Tuesday, May 08, 2007

It is Tyranny!

Muse Time, paper 14, February 1999, by Derek Carlsen, in Zimbabwe.

It Is Tyranny!

Any individual or nation in the world that understands the concept of freedom will agree that Zimbabwe is under tyrannical rule! This tyranny is not some unfortunate mistake that our leaders have stumbled into and for which they are sorry. Rather, it is by a self-conscious, calculated and determined effort that they have decided to adopt and maintain this kind of rule—holding onto power at all costs and silencing anyone whose differing tune threatens their plans in any way. Our leaders call for unity, but need to be reminded that unity cannot be built upon lies, deception and iron fisted terror. True unity can only be founded upon God’s truth and justice. To use any other basis for unity is like exerting yourself to find the pot of gold at the base of the rainbow—utterly foolish.

What is our responsibility at a time like this? The answer lies, partly, in knowing what our authority is. Remember, our leaders were given authority by the people. This means that national leaders are the servants of the people and true leaders will acknowledge that after God, their authority resides in the people. It should be obvious that those who give the authority to the leaders are above these leaders and the leaders are accountable to them for the way they use their authority. You don’t give authority to someone so they can tyrannise you with it, thus, people grant authority to leaders to be used for their safety and wellbeing, not their destruction. The authority they give is always conditional—upon the grounds that the leaders fulfil their promises to protect and advance the lives and interests of their subjects.

Whatever those in authority do, they do with a power that is borrowed from the ones who put them in power. Thus, they should be sincere servants of the people, always mindful of labouring for their benefit. Leaders have not been given absolute power to do whatever they want and they most certainly haven’t been given power for tyrannical use. The inescapable truth is that those who have power to make rulers, have the power to unmake rulers. The moment the people in a nation withdraw their consent to rule from those in authority, these rulers have no more authority. The authority that national leaders have, remains, at all times, a derived authority and they are therefore accountable at every moment to those whom they serve. The leaders’ commission to use force (Romans 13:3,4) is from the people, but, if they use it to tyrannise the people, the people have not only a right but an obligation to remove it. Very simply: leaders turning tyrant lose their authority; by violating their trust, they destroy their commission.

It is subversive behaviour if leaders refuse to acknowledge that they are under God, or the people who commissioned them and therefore refuse to be accountable to either—this kind of subversion is one of the greatest threats to the wellbeing of any free society.

Our leaders deny that their great office is (after God), from the people and that their commission forever remains in the hands of the people and can be withdrawn at any moment. If this commission is withdrawn, the leaders no longer have lawful authority and their refusal to step aside, should this happen, would be clear proof of their self-seeking, tyrannical desire for power. It should now be clear who has the authority and responsibility to act in our present dilemma—we do! Tyranny is satanic and if we don’t resist it then we are resisting God—there can be no neutrality in such matters. To fear and do nothing in the face of tyranny is to add fuel to the tyrants’ fire and makes us accomplices to their crimes. To ignore tyranny and hope to escape its attention is a most dangerous position to adopt because unopposed tyranny will increase in momentum and force—swallowing up larger and larger amounts of freedom. There can be no standing still once tyranny has unashamedly manifested its characteristics. It is to demonstrate a great ignorance of history to think that when tyrants single out one group of people, other groups are safe. The natural, though foolish, tendency when this happens, is to hope that the tyrant’s spotlight won’t fall upon you, thinking that if you just remain as quiet and still as possible everything will eventually return to normal. Tyranny, however, is a cancerous growth, ever needing new victims to feed upon.

Our leaders have refused to submit to the consensus of the nation that involvement in the DRC is without justification and only destructive of our people and economy. This stubbornness has led directly to threatening and tyrannising Zimbabweans and assaulting the freedom of the press. Where will such deterioration end if we don’t stop it now? To contemporize the words of a Lutheran pastor who confessed the woeful consequences of his silence in the face of Nazi tyranny: “They came for the Matabele, but I wasn’t a Matabele, so I did nothing. They came for the trade unionists, but I wasn’t a trade unionist, so I did nothing. They came for the news paper reporters, but I wasn’t a news paper reporter, so I did nothing. They came for the whites, but I wasn’t a white, so I did nothing. Finally, when they came for me there was no one left to hear my cries”.

We do not honour the office of government by remaining silent in the face of abuse and corruption. We are called to honour the office and we do this by making sure that the people who sit in that office honour God’s purpose for instituting the office. This is a responsibility God has given to every person in the nation and we dare not treat it lightly. When the trust and covenant between the rulers and the ruled is repeatedly violated, those rulers must be deposed and replaced with others who will honour the conditions of the covenant.

A simple illustration will help us see our situation and responsibility: the owner of a company gives authority to a manager to run his business. This authority makes the manager responsible to act in the best interests of the owner at all times. Now, if the owner discovered that the manager was stealing, destroying the business and tyrannising the owner’s children, he would be immediately replaced with someone else. Surely everyone would call the owner foolish if he left that worthless manager in his position to continue on his destructive path. In the same way, it is foolish to complain about the economy, how hard it is to survive and how sad it is that our friends and family members are dying in the DRC, yet refuse to exercise our authority and do something about it.

Those who think the solution to our problems lies in violent outbursts and property destruction, are woefully misled, for these kinds of activities arise from lawlessness, helplessness and ignorance. When people realise that the authority to make leaders and the authority to unmake leaders is in their hands, under God, then they don’t have to sit in frustration and self-pity saying, “But what can I do?” We can face up to our responsibilities and with a united voice withdraw our consent to rule from those who are presently causing much distress. If we understand this then we don’t have to rely upon mindless violence and destruction as the way to get things sorted out. Rather, we can act in a disciplined way, worthy of the authority we have from God. If, however, we don’t assume our responsibility and act righteously, then the Lord Himself will judge us, together with our leaders, since our hands will be stained with their corruption and our own refusal to oppose unrighteousness and tyranny.

There are legitimate “lesser” leaders in our nation who have shown their genuine concern for the people, e.g., the Supreme Court judges’ questions to the president were out of concern, not for themselves, but for the average person on the street. To have been so shamefully dealt with is evidence of how tyranny responds to the light. Tyrants, throughout history (Nero and Hitler being two examples), have always used the supposed “evil intentions” of minorities in their midst to justify their own tyrannical behaviour and used these minorities as “scapegoats” to explain away their own corruption and blunders.

The “lesser” leaders, such as our judges, union leaders, independent politicians, etc, have a responsibility under God to preserve the safety of our people and nation. It is through these leaders that the people in the nation can exercise their authority and change the existing leadership. We are in a crisis situation which requires desperate and unusual measures, however, they are still legitimate and lawful measures: those with the God given authority to make leaders, working through the “lesser” leaders, are to put into office new rulers who will be true servants of the people. These are God given rights and responsibilities and all those who truly love and understand freedom should be prepared, if necessary, to die for them.

Our hope must never merely reside in political means to find peace, prosperity and freedom. These things are found only in God’s righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ. While we have in the past and continue even now to call on everyone in our nation to turn from their own personal sin and embrace the truth, we at the same time need to show solid, practical, God-honouring principles whereby we can address the critical needs of our day. For example, we need to be seeking to help the oppressed in real practical ways while calling for repentance (Isaiah 1:17; 59:4; Jeremiah 22:15-17). Mere handouts can’t alleviate the present suffering if we don’t address the major causes of our economic woes. The policies, corruption and personal examples of our leaders have played a significant part in bringing us to where we now are. Their refusal to bow to God, or be servants of the people, or listen to the people, or admit any wrong on their part, together with their destruction of the economy and their aggressive responses to those who would question or strongly disagree with them, are grounds enough for their removal.

The government is not facing a conspiracy, but a population whose fear of them is now far smaller than their revulsion of the government’s lies, threats and abuses of power.

There is no moral obligation upon Zimbabweans to keep the present leadership in power. The moral obligation facing us all, however, is to act within the law, stay away from violence and exercise our authority to remove from power those who abuse that power. The moral responsibility upon the “lesser” leaders in our nation is for them to make it possible for everyone else to use their authority responsibly and so bring about change in a calm, lawful and democratic manner.

The only way to restore international confidence in Zimbabwe and thus investor confidence is if the present leadership is replaced. The only way for Zimbabweans to be assured that our nation will be run by the rule of law and not tyranny, is if we replace the present leadership (and watch the next leaders very closely). The only way to avoid total economic collapse and possible revolution and mayhem is if we act now without fear, being guided by godly principle and not empty rhetoric, lawless foolishness or prejudice. Mere complaining and self-pity will get us nowhere. I have suggested a strategy for action.

Think about these things, but not for too long!