Sometimes even in a democracy, there can be conflict between the raw power of government and those who stand for principle.
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Power vs Principle
As a lawyer, I am intrigued by how much we dislike confrontation. Entertainers now deliver us non-confrontational heroes like Forrest Gump who quips, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You just don't know what you'll get." Persons of principle, the power elitists tell us, just do not confront anymore.
The power elitists especially do not like it when prolife persons are confrontational. I recall an editorial which Terry Bibo wrote this past summer in the Peoria Journal Star. Ms. Bibo wrote critically about a letter which John Stambaugh, a prolife activist, had written to Pioneer Square businesses urging them to relocate away from the facility where pre born babies are killed in Peoria and threatening to boycott their businesses. Ms. Bibo abhorred such confrontations which might even "kill businesses."
What is more, she charged that such efforts are hypocritically unprincipled as she quoted a Proverb saying that the Lord hates dissension among brothers. She urged Journal Star readers to "pray about" that.
It would be sweet if life was a box of chocolates and principle walked hand in hand with power. But what happens when power collides with principle? What should we do?
Christians are called to imitate the highest Man of Principle, Jesus Christ. Was He non-confrontational? Just perusing the strong words ("vipers", "blind fools", "whited tombs", etc.) that He had to say about certain powerful men of his time convinces us that Christ was confrontational.
As a Christian lawyer, moreover, I find most instructive our Savior's personal confrontation at His trial before Pilate, as told in St. John's Gospel. What happened when Principle confronted power then? Jesus first educated Pilate, saying, "I came into this world to bear witness to the truth." But power was scornful of the truth, sneering, "Truth! What is truth?" Pilate sought Christ's acknowledgment of his power, but Christ put Pilate's power in its proper perspective, stating, "You would have no power at all against Me unless it was given from above." Ultimately, Pilate had Christ crucified.
When principle confronts power, something has to yield. Principle cannot bend the truth, nor refuse to proclaim it. Persuasion is the means by which principle directs power toward the truth. Power therefore must either submit to the truth or attempt to crush it. If it does not submit, power attempts to crush principle by the force of persecution.
Accepting persecution is not a pleasant thought. That is why we dislike confrontation, even on behalf of principle. Christ's promise to us concerning this persecution makes it worth the price. "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness` sake: for theirs shall be the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:10. If we are faithful to principle, Christ promises us ultimately the peace of heaven. Persecution paves the road to that promised peace.
All of us have known persons of principle. As a lawyer, I appreciate most those who confront power on behalf of principle. My brother Jerry is for me the closest example of such a man. With attorney Harry Williams, I defended Jerry in his last confrontation with power before his death. The prosecutor charged Jerry with trespass for entering the Pioneer Square abortion center to persuade a professed Christian grandfather not to have his teenage daughter kill her pre born child, his grandchild. Jerry had previously spent a total of 21 days in jail after he refused to leave the same abortion center on one previous occasion. He knew that he would face persecution again for going back there. Still, principle cannot bend to the truth or refuse to proclaim it. Jerry had no opportunity to speak to the grandfather before he went into the abortion center, so Jerry followed him inside and spoke to him there.
I recently reread Jerry's final statement to the judge before he was sentenced. In eighteen double spaced pages, he eloquently explained why we must confront abortion around us. He closed with a reference to the 18th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. There, Christ warned us not to despise even the smallest among us because their angels behold the face of God in heaven. Further, Christ told us that it is not the Father's will that even one of the little ones should perish. Finally, He enjoined us to go and reprove our brother in private if he sins. "If he listens to you, you have won your brother."
In his statement to the court, Jerry told how he had previously received a late night call from a friend of a young mother who had scheduled an abortion the next morning. Jerry called the young mother's parents and informed them of their daughter's plan. The parents found their daughter that night and persuaded her to cancel the appointment with death. The mother gave birth to her child who now lives happily with her. "Words have that power, your Honor," Jerry told the judge. The judge sentenced him to twenty days in jail.
Mothers who have experienced remorse after aborting their pre born children's lives convince us that no matter how difficult a birth may be, such difficulties pale by comparison with the torment of knowing that one has willfully killed his or her own child. While mothers almost always overcome the pain of childbirth and parents find strength which they did not know they had to raise their children, few parents can face this torment. Mentally and spiritually, they are at war with themselves.
When we assist mothers and fathers to choose life for their children, we safeguard the Innocents from perishing, we win over their parents, our brothers and sisters, to God's peace, and we find that peace ourselves. To obtain these rewards, Christ calls us to confront the power of our age which despises the smallest among us. We know that persecution awaits those who confront power on behalf of principle. We endure that persecution for the sake of the children, our brother and sisters, and ourselves. May we all be together to share God's peace.
Dan Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan is a long time member of the Board of Directors of CIRTL and past president. He is currently vice president in charge of the Outreach Committee.
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