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Are Demagogues Able To Bring Peace and Justice?

June 12, 2017

Racial demagogues like Al Sharpton are shouting “No Justice, No Peace!”  Yet, we still have not reached the Biblical essence of the ordering of peace and justice. Peace comes from honoring Almighty God, and justice follows from peace. The prophet Jeremiah in the 6th century B.C. regularly cried out “They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, 'Peace, peace!' When there is no peace.”(Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11) God, speaking through Jeremiah, was railing against the false peace engendered by the Hebrew kings making deals with Egypt that would supposedly assure peace and security, i.e., protection, from the Babylonians. Jeremiah, hearing from Almighty God, understood that the peace treaties being signed provided only a false security. God’s providence required that the Babylonians conquer Judea and that the Jews living there be made captive for 70 years. True peace required an acceptance of God’s will though the loss of the Temple, and loss of political sovereignty was a bitter pill to swallow. Jeremiah exhorted the people to live in the land of Babylonia and make an effort to be positive and productive. 

“5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. 6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. 7 And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9 For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:4-8)

Thus, a true peace was not simply good alliances, or based in self-protection. The Hebrews were to live as normal a life as possible despite being in captivity.

True peace was possible even in defeat, even in the loss of the spiritual fixtures of life, and the beloved comforts of home. True peace can even be found when living as captives in a foreign land. It comes from a holy acceptance of God’s will even though it may seem culturally unacceptable. True peace comes from living in hope no matter what our circumstances may be. Thus, peace most certainly comes before justice, but before peace in everyday life comes peace with God, represented by following Jeremiah’s prophetic teaching in the 6th century and, in our era, by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Rioting can never bring about justice. Justice can only be brought about on a step-by-step basis as we move from lawfulness to a higher lawfulness. Protests and even resistance to tyranny or injustice must emanate from God’s Providence. Just as personal sanctification draws us as individuals to higher moral levels, so resistance to social principles and policies and the lawful authority of the state must also come from God. Thus, the American War For Independence was a war based on injustices that were ratified first and foremost by the Holy Bible.

Twenty-seven grievances against the British Crown and the Parliament are listed in the Declaration of Independence. They are all oppressions inconsistent with Biblical morality. The War For Independence was largely supported by America’s Biblical pastors, and by a political leadership steeped in Biblical morality and a belief in Divine Providence.

Our independence was followed by satisfaction with the Treaty of Paris of 1783, and continued governance under the Articles of Confederation. Even the 1780’s with its disputes under the Articles of Confederation was not mainly a period of internal bloodshed and wanton murder. Rather, it was a time of prayer, thoughtful and intense negotiation, and, despite misgivings in certain quarters, a time of rational discourse and hopeful engagement. Self-controlled, prayerful, informed, and rational men seriously engaged each other. Our Constitution was the product of those long, difficult communications and negotiations.

Compare the events of our War of Independence and subsequent developments with the French Revolution. The Tennis Court Oath, taken by members of the Third Estate that Louis XVI tried to disperse, tried to force constitutionalism on France. They came up with the Constitution of 1791, but it was an ineffective document, and was soon rejected. That Constitution was the beginning of an incredibly long period of instability. When Louis XVI was beheaded, was justice and peace ushered in?  No. France went through seven governments over the next hundred years. They endured and experienced a limited cohesion under the pseudo-emperor Napoleon who began a whole series of foreign wars. But after the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, the monarchy was reinstated. So much for the “justice” of getting rid of the King. The French experience was not one of either justice or stability following its “revolution.”  Thus, revolution, unless its foundation is Divine Providence, discerned and upheld by men of God, the fruit will be instability, perversity, and bloodshed, but not justice.

Thus the drumbeat goes on insisting on justice as a precondition of peace.  More and more of the disturbed masses see peace or harmony as the 'Pollyanna' expression of a self-serving status quo. Others defend peace under a law and order mindset. They are well aware of George Washington’s suppression of the Whisky Rebellion and the horrors – the breach of the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” – in such terrible cop-killing events as the Haymarket bombing in the late 19th century and the recent killing of the police in Dallas.

But the big picture of peace can only come when we see that peace is a Christ-directed move from lawfulness to a greater lawfulness, not to lawlessness. To have this we must have leaders in our pulpits and in the offices of political power that know and speak out forcefully that all true peace and true justice comes from the Holy God. They were not there in Jeremiah’s time, and sadly they are not there today. The justice that the radicals are calling for surely is not just. But, while the law and order advocates certainly are better than their riotous and destructive opposition, we know that law and order can be imposed by a dictatorial mindset so law and order cannot be the only or primary principle for governance. True law and order advocates must not only stop lawless, hateful, destructive behavior, but must follow the examples of many of our forefathers, and remain on their knees before a faithful and holy God.

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Jeffrey Ludwig is a teacher of history and philosophy and has taught at Harvard, Penn State, Juniata College, and the City University of New York as well as at the secondary school level. He has published numerous articles at americanthinker.com, frontpagemag.com, israelnationalnews.com, and americanchurchmag.com   He also served as pastor of Bible Christian Church in New York City. His latest book is entitled "The Catastrophic Decline of America's Public High Schools." You can get it from Amazon here...