Skip to main content

Above the laws

If we don’t recognize a higher authority, we end up with a government of legalities

Above the laws

PERFECT TEN: The Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma City. (Associated Press/Photo by Sean Murphy)

The group email appeared in my inbox last month: subject line, Alabama Judge. How time flies! You remember Roy Moore and a certain two-ton piece of granite engraved with the Ten Commandments? The monument, commissioned in 2003 by Judge Moore while chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, became the centerpiece of a political drama when a federal judge ordered it removed from the state Capitol rotunda. Moore refused, but after almost a month of supporters staging pro–Ten Commandments demonstrations on the Capitol lawn, the higher court prevailed.

Drama is nothing new for those stone tablets, ever since Moses hurled them down the mountain at the rioting Israelites. Within the ark of the covenant they were hauled around the desert for 40 years, carried into battle, and temporarily lodged in a pagan temple where the idol Dagon somehow lost his footing. In the 21st century they’ve been the target of numerous challenges, from school cafeteria walls to county courtrooms. The latest dustup comes from Oklahoma City, where a Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn was seen as establishing preference for a particular religion. A Satanist “church,” with tongue in cheek, offered to place a demon statue nearby to ensure equal treatment.

“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). I hate to be a bad-news bearer, but the foundations are destroyed. While reading through online comments about the Oklahoma story, I was a bit disconcerted that almost no one could explain exactly why demonic idols shouldn’t be sharing space with the Ten Commandments. Very few commenters made the real point: that when the tablets appear on government property, they testify not primarily to religion, but to law. Even the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., though it doesn’t explicitly feature the Ten Commandments on its doors and pediments (contrary to rumor), honors Moses as chief among lawgivers. John Adams called the United States “a government of laws not men,” meaning that everyone, from the president to the latest immigrant crossing the border, is subject to rule of law.

But there’s a catch, then and now: Law must have an authority outside itself. The major stumbling block to the Ten Commandments is the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Without that authority, ours is a government of legality: men making laws, and more laws, and further laws canceling out previous laws, both within and outside their constitutional limits. Judge Moore was censured for disobeying a federal order, thus breaking the law he had sworn to uphold. Seems rather clear-cut, but 160 years ago, runaway slaves found in free territory had to be returned to their masters. It was the law. And it was only changed by repeated appeals to a higher law.

Wrongs could be righted when both people and politicians agreed on the principle of higher law, but that is no longer the case. The foundations are destroyed; what can the righteous do? The email informed me that Judge Moore had been removed from his position and the usual suspects (ACLU, PAW, etc.) were gunning for his law license. But that’s old news. As every Alabaman knows, he won reelection to the state Supreme Court in 2012, where he again serves as chief justice. Just last month he sent a letter to all 50 state governors asking them to call legislative sessions to draft an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. He still has a voice, and obviously intends to use it in appealing to a higher law. That’s his calling—even though his amendment proposal is, realistically speaking, hopeless.

Those of us who are not chief justices are called to other battles, many of which will look hopeless. We must pick them wisely, and remember the next verse in Psalm 11: “The Lord is in his holy temple.” If the Ten Commandments disappear from the public square, God grant that He will revive them in our hearts, and may idols continue to fall before them.

Email jcheaney@wng.com

Comments

You must be a WORLD Member and be logged in to the website to comment.
  • Richard H's picture
    Richard H
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:40 pm

    As I see it, the issue is eisegesis Vs exegesis.  The liberal "church" has gone apostate due to the use of eisegesis and the Progressives have decimated the Constitution due to eisegesis as well.  The Politically Correct/Post Modern doctrine of deconstruction tied with critical theory has  destroyed both the mainline denominations of the American church, constitutions and culture. 

  •  Neil Evans's picture
    Neil Evans
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:40 pm

    This is an extremely important observation.  It challenges on two fronts.  We must recognize that it is not the interpretation of the law but the law itself which is the firm foundation.  It is obvious that there are conflicting interpretations of the US Constitution.  We must somehow hold an allegiance to our constitution that is higher than even our own interpretation of it.Even more significant for Christians is the fact that the Word of God (The Bible / our Law) is above our own interpretation of it.  We tend to think our own interpretation is the foundational Law on which we stand.  But if I understand Mrs Cheaney correctly we must recognize that the Bible is the Standard for us, (given by the One Law-Giver) to which we and all our interpretations are subject. Perhaps we have lost our "awe" for our US Constitution and the rule of Law because we have lost our "awe" for the Bible and the Rule of God.

  • Big Jim
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:40 pm

    @Buddy Perfect observation

  • Buddy's picture
    Buddy
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:40 pm

    11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. Heb 8:11-13 (KJV)