“The precepts of the Decalogue…prescribe and constitute a way, rule, guiding star, and boundry for human society. If anyone would take them out of politics, he would destroy it; indeed, he would destroy all…social life among men.” (Johannes Althusius) America is becoming a lawless nation. While the number of individual lawbreakers has been increasing, it is not just criminals who are lawless. It is also those we elect to uphold the law. To sum up the thinking of many of our government leaders, both Democrat and Republican, the words of former President Obama in early 2014 were: “That’s a good thing about being President. I can do whatever I want.” This comment was made while visiting Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. I seriously doubt Jefferson would have agreed. In illustration, President Obama unilaterally changed the Affordable Care Act (a law passed by both houses of Congress controlled by his own party) at least 24 times. He made judicial appointments without the Senate being in recess…an act that a federal court later ruled as unconstitutional.
The problem has not been limited to just recent presidents. Many legislators ignore the law (even those they approved) and the Constitution…becoming a law unto themselves. Even judges regularly make law. For example, the US District Judge in Texas toppled a marriage amendment upholding the traditional and Biblical view of marriage that had been approved by more than 75% of the voters in that state. In 2015 the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges agreed with such lower court rulings. In a 5 to 4 decision the court said that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Five judges cast aside centuries of legal precedent, and, contrary to the Constitution, assumed the role of law-makers. Twelve days after Virginia’s Attorney General took an oath in 2014 to uphold the Constitution of Virginia, he said he would not enforce the marriage definition provision in the Constitution and would, in fact, work against it. He, in essence, declared he would be the source of the law. Other Attorneys General have done likewise, and in February 2014 the US Attorney General Eric Holder declared that state AGs are not obligated to defend the laws with which they disagree. (We see an illustration of such a stance today as the murder/robbery/assault/etc. rates continue to climb and offenders are back on the streets before the police can even complete their reports.) Another leader in the ‘law world’, Thomas Sowell wrote: “Immigration laws are the only laws that are discussed in terms of how to help people who break them. One of the big problems that those who are pushing ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ want solved is how to help people who came here illegally and are now ‘living in the shadows’ as a result. Add to this, government agencies that run rough-shod over the rights of individual citizens and the failure of Congress to perform its legal duties, and we can see we have a serious problem.
Why is this happening? One primary reason we are becoming a lawless society is that the church (both as an institution and the corporate body of believers) has become lawless. The church has in many ways disregarded all uses of God’s moral laws as revealed in the Ten Commandments: For civil use as a curb against sinful action in society, for didactic use as the rule by which we should govern our lives and grow in maturity, and for theological use as a mirror that serves as a school master to bring us to Christ.
For over three centuries the Ten Commandments were ubiquitous in America.
> The Ten Commandments were taught in all the churches and hung on church walls of many denominations.
> Christian leaders followed the example of Protestant reformers like Luther, Calvin, and Knox and systematically taught the Decalogue.
> Catechisms were the primary textbooks in th 17th and 18th centuries. The Ten Commandments were central in these catechisms: for example, about 40% of the questions in the Westminster Shorter Catechism deal with the Decalogue.
> The New England Primer, the bestselling text in the 1700s with about 5 million sold, contained the Shorter Catechism. Almost all of our Founding Fathers, even the minority who were not Christians, would have used this book and memorized the catechism. Therefore, even the non-believers were thoroughly grounded in the moral law of God.
> Webster’s ‘Blue-Back Speller’ sold about 100 million copies in the 19th century. Over 100 sentences used to introduce new words taught the moral law of God contained in all ten of the Commandments.
> The McGuffey Readers, which sold 122 million copies, had a section on the Ten Commandments.
> Other textbooks would have likewise taught the moral law of God. In fact, the Ten Commandments hung on many schoolroom walls up until 1980 when the Supreme Court…in all its wisdom…ruled this was unconstitutional.
> The Ten Commandments were the foundation of civil law in America…yet somehow the Supreme Court found their display to be unconstitutional…go figure!
> The first laws written in the colonies, Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall, etc., were written in Virginia during 1609-12 and contain most of the Ten Commandments.
> The laws of the New Haven Colony, founded by John Davenport in 1638, state: “the judicial laws of God, as they were delivered by Moses and expounded in other parts of Scripture, so far as they are a defense to the moral law, and neither typical nor ceremonial nor had reference to Canaan, shall be accounted of moral and binding equity and force.”
> Massachusetts Body of Liberties: the standard for this precursor to the Bill of Rights was the Word of God.
> The rights and liberties of the Ten Commandments are preserved in all our civil documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.
> Recognizing the Ten Commandments as the foundation of our laws is why many state capitols have plaques of the Ten Commandments.
> The basis of America’s legal system was built upon the Biblical view of law as taught by William Blackstone and others. For this reason, many courtrooms had the Ten Commandments hanging upon the walls, until recent times.
So, with the Ten Commandments so much a part of our nation’s foundation, why do we find it under attack in recent times? Next week we will take a look at the reason for these assaults. As Christians we know the reason. It is important that we take a look at some of the methodology of these attacks.
“People elect representatives, expecting their leaders to work on behalf of the people. But leaders sometimes end up serving special interests instead of serving the people. God will hold all leaders responsible for the way they have led. (A Nation in Crisis, Ray C. Stedman)