The basic question in politics is this: what is our warrant for making people do things? George Washington once noted that government rests upon force. In the last analysis, however you want to describe it, government makes some people do what they don’t want to do. The point of traction in government is therefore coercion.
The fact that most people like the public arrangement and don’t need to be coerced doesn’t alter this basic fact. The coercion falls on the outliers, true enough, and when the force of coercion begins to fall on everyone that is a prime indicator that the particular government concerned is not long for the world. Nevertheless, the fact that only some people are coerced doesn’t make the arrangement “not coercive.” Most of the tire isn’t touching the road. When a lot of the tire is touching the road you have what is called a flat, and the car won’t go.
So if coercion is inescapable, we should ask some tough questions about it. What is our warrant for coercing people? Who should coerced, and in what areas? What should happen to a man if he fights our attempts to make him do something?
My political philosophy is pretty simple. We should want to keep coercion to a minium, and we should want to have ample warrant from God Almighty for whatever coercion we impose. And if we follow the latter principle wisely, the former should take care of itself.
I want the coercive power of the state to fall on thugs and rapists, and not upon the wrong kind of light bulb user. I want force to be applied to the man who would rob a merchant of his earnings, and not applied to the merchant himself, so that the government might rob him of his earnings. I want to restrict the thief with a Saturday night special, and this means I should also want to restrict the thief who does what he does with fountain pens in signing ceremonies. In short, I want coercion to fall on the wicked, and not on the righteous.
“Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood” (Ps. 94:20-21).
“Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness” (Prov. 25:5).
I want the warrant for the use of force to come out of Scripture. I don’t want it to come out of the frenetic vaporings of global warming screechers, or any other form of officious leftist meddling.
Now some worry about a tight theocratic state, run by scowling exegetes whose shoes are two sizes too small, and they have asked where this leaves citizens whose activities would be proscribed by biblical law — like enthusiasts for sodomy or sharia. Those who worry about this possible problem envision a dark and dystopic Amerika when, on these two topics it would actually look more like America in 1960. Was America in 1960 a free society? Sodomy was against the law everywhere, and no locales were carving out room for sharia.
Look. Christians who believe the Bible invented free societies. Secularists who worry about fundamentalist Christians sneaking in to spy out their liberties are like a prodigal son, buying drinks for the house, secretly worrying that his father will break into his room that night in order to steal all his money.