Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for alerting me to the fact that some people, even normally good and responsible people, are calling for violence or useless and counterproductive illegal activity in the Terri Schaivo case.As I noted in an earlier post, her parents may feel compelled to try to take her food or to protest in some non-violent way. Civil disobedience that is non-violent from parties that are directly involved, like the brave African-American civil rights protesters of the sixties, has an old and honored tradition in America. Such persons must be prepared to face the due legal consequences of those actions. One cannot engage in civil disobedience lightly or just because a single injustice to someone else is being committed. One should also resist the temptation to raise money, seek attention for an organization, or grandstand while pretending civil disobedience. Let the parties involved and their many friends weigh what they wish to do. Those of us in California, for example, should best pray which is, after all, the most effective petition of all. Vitally, we must do nothing to rock the foundations of this precious republic. No single human life, however unjustly taken, is worth the horror of the destruction of the rule of law.That is a tough thing to say, but I mean it. I have written strongly about the great injustice, the barbaric inhumanity, being done to Terri Schaivo. I mean every word of that. However, nothing would be worse than to practice a greater injustice in her name and to sow the seeds for civil war.Socrates was condemned to die by the city of Athens. He accepted his own death and died to expose the injustice (indeed tyranny) of the majority. Why? He could have escaped. He argued, I think rightly, that he had benefited from the laws of the city of Athens. He could not, just to save his own life, undermine those laws in his old age. Socrates died to preserve the laws of Athens for the next generation. This is heroism. His followers did not dare taint his sacrifice by violence.Jesus was unjustly condemned by the Roman state. This is a fact that Western Christians remember today. Our Lord, who had all authority, chose to go to his death. His followers did not use the sword to try to save Him. They lacked that authority. The Christ was not willing to live by the sword of the violent and angry man cut off from the city and the state.The United States is still the most just country on the planet. We still have due process under law. Every day, all over this nation, hundreds of cases are tried. Most are tried wisely and well. However, this is not yet heaven and some cases are decided badly. A few are decided very badly. If the Schaivo case begets a flood of evil, then a time for deep thought and careful judgment about stronger action will come. However, that time is plainly not yet upon us. (Thanks be to God!) We still have the right to vote out bad judges and to elect better men to appoint sound judges. Until we lose that right, we must not consider taking benefits from the state, including the right to vote, while taking the law in our own hands when we do not like the decisions of that state.Governor Jeb Bush has sworn to uphold the constitution of the state of Florida and to enforce the laws of that state. He is also a citizen of the United States sworn to uphold our wonderful constitution. That constitution has been twisted and warped by bad judges acting in a tyrannical manner. However, there is still peaceful recourse to solve the problem of these judges. Bush can appoint better judges as he has the chance. At this point this is all we can do without bringing a greater injustice to pass. We must not dishonor poor Terri Schaivo by using her suffering as an excuse to bring even greater suffering. As single persons we simply do not have the authority or the ability to do more at this point than pray.An individual has fewer God given rights than the state. The state can take your money. God calls it taxes. You take your neighbors money, even if you need it, and God calls it stealing. The state may take too much of your money in taxes, but you pay it anyway. You render to the state even what it unjustly takes. Why? God knows better than we do the horrors of civil war and the injustice and tyranny that flows from civil unrest. Except in the most extreme cases, Burke is a good guide here, even a fairly unjust state is better than the chaos of every man doing what is right in his own eyes. (Don’t believe me? Read the Biblical book of Judges!)The state can take life. God allows the state to raise armies and execute the guilty. The state makes mistakes doing this, but if it acts reasonably and in decent order, then the citizen must tolerate some error. Why? One man lacks the standing to take the law in his own hands. History shows that individuals who do so bring murder and evil in their wake. Think of John Brown, who was a terrorist for the otherwise noble cause of abolition. He died on a gallows, freed no slaves, and murdered many. The path of Lincoln, election and persuasion, is one hundred times harder, but much more effective than that of Brown. The hot heads and radicals who took the law in their own hands brought on good folk a civil war that killed more people than all our other wars combined. It took the genius of Lincoln to defend the rule of law from both his own radicals and the South. We need not look far for a party of Lincoln to give our time, treasure, and precious vote in order to save the next Terri Schaivo. We will never forget her and we will rally to the good men, like George and Jeb Bush, who tried to save her. We will never support any John Brown who tries to use her as a prop to messianic illusions.The case of Terri Shaivo should motivate us to never again vote for a politician who embraces the culture of death. We must work harder for men like George and Jeb Bush who respect life. Having said that we must be willing to lose some battles. Just as our brightest and best sons must die in Iraq to bring freedom to that nation so some of us, like Terri Schaivo, may become martyrs to the cause of human dignity. It is not what we would wish and we agonize over it, but it is what may yet set us free. We mourn for the injustice of the Schaivo case, but will not dignify her killers by acting unjustly ourselves. Instead, we will never forget her and vote against every government official who aided in her unjust death.Any person who calls for taking the law in their own hands is wicked, or an idiot, or so angry that he is not thinking. He must be wicked if he knows the horror of civil war and would begin the fighting in a commonwealth where voting is still possible. He would destroy many lives to possibly save one. He is an idiot if he believes that any revolution so conceived would replace our noble constitution with anything less than tyranny. But I trust that the Christian leaders or people calling for overly strong action are simply so angry that they are not thinking well. . . good men driven by wrath to hasty words. We will see if they take those words back and obey the laws of our nation.God save the United States of America.
Essay / Culture