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Toward Wholeness Blog

Rex Lex vs Lex Rex

NOTE: I posted this on Facebook earlier this week, and because of the large response, though it appropriate to share with those who subscribe here, just in case you aren’t on FB (many aren’t… understandably). My apologies to those for whom this is redundant. Fresh material is coming this here this weekend.

When I was younger, one of my ideological mentors was Francis Schaeffer, who, along with his wife, began a ministry of hospitality to hippies and travelers. They lived in Switzerland and their work featured long discussions about whether there is a God, eternal values, and the possibility of meaning in this world. We modeled our ministry in the North Cascades after their work. His writings shaped me, and frankly, the majority of conservative theologians in America. One of the things he wrote about was the supreme cultural importance and value of adopting LEX REX instead of REX LEX. Lex Rex means ’law is king’ and means that there are laws to which everyone must be held accountable, INCLUDING THE KING. Schaefer quoted a 17th century Scottish theologian at length to show how this doctrine stood in contrast with the prevailing 17th century notion of REX LEX (the KING is the LAW), which he taught was the longstanding source of oppression, injustice, and tyranny throughout history.

I’m not a legal scholar, but after reading both affirming and dissenting opinions from the Supreme Court’s ‘Trump Immunity’ ruling, it appears that we’ve left behind the notion that Law is King, and affirmed that age old source of oppression, tyranny, and injustice (ironically, the very things against which our founding fathers protested when forming the Declaration of Independence 248 years ago this 4th of July). We are now a country where the KING IS LAW, and therefore above the law.

The ruling isn’t what troubles me most (though legal scholars across the spectrum are stunned by the wide berth ‘above the law’ now granted the president, and the extent to which justices utterly contradicted their statements at their own hearings that ‘no person, including the president, is above the law’).

What’s troubling is that the ruling is so wholeheartedly embraced by Christ followers who, in so doing, are abandoning a long history of standing for the notion that the rule of law is transcendent, applying to king and commoner alike. It reminds me of Psalm 2, where rulers cry out against rules saying, ‘let us break their bonds’. Unbound by rules, the leader who lacks a moral compass will be more dangerous than ever for preserving our grand experiment in democracy, an experiment that wishes for every person to have a voice in shaping who rules, and the freedom to pursue their well being.

What to do? As one author wrote recently,

Dear Good Americans,

Whatever you wish more good Germans were doing in Germany in 1933—you need to be doing that now.

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Thank you for expressing what has been on my heart, Richard. Having grown up in the Middle East (my father worked for US AID), I witnessed firsthand what it is like to live in a country ruled by an autocratic dictator. We do not want to serve an earthly king, yet I see many of my fellow Christians seemingly willing to sacrifice our precious democracy to an autocratic, convicted felon.

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I couldn't agree more. But, maybe like those people of 1933, the question I have is, "What do I do about it?" Sure, I could vote for somebody different... if only there was somebody different running for any of our Congressional seats. But even if there was, I'm wondering if there's something more.

Do I have the courage to preach against this like Bonhoeffer and the pastors who fell under his teaching? If I do, what exactly do I say? Would it matter, or would it simply be so I could say (or history could say of me) that I tried? Do I have resources (financial, time, relational) to give to make changes? Am I willing to sacrifice? Again, would…

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