I recently came across this story in the social media sphere – it declares that 54 people have been arrested for kneeling to pray. It caught my attention because, at first, I thought people were being arrested for some trumped-up charge, just to keep them from praying. It seemed unlikely, though, so I read the whole article to figure out the truth. (As wonderful as pro-Christian news sites are, they tend to ignore little things like legal charges and official regulations being violated. “Christian Man Arrested for Hosting Bible Study” is catchier than “Man Arrested for Blocking Residential Streets with a Hundred Visitors,” for example.)
At any rate, upon reading the aforementioned article, I learned that these people being arrested chose to be arrested as an intentional protest against the HHS mandate. In short, they knew the ordinance that protesters could not remain stationary during a protest, and they – with full intent to disobey the law – took their signs and knelt down and stuck to one place all day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of the HHS mandate, and I am a fan of religious freedom. But you can’t seriously think this is the best way to get that message across. We can (and should) write letters to Congress, both Representatives and Senators, opposing this legislation and seeking to have it removed; we can (and should) write letters to the President, voicing our concerns; we can (and should) protest with our votes this November; we can (and should) peaceably protest outside legislative and executive offices according to all prescribed laws and ordinances.
What we cannot, what we must not, do is violate laws for the sake of violating laws. In this case, these people have chosen to get arrested for violating a legitimate law (whether you agree with it or not, there is no restriction on religious freedom in an ordinance about remaining stationary during a protest – no religion absolutely requires you not to move while praying). They have done this in order to prove that they are willing to get arrested for violating an illegitimate law (the HHS mandate, which does violate religious freedoms, and therefore violates the Constitution of these United States).
This makes no sense whatsoever. To tell the government that one of its laws is unlawful, you break another of its laws, which is lawful? I may as well say, “I have chosen to protest the HHS mandate by driving at 88 mph in this 70 mph zone. My religion, dear officer, requires that I be moving fast enough to travel through time in order for my god to hear me.”
While you are trying to defend your religious freedom, you are telling your opponents that you consider your religious freedom more important than even the laws which do not impinge upon it. This behavior suggests that we Christians are, politically, a mix between anarchists and theocratics. To our opponents in court, we seem to be saying, “Any law which does not proceed directly from the mouth of God is unlawful, and we will not obey it if we do not wish to.”
This is, in short, preposterous.
In the first place, Christians have always been able to maintain the defense of our religious freedom on the grounds that it makes us good members of society. This was one of Justin Martyr’s arguments in his apologies to Roman emperors: Christians do not break laws, they do not kill or steal or maim or destroy, and in fact are opposed to the breaking of these laws by the very nature of their religion; all you cannot ask us to do is violate our religion by praying to other gods. But this argument only works so long as it is true; as soon as we start breaking laws arbitrarily to prove our point, we no longer can hold this defense, and in the public eye, we shift from law-abiding citizens to fanatical anarchists. This in no wise helps our cause.
In the second place, this behavior directly contradicts the commands of Christ and the apostles. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” the Lord said (Mark 12:17); Paul tells us to be in subjection to government, for governments are established by God (Romans 13:1-7; Psalm 22:28; Proverbs 8:15; ), even the governments that are opposed to His people from time to time (Isaiah 10:5-11; Habakkuk 1:5-10) or the pagan rulers of pagan nations (Isaiah 44:28). God uses government to establish order in society; whenever that order is being righteously established, we should not oppose it. When, however, it is not order but persecution, when it commands disobedience to God, as the HHS mandate does, then, and only then, is it acceptable to oppose the government (as Daniel did, and as the apostles did, in their own times).
If you wish to prove that you will get arrested rather than obey the HHS mandate, then get arrested for not obeying the HHS mandate. Don’t go around getting arrested for disobeying legitimate ordinances, just to prove how serious you are. This is foolishness, and it undermines our position as Christians, as lawful citizens, and as morally upright people. Do not disobey for its own sake, but be as Daniel, such that even your hateful enemies can find no reproach against you, no condemnation, until they create a law that tries to seize your loyalty away from your God.
I am glad that people are willing to oppose the HHS mandate. But what you’re doing up there in D.C. makes just about no sense.