Note: The message below came from a friend who commented on remarks I made about Bill Pryor’s treachery. My response follows.

Fr. Daniel,

I think you’ve got Bill Pryor wrong. A quick glance at Romans 13:1-4 reveals that God places individuals in governing positions and requires us to be subject to the authority of those offices. If we only follow those officials when we agree with them, then we are not submitting ourselves to their authority. Thus, we are disobeying God’s command.

I respect Justice Moore and the points he made. However, Justice Moore did not obey God’s command to Christians in Romans 13. After he lost the initial case regarding his display, he should have removed the display pending the hearing of his appeal. This is proper judicial behavior. If Moore had won his appeal, then he could have restored the display. If not, then Moore would have had to make the decision about to go obeying God in a way that brings the most glory to Him.

Actually, if Justice Moore had won his appeal, he probably would have still been removed from office. The rule is, an order must be obeyed until an appeal or stay removes the order. Disobeying an order that is ultimately overturned is still an offense against the law.

If Justice Moore did not in good conscience feel that he could have obeyed God’s command in Romans 13 while still displaying his monument, then he should have resigned his office. God calls us to live a quiet, peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. Justice Moore could have been much effective in bringing attention to this matter and glory to God if he had resigned in protest and led the movement as a private citizen.

Bill Pryor demonstrated a willingness to humble himself before God and follow the rule of law–even when it cost him. Pryor did not prosecute Moore in order to gain brownie points with Senate Democrats. Pryor’s too smart to think that he would be cut any slack from them regardless of what he did. Pryor knew that prosecuting Moore would not make him any more popular at home, either. He could have refused to get into the mess and found himself elected governor or senator in a couple of years. Instead, he took his duty to God and the governing authorities seriously even to his own hurt.

Be careful before you impugn the reputation of a man or woman who is doing his or her best to understand God’s commands for us and how to apply those commands in an evil world. If it should prove out (when we all stand before God and ask His supreme opinion) that either or both of these men are right or wrong, we should not be in a position of being forced to recant our harsh words against them–regardless of that outcome.

I hope I’m not being too heavy. I follow these events closely through your list. Sometimes, though, I think that we may be doing a disservice by attacking a Christian so harshly–even if we are absolutely convinced he is wrong. Jesus commanded us to love one another as an example before a world that’s going to Hell. If we fight each other so harshly over disagreements such as this, how will the world ever see the love of God?

Feel free to disagree with me. If we can’t settle it here, we’ll just let our Big Brother settle it for us later.

Sincerely,
Concerned

Dearest Concerned,

We should certainly obey the word of the Lord. Yes, Romans 13:1-4 is a command to “be subject unto the higher powers.” However, to consider the Alabama Ten Commandments issue simply as a case of disobedience due to disagreement is a grave mistake and unjust trivialization.

If we must obey God’s commands, we must obey them in all things. Christ demands obedience and submission to him. By appealing to Romans 13 as the basis for the authority of those who govern, you are, in fact, proving Judge Moore’s point: all authority to govern comes from the hand of the Lord.

And this is the issue. This is not about a piece of stone in some building. Had Judge Moore been prohibited by law from placing the monument in the building, perhaps it would be about the monument. But, as I’m sure you are aware, no law prohibited the monument then and no law does so now.

See, this is about whether any court, any executive, or any legislature has any authority without God. As you’ve so plainly stated, they do not. Judge Moore realizes this. He went about the business of acknowledging the authority of God. He knows that, if we remove from our society the acknowledgement of God as the moral judge superior to our own sinful human desires, we will not long remain an ordered society and we will certainly not remain a just society.

There being no law to compel Judge Moore to remove the monument and there being no law to compel him to not acknowledge God, he was justified in his course of action. In fact, even if there had been a law prohibiting the acknowledgement of God, he still should have done so. No government exists without the authority of God and every government owes God recognition and submission.

Disobeying an illegal order is not illegal. The federal judge’s order had no basis in law. In fact, the plaintiffs alleged that Judge Moore had violated the First Amendment by installing the monument. The federal judge agreed with the plaintiffs. A simple reading of the First Amendment shows that the court’s conclusion was not based on the words of the First Amendment. In fact, the judge’s order that the monument be removed was designed to prevent Judge Moore from doing that which he had lawful authority to do. And, of course, as a constitutional officer of the state of Alabama, he had a legal and moral obligation to acknowledge God. We can’t at once say that the acknowledgement of God is illegal but that the obligation to do so is legal.

The federal judge said that he could not define the word “religion.” But, he also said Judge Moore had illegally established religion. Does that make sense? If I don’t know what a thing is, how can I recognize it when I see it?

The court said it would delay its order to remove the monument while appeals were ongoing. However, even though the appeals process had not been exhausted–the U.S. Supreme Court had yet to render its decision as to whether it would hear Judge Moore’s appeal (a decision that wasn’t given until more than a month later), the federal district court actually terminated the stay of its order and said that the monument should be removed.

You can understand, then, how resigning from office was not an issue or an option for Judge Moore. In fact, he did act in accord with Romans 13. He was living a quiet and peaceable life and was certainly acting godly and honestly. Had he resigned his office, he would have failed in his duty to honor God–a duty that is both religious and civic; it is codified both in Romans 13 and the Alabama Constitution of 1901.

Leading the movement as a private citizen would not have satisfied his Christian responsibility as a public servant. He would have taken the coward’s way out. It was his duty to stand between the tyranny of a federal judge and his cohorts and the liberties of the people as protected by both the federal and state constitutions. Had he simply bowed in obeisance to the ungodly ruling of a federal judge, he would have failed to uphold his responsibility to the people of Alabama, the constitution of our state, and the admonition of Romans 13. This Pauline passage enumerates both the responsibility of the individual and of the state. No government has the right to do that which God has prohibited.

Reflect on the history of the Protestant Reformation. When the Holy Roman Emperor was ready to effect the will of those who wanted to deprive Martin Luther of his life and liberty, the princes of Europe interposed themselves between the greater power of the emperor and the rights of the people. I wonder if the pattern of blind obedience to human rulers that you suggest Judge Moore should have followed would also mean that the German church and citizenry were justified in submission to Adolph Hitler. No, you know as well as I that men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer were justified in opposing the evil of the German state. It is the Scripture that gives the moral authority for us to oppose evil in high places. Rulers are to minister good and “execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4). Instead, in this case, those in authority chose to persecute the one doing good.

This is the case against Bill Pryor. He chose to stand in opposition to God. He chose to persecute those who were doing their duty to both God and man. He chose to execute wrath upon the one who was doing good.

No, Mr. Pryor did not humble himself and follow the rule of law. Instead, he followed the path of tyrants and the ungodly. Had he been truly interested in honoring God and doing good and obeying Romans 13, he would have refused to prosecute Judge Moore and he would not have sought publicity so he could try to destroy the reputation of Judge Moore. Neither would Mr. Pryor have prejudiced the Court of the Judiciary by giving the governor an advisory opinion, saying that it was okay for two judges whose terms had already expired to stay on the court to hear Judge Moore’s case. He essentially hand picked two of the judges for the court that he stood before to prosecute Judge Moore.

I was in that courtroom. I saw and heard Bill Pryor say that Judge Moore was unrepentant. I witnessed him tell the court that Judge Moore was unfit for office because he had acknowledged God even when told he shouldn’t. See, there is one thing that both Judge Moore, the federal district judge Myron Thompson, and Bill Pryor agree about: this case was about whether the state may acknowledge God. Pryor stood and asked Judge Moore if he would continue to acknowledge God if returned to his position as chief justice. Of course, Judge Moore answered in the affirmative. And Mr. Pryor asked the court to remove Judge Moore from office.

This is a battle between light and darkness, good and evil. Mr. Pryor chose to stand on the side of those who oppose God. We both know that all we do in this world will be rewarded in the next. Judge Moore fears God more than men. He, like St. Paul, is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for he knows the power of God (Romans 1:16). A man is either justified or condemned by his own words (Matthew 12:35-37).

Indeed, as you mention, the Bible does say that the world will know we are Christ’s disciples by the love we have for one another (John 13:35). How can that love be seen when Mr. Pryor condemns a follower of Christ because that man refuses to deny Christ? Instead of showing love to his brother and, thereby, bringing honor to the name of Christ, Pryor brought a reproach against the name of our Savior. If we deny Christ before men, he will deny us before the Father (Matthew 10:32-33).

In our time, men “hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly” (Amos 5:10). “But, let judgement run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24). And, we read in 1 Peter (4:11-19) that judgement should begin at the house of God:

(11) If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

(12) Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: (13) But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (14) If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (15) But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. (16) Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. (17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (18) And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (19) Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

So, friend, “here I stand: I can do no other.” I will not deny Christ before men–even before men who call themselves by Christ’s name but seek to destroy his children. I won’t close my eyes and hope it all works out in the end when we stand before God. I know my duty and I must do it now.

I will not walk in the counsel of the ungodly–instead, I will delight in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1). Those who oppose Christ and his commands are not his followers and not my brethren. As for those who simply disagree with me, I will consider them enemies in war, in peace friends.

Yours in the bonds of Truth,
Fr. Daniel