Against the Tyranny of Omnipotent Moral Busybodies

Could you imagine how pleasant it would be to be in the same circumstance as Adam before the Fall? One rule: only one command to keep. And that from the one who had just created you. It’s not like it would be difficult to figure out where his prerogative sprang from to throw down a rule for you to keep. Alas, how many rules must we keep? How many rules must you keep that you don’t even know of? Just remember, ignorance is no excuse for breaking any of them. From whence do the vast majority of these rules come? Man, not God. Now I know perfectly well that Christians are commanded to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Pet 2:13). I take that to mean any human institution that has the power to enforce its will upon you. I understand such subjection to be primarily for the purpose of refuting the calumnies of unbelievers through right living. It is also for the general purpose of Christians living quiet and peaceable lives (1 Tim 2:2).

Perhaps I may be forgiven for my rebellious tone after your participation in a simple thought experiment. If I were to declare myself the king of my neighbors and order them to do as I say, or else: would that obligate the Christians among my neighbors to obey me in order to be obedient to God? Of course not. Now, what if I had the power to enforce my will upon them via coercion through aggression against their persons and/or their property? I would submit that that is the only difference between me (in this hypothetical scenario) the earthly potentate the apostles had in mind: the ability to enforce one’s will on others. In other words, might makes right when it comes to figuring out whom the Christian should obey. The only caveat is if the “might” (i.e., the moral busybody, or run-of-the-mill tyrant) wants you to do that which is sin: a nonviolent resistance leading to a glorious death for obeying God is preferable to obeying that human institution. Let me try again, if Country A is invaded by Country B should Christians of Country A obey the dictates of Country A, or Country B? Biblically answering this question is easy-peasy (I would never say it’s easy to practice): the Christian should obey whoever has the ability to enforce their will through coercion by aggression against person and/or property (notwithstanding the above caveat). It may cost you your life, but there it is.

So, what does the tyranny of the moral busybody look like? Well, in general, it looks remotely close to the following universal: Person(s) A says, “I love square circles and think everyone one should be forced to accept the existence of square circles, support the manufacture of square circles, and pay for square circles (or at least their promotion); furthermore, the ‘might that makes right’ ought to exercise aggression against all persons, and/or their property, who do not celebrate and support the manufacture (oh, and accept the existence) of square circles.” Person(s) B (often also a would-be omnipotent moral busybody) respond(s), “I don’t believe square circles exist (or at least don’t like them). How dare you, Person(s) A propose such tyrannical machinations! I shall petition the ‘might that makes right’ to exercise aggression against all persons and/or their property who dare to feign that square circles exist, promote the manufacture thereof, or otherwise demand other peoples’ money to support such nonsense.”

Thus, every issue among man devolves into a wrestling match between Person(s) A and Person(s) B to control the “might that makes right.” This is true whether we are talking about square circles, or circular circles (that which actually exists). When it comes to circular circles, the argument made by Person(s) A/B is usually something like this: “Person(s) A/B should not be allowed to drink, smoke, or inject circular circles and ‘the might that makes right’ ought to aggress against all persons and/or their property who dare drink, smoke, or inject circular circles.” Additionally, the tyrannical moral busybody also presents itself in this form (perhaps its most prevalent and vicious): “Circular circles are great! ‘The might that makes right’ ought to steal the money of others (often euphemistically referred to as taxes, fees, or fines) in order to increase the manufacture, sale, and consumption of circular circles.” Might I remind the Christian that theft in any form and for any reason, save perhaps staving off starvation, is wrong?

All I can add is that there is a plethora of aggressions against persons and/or their property that some in modern democracies might advocate for; such as, “the might that makes right” stealing the property of widows and orphans (euphemistically referred to in our society as eminent domain) for the enrichment of this, or that, interest. There is a strange politeness to modern, western tyranny. What should a Christian do?

Love others, work hard, and mind your own business (1 Thess 4:11): that’s what a Christian is commanded to do. Oh, and then there is the whole “free speech” thing, at least in the USA. Can you believe it? In the USA you actually have the sanction of the “might that makes right” to speak the truth in love. Even if you live somewhere that will aggress against you and/or your property for speaking the truth in love, what do you have to lose? Christian, you’re going to live forever and there will come a day that the “might that makes right” will be exercised by none other than him to whom it belongs. Such a circumstance will far surpass the pleasant situation Adam found himself in.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” ~C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock