The morality of calling in the National Guard to stop mayhem

Contrast these two stories.

First, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) used the National Guard to crush the violence.  In an opinion piece written by the governor for Fox News, she says:

America is a place where all voices can be heard.  Free speech is one of our most fundamental rights.  I see legitimate protests raising important concerns, and I hear those concerns.

But I also see violent actors who are trying to do an end-run around public discourse.  They want to intimidate and silence opposing views.  They want to short-cut public debate through fear.  They want to make people scared.  This is un-American.

Second, Gov. Inslee (D-Wash.) called out the National Guard, but they were unarmed.  From his own website (emphasis added):

"The National Guard is on stand by to assist the Seattle Police Department as requested by Mayor Durkan," Inslee said. "They will be unarmed and assist with infrastructure protection and crowd movement. They will only be utilized if absolutely necessary and we appreciate their efforts to help in this important work."

In an analysis for RealClearPolitics.com, Susan Crabtree offered this perspective:

Even though Washington National Guardsmen were unarmed, aerial drone photos of police clashing with protesters over the weekend show a line of soldiers standing immediately behind the Seattle Police, who were facing off against a sea of protesters.  Eyewitnesses told RCP that the protests were much more violent than previously reported — that there were pipe bombs thrown at police and guardsmen, that people were throwing bottles, rocks, fireworks and other "incendiary devices" and shining green lasers into the eyes of police and Guard soldiers.

The religious left is confused.  All over the web, these leftists post concerns about the use of force to stop mayhem.  Even Christian right leader Pat Robertson of CBN and others like him were confused, as he criticized Trump's law-and-order crackdown on violent protesters outside the White House, some of whom may have attempted to torch nearby St. John's church.  "You just don't do that!"

So it seems the only way to settle the morality or immorality of stopping or giving free rein to violent protesters is to appeal to Scripture, the Constitution, and George Washington. 

First, Paul writes: 

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.  Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?  Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.  For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. (Rom. 13:3-4, ESV)

That passage teaches us that the state is called to protect the citizens by law enforcement.  The church as such is not called to do this, so Paul, inspired by the Spirit, hands the sword (the weapon of the military and police) over to the state.

Peter says the same thing, but in fewer words:

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  (1 Pet. 2:13–14, ESV)

No, those two verses do not teach submission to every law, but both passages reveal a general principle.  Don't do evil — like looting — and then you won't be punished with the sword or other ways of stopping the violence, like arrest, for doing evil.

Second, the Constitution says people may peaceably assemble, implying that they may not assemble violently.

Amendment One: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging ... the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Some of the protests were peaceful and perfectly constitutional, but violent radicals twisted them into looting and mayhem.  So how can the government stop violent protests? 

Third, let's turn to George Washington as our example of obeying the Constitution when protesters turned violent and wreaked mayhem across western Pennsylvania:

The peace envoy failed.  Washington met with his cabinet officials and presented evidence of the violence to Supreme Court Justice James Wilson, who ruled a military response was justified under the auspices of the Militia Acts of 1792.  Washington assumed emergency power to assemble more than 12,000 men from the surrounding states and eastern Pennsylvania as a federal militia.

The rebels had committed violence and mayhem, though they believed that their cause was just.  Washington taught them by a show of force that uncontrolled and destructive violence was not the best pathway to achieve the complainants' goals back then.  Neither is it today. 

In light of all these data, it is correct to conclude that Gov. Noem and Pres. Trump were morally right in calling out the National Guard to quell the violence.  Further, the religious left and some on the Christian right were morally incorrect to tut-tut these wise political leaders who had to make tough calls in tense situations.  Gov. Inslee is shortsighted to keep the National Guard unarmed.  Finally, it is wrong to criticize the fantastic job that law enforcement does every day in tense situations when the officers stay within the law.  To me, they are moral heroes.

Please visit James Arlandson's website, where he has recently posted Does Heb. 7:1–10 Teach Church Policy of Tithing?Can Christians Join the Military or Police Force?Should the State 'Turn the Other Cheek'? and Is Our Sin Nature Embedded in Our Mammal Nature?

Contrast these two stories.

First, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) used the National Guard to crush the violence.  In an opinion piece written by the governor for Fox News, she says:

America is a place where all voices can be heard.  Free speech is one of our most fundamental rights.  I see legitimate protests raising important concerns, and I hear those concerns.

But I also see violent actors who are trying to do an end-run around public discourse.  They want to intimidate and silence opposing views.  They want to short-cut public debate through fear.  They want to make people scared.  This is un-American.

Second, Gov. Inslee (D-Wash.) called out the National Guard, but they were unarmed.  From his own website (emphasis added):

"The National Guard is on stand by to assist the Seattle Police Department as requested by Mayor Durkan," Inslee said. "They will be unarmed and assist with infrastructure protection and crowd movement. They will only be utilized if absolutely necessary and we appreciate their efforts to help in this important work."

In an analysis for RealClearPolitics.com, Susan Crabtree offered this perspective:

Even though Washington National Guardsmen were unarmed, aerial drone photos of police clashing with protesters over the weekend show a line of soldiers standing immediately behind the Seattle Police, who were facing off against a sea of protesters.  Eyewitnesses told RCP that the protests were much more violent than previously reported — that there were pipe bombs thrown at police and guardsmen, that people were throwing bottles, rocks, fireworks and other "incendiary devices" and shining green lasers into the eyes of police and Guard soldiers.

The religious left is confused.  All over the web, these leftists post concerns about the use of force to stop mayhem.  Even Christian right leader Pat Robertson of CBN and others like him were confused, as he criticized Trump's law-and-order crackdown on violent protesters outside the White House, some of whom may have attempted to torch nearby St. John's church.  "You just don't do that!"

So it seems the only way to settle the morality or immorality of stopping or giving free rein to violent protesters is to appeal to Scripture, the Constitution, and George Washington. 

First, Paul writes: 

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.  Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?  Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.  For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. (Rom. 13:3-4, ESV)

That passage teaches us that the state is called to protect the citizens by law enforcement.  The church as such is not called to do this, so Paul, inspired by the Spirit, hands the sword (the weapon of the military and police) over to the state.

Peter says the same thing, but in fewer words:

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  (1 Pet. 2:13–14, ESV)

No, those two verses do not teach submission to every law, but both passages reveal a general principle.  Don't do evil — like looting — and then you won't be punished with the sword or other ways of stopping the violence, like arrest, for doing evil.

Second, the Constitution says people may peaceably assemble, implying that they may not assemble violently.

Amendment One: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging ... the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Some of the protests were peaceful and perfectly constitutional, but violent radicals twisted them into looting and mayhem.  So how can the government stop violent protests? 

Third, let's turn to George Washington as our example of obeying the Constitution when protesters turned violent and wreaked mayhem across western Pennsylvania:

The peace envoy failed.  Washington met with his cabinet officials and presented evidence of the violence to Supreme Court Justice James Wilson, who ruled a military response was justified under the auspices of the Militia Acts of 1792.  Washington assumed emergency power to assemble more than 12,000 men from the surrounding states and eastern Pennsylvania as a federal militia.

The rebels had committed violence and mayhem, though they believed that their cause was just.  Washington taught them by a show of force that uncontrolled and destructive violence was not the best pathway to achieve the complainants' goals back then.  Neither is it today. 

In light of all these data, it is correct to conclude that Gov. Noem and Pres. Trump were morally right in calling out the National Guard to quell the violence.  Further, the religious left and some on the Christian right were morally incorrect to tut-tut these wise political leaders who had to make tough calls in tense situations.  Gov. Inslee is shortsighted to keep the National Guard unarmed.  Finally, it is wrong to criticize the fantastic job that law enforcement does every day in tense situations when the officers stay within the law.  To me, they are moral heroes.

Please visit James Arlandson's website, where he has recently posted Does Heb. 7:1–10 Teach Church Policy of Tithing?Can Christians Join the Military or Police Force?Should the State 'Turn the Other Cheek'? and Is Our Sin Nature Embedded in Our Mammal Nature?