Russell and Duenes

God Told Me to Move to Topeka

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Just finished with a jury selection class at school, and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. In my time at law school I have often thought: “If I had my first trial tomorrow and had to select a jury, I’d probably get sued for malpractice when we lose because I have no earthly idea how to conduct a jury selection.” I don’t know how much more I know about it now, but at least I know I could get up and do it, and learn a lot from it. I was also reminded, as I am in almost all of my legal skills practice classes, that practicing law seems to be about 10% legal knowledge, and 90% hard work, preparation, art form, and above all ethics and relationships. There is no law that can provide the internal motivation to do what’s right and to treat others with dignity and respect, rather than as utilitarian pawns to be manipulated for power, money and prestige. All professions require righteous character, but I think the legal profession requires it in a unique way, and the law schools are utterly unable to help inculcate and foster it, other than with rules that say, “You must not do this.” I imagine I could spend the next 50 years practicing law and still be trying to figure out what Jesus requires of me as a lawyer. His law, written on my heart, is the most important one for me to take into the courtroom.

No one can imagine the extent to which lies, darkness, and shadow pervade our nation’s discourse and thinking on abortion. We tell and believe lies about the history of abortion in our nation. See Marvin Olasky, Abortion Rites; see also Justin Dyer, Roe v. History. (arguing that “[t]he new histories are spun off from deliberately fabricated narratives, and rarely does anyone return to the primary sources”). We tell and believe lies about what the unborn really are. We tell and believe lies about how many women have died in “back alley” abortions, about what goes on in our nation’s abortion clinics, about adoption, and about the spiritual, emotional and psychological effects that abortion has on the women who have them, and on the families of women who have them. We tell and believe lies about what abortion is doing to our African-American brothers and sisters. We tell and believe lies about what it means to be a woman. Every facet of abortion is a pack of lies. We believe and reinforce these lies because the truth is ghastly and terrifying, and because we have decided that giving in to our every sexual desire and wish must not be impeded in any way, and it also must not get in the way of our career, social and wealth aspirations. I wonder what we would be saying and doing if the one-million-plus abortions we inflict in our nation every year were inflicted one month after the babies were born, rather than months before they’re born. Would we be telling ourselves and believing the same lies while they go inexorably to slaughter? Would we be talking about “choice” and “reproductive freedom” and “every child a wanted child” and other such non-issues? Would we hear about this from our pulpits each week, or at least have congregational prayer about it? Perhaps not.

I observed something in church a couple of weeks ago, and I got to wondering. A man who had been a pastor in Florida was invited up to speak to us. He had moved from Florida to Topeka because he said that God told him to. He did not say how God told him to do this, but he had obviously moved in response to what he took to be God’s instruction. My point is not that this pastor was wrong about hearing from God; rather, my question is: Did this man offer to others what he took to be God’s instruction for them to evaluate in terms of its wisdom? Perhaps he did. I don’t know him. But I wonder if there isn’t a bit of the anti-authority, anti-hierarchy, pro-individual autonomy spirit in the “God told me to” position. I wonder if “God told me to” becomes an unfalsifiable thing, submitted to no one in authority for its veracity, wisdom or correction. And what if God’s ostensible message to me were submitted to the elders of my church, and they told me I was wrong about what God said? Should I submit to them? After all, God told me to. Yet, are not we in the church under proper churchly authority? Are we not to submit to elders and those who oversee us spiritually? I admit, I am not atuned to godly authority in my own church, clearly because I have imbibed the radical-autonomous individualism myself. I am not saying that God cannot speak to people directly today, though I think it is not the primary way that God guided people in the Scripture or guides us today. But I am saying that the “God told me to” position seems to fit well with our individualistic, anti-authoritarian spirit of the age. And this is not a spirit that comes from God.


Written by Michael Duenes

January 18, 2014 at 8:27 am

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

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