John Adams

The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike. Subjectivism about values is eternally incompatible with democracy. — C.S. Lewis

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters. — Daniel Webster

It had been supposed, until our time, that despotism was odious, under whatever form it appeared. It is a discovery of modern days that there are such things as legitimate tyranny and holy injustice, provided that they are exercised in the name of the people. — Alexis de Tocqueville

For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it. — A Roman centurion (Luke 7:8, NASB)

Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness. — Jesus (Matt. 7:23)

© Dan Popp


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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