There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
What would Dr. King say?
"A Martin Luther King Moment!" blared a recent headline for a story about the protests by teachers (and other public employees) in Wisconsin as they have been rallying to oppose a bill aimed at reigning in the state's deficit. I never got past the headline, so I don't know who said it. I am, however, pretty certain that Martin Luther King would not be comfortable with his name being used as a cover for some of the activities now taking place in Wisconsin. To understand why, first read King's words to his critics related to why he broke the law that landed him in a Birmingham jail: [i]
Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.
I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. [emphasis mine]
Note that King acknowledged that the Birmingham city government had a legitimate right to require groups to have a permit before leading a peaceful demonstration in their city. However, knowing that his organization had been denied a permit as a way of preventing them from showing their opposition to unjust segregation laws, he willingly broke the permit law, yet he showed his "highest respect for law" by his willingness to pay the penalty.
What, by contrast, have some of the teachers in Wisconsin done? They called in sick (a lie), they accepted fake doctor's excuses in an attempt to cover up their actions (another lie), they forced their schools to close (defrauding their employers, cheating the children they claim to care about, and causing working parents to scramble to find day care), and they now expect to be paid for their deceit (estimates of the cost for paying for their "sick days" range from $6 million to $10 million, which means they are willing to steal from the taxpayers who must foot the bill).
In other words, they want to protest what they consider an unjust law [ii] (which is certainly their right and duty as American citizens), they broke the law to do it, but they are not willing to pay the price for their civil disobedience. I seriously doubt King -- who knew something about paying the steep cost of his convictions -- would approve for he knew too well that such cowardly, narcissistic and dishonest actions would only lead to anarchy.
What were the Christians doing?
As I watched the demonstrations on television, I had to wonder how many of the people in the crowd consider themselves Christians -- and how many of those Christians were participating in committing this act of fraud against the state of Wisconsin.
I can only hope that those who are guilty will have an attack of conscience: that the Spirit will bring to their mind the list of sins which God hates the most (Proverbs 6:16-18) so they can see their fault, repent, confess, and then make restitution to those they have harmed. If they don't, then they should expect to pay a different price -- one determined by a righteous and just God who never overlooks sin.
What should Christians across American now do?
What's happening in Wisconsin is just the beginning of such laws and such protests, as Americans must face the "butcher's bill" for decades of deficit spending. The solutions are not going to be painless, and we are all going to need far more wisdom and compassion, and far less selfishness, if we are to survive as a nation. Christians -- more than any other group -- need to be at the forefront of making certain that the fiscal solutions proposed by the government are reasonable, just, and fairly applied to all.
However, we won't have the wisdom we need from God if we have put ourselves outside His will by committing the sins He most despises, the sins that will only lead this nation to anarchy.
You might want to read Dr. King’s words. Order A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., from our online store. Or read the article, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: Just and Unjust Laws,” by Charles Colson.
[i] Read "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" in its entirety at http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/ Letter_Birmingham.html
[ii] Whether it is or is not an unjust law is a separate issue -- one that the citizens of Wisconsin must decide, and will decide, either through the legislature, the courts, or the ballot box.
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