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From the moment you go to prison you must put your cozy past firmly behind you. At the very threshold, you must say to yourself: "My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there's nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die — now or a little later. But later on, in truth, it will be even harder, and so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property whatsoever. For me those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on, my body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me." Confronted by such a prisoner, the interrogation will tremble. ... Only the man who has renounced everything can win that victory. -Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol.1.
Speaking to the young pilgrims inside the cathedral, the cardinal exclaimed, "Dear friends, we are not called to be mediocre Christians! No, God calls us all to the total gift, to the martyrdom of the body or the heart!" -Cdl. Sarah Denounces West's Drift From God.
And the king went to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent. Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet and cast him into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:11–14)
I would say, to Solzhenitsyn's last words quoted above, "everything but God."
Politics has consequences. At the time of its founding, self-professed followers of Christ living in the United States greatly influenced the meaning of the term "politics." They rooted its meaning in the obligation to do right, according to God's will, which He programmed into the very substance of human nature. People who came together deliberately consenting to fulfill that obligation constituted the body of the citizens, the body politic. By actively consenting to be governed by God's rule for right, they each of them signified their intention to contribute such forces as they had to the power of government with which they would undertake to pursue the activities God's rule required of them and, as need be, defend that pursuit.
Thus, by their common consent as individuals to do right according to God's truth, individual members of the body politic contribute to its sovereign power. Thus, their individual contribution to the power of government entitles them to participate in the body's deliberations about the right and proper use of that power. Unless, by some positive act, they show they are no longer willing to make this contribution, they are assumed to be members of the sovereign, contributing to its intelligence and goodwill, in conformity with the determination to do justice according to God's rule.
It's important to note that the governmental authority of the body politic, thus understood, is not derived simply from its power, but from the determination of all its members to use that power to pursue God's justice. This derivation assumes that, in practice, the deliberate actions of the body politic will be discussed and agreed upon in light of the standard God's rule provides. Its members may not all of them agree on the best way to apply and conform to that standard in any given instance. But the body politic may act so long as the positive conviction that God's rule requires the action or activity, combined with the unwillingness to do nothing, outweighs the conviction that God's rule commands opposition to the action or activity proposed.
During Christ's conversation with Pilate in John 18:33–37, the Roman governor questions Jesus about the accusation leveled against him, that he has claimed kingship over the Jews. "You are a king, then!" Pilate exclaims. Christ answers, saying, "For this I was born, for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth." The Greek word in this, translated as "world" into English, is cosmos in the Greek. It alludes to the orderly, rule-governed arrangement. Christ knew the penalty for claiming kingship without leave from Caesar: death. He stood accused by the Sanhedrin of making this claim. Nonetheless, he refused to deny its truth.
What does this mean for the vocation of those who profess to be followers of Christ? It means that, like Him, we must accept that it is our mission to bear witness to God's truth, whatever consequences we are likely to suffer as a result. It should be hard for America's Christ-followers to forget this. All the great battles for justice in our nation's history saw people called by His name in the front lines, risking and giving their lives to bear witness to the truth. They did so for the truth that it is wrong to deny each individual's responsibility and accountability to God's rule — either by enslaving their bodies or suppressing their body politic.
It is wrong to suppress their individual contributions to the deliberations of the body politic, e.g., by denying the vote to blacks and women who otherwise qualified by reason of their assumed goodwill and humanity. It is wrong to suppress parents' responsibility for their children, who are by nature the most precious of their belongings. It is wrong to murder humanity in the womb, discarding the image and likeness of God, whose rule, for the sake of humanity, assigns to them that place of safety.
We must accept that it is our mission to bear witness to God's truth, whatever consequences we are likely to suffer as a result.
It is wrong to license and encourage the sexual passions of children, well knowing that, unaided by the discipleship of love, for God and His gracious gifts to human procreation, sexual pleasures are the harsh overseers of natural slavery. It is wrong to encourage that slavery to individual passion, knowing that it deprives the enslaved of the character they need to sustain their just self-government.
Because we have entrusted our lives to Christ within us, those who strive, albeit haltingly, to follow Christ are obliged to make his vocation to witness for truth our own. We must do so in respect of ourselves and what Christ, by God's gift of Grace, has done for us. We must do so in respect of our families and the love Christ's great self-sacrifice exampled for the salvation of our offspring. We must do so for our nation, in respect of God's justice, beginning with the self-evident truths that acknowledge His rule over right and rights, rooted in the obligation to respect the rule of God over all.
For now, this means that we may find ourselves among those in whom nothing outweighs the conviction that God's rule requires us to oppose actions and activities that violate it even if they now go falsely claiming the force of law. We will likely face the interrogation of which Solzhenitsyn wrote. However, it will probably not take place in darkness, but like Stalin's show trials, in the electronic glare of public scrutiny — torturing mind and body with a thousand humiliating scourges. Are we ready to endure no matter what the cost? Let us pray that the presence of Christ within us strengthens our hearts, our conscience and our timid flesh so that the adamant Spirit of God in Truth becomes the only ground of our existence, upon which our unshakeable belonging is to God and Jesus Christ.
Dr. Alan Keyes served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations under President Ronald Reagan, and ran for president in 1996, 2000 and 2008. He holds a Ph.D. in government from Harvard, and writes at his website Loyal to Liberty.