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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

TBT: Fanatics are Always Dangerous


November 21, 2006

Regardless of what religion's in view, when people get the notion that they have a direct hotline to God, there's bound to be trouble.

The Mormon guy on trial--what's his name, Jeffs?, leader of a fundamentalist Mormon sect--is accused of forcing an underage girl to marry an older man over her objections. One tack of defense he is purportedly arguing is that God told this to him. Hopefully the Utah jury will follow its recent course of impatience with these weirdos.

But let's take on the argument for a moment. OK, so Jeffs heard directly from God that he's supposed to force this girl to marry. I guess his lawyers are going to spin this into a barely more palatable notion of religious freedom. 

And what will the prosecution say? Of course, they will simply refer to the letter of the law, and thus no doubt win the case. You can't do things like that around here, fella, no matter who told you to do them.

You know, there's something refreshing about the rule of law. It's a curb to fanatics of all stripes. And it's a warning to everyone. In society we are governed by what is written. In the faith, too, we are, and must be, governed by what is written.

So don't come and tell me that God told you this or that. Don't even tell me He gave you a sign to help you decide this or that. Good grief, that's why you have a brain. Think! Make your decisions carefully, but don't rely on some ethereal "sign" from God. Trust only in His Word, which is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. And if His Word doesn't tell you specifically what to do in a certain situation, beyond giving you the moral direction of His law, then don't go looking for some bedewed fleece. You can do that if you're a prophet, OK? Otherwise, how different are you than Mr. Jeffs? It's only a matter of degree, I say, which is a rather flimsy difference. So, you say that God gave you a sign to help you decide what job to take? Did He really? And how do you know? By what sense did you receive this revelation? And if the sense by which you received it is no different than the sense by which Mr. Jeffs received his, then how are you different? And what would stop you from doing something really crazy, even contrary to God's Word? After all, if God is speaking directly to you, well then, shouldn't it trump what you get out of a book, no matter how holy it is? So what happens when you are told directly that you ought to give in to some sort of immorality? The Bible says no, but God says yes! Ah! Go with God, then, right? And wind up in jail, I say, the sooner, the better. Because you can't do things like that around here, fella, no matter who told you to do them.

Burnell Eckardt