God, Moses, and the Rule of Law

From a Wall Street Journal commentary by Joe Lieberman headlined “God, Moses, and the Rule of Law”:

Joe Lieberman was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 2000 and a U.S. senator from Connecticut, 1989-2013.

The Jewish festival of Shavuot, which celebrates God’s giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, begins Thursday evening. The rule of law that defines democracies around the world can be traced back to that day on Mount Sinai, making it the perfect time to celebrate the origins and implementation of the law. But this year, given American society’s growing disrespect for the law and those who enforce it, it is vital instead to consider what a lawless society would be like. If these developments continue, they will make our country chaotic, violent and economically depressed because businesses won’t have the confidence to stay.

A variety of political movements have recently targeted the institutions that uphold our laws—from the police and the courts to elections. Movements like Defund the Police have threatened departments in major cities, though the police are our society’s first line of defense against crime. In the courts, opponents of controversial decisions have instilled a fear of violence. In an interview for these pages, Justice Samuel Alito revealed that because of plots to assassinate members of the Supreme Court, each justice receives police protection all day, every day.

When it comes to elections, disgruntled factions simply reject the law. After Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election, Donald Trump exercised his rights and filed more than 60 lawsuits in various courts seeking to overturn the results of the election. Though he lost nearly all of those lawsuits fair and square, Mr. Trump rejected the rulings, in effect threatening our entire system of law. He arguably encouraged a violent attack on our Capitol to stop members of Congress from counting the Electoral College’s votes for the orderly transfer of national power, as required by our Constitution.

The Bible shows how destructive this tendency to reject the law is. For centuries after Creation, humans proved time and again why they needed God’s divine rules of conduct. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve violated the one rule God gave them and were evicted from Paradise. Later, Cain killed his brother, Abel. Humanity eventually became so disordered that God had to destroy the world of his creation in a great flood, saving only the righteous Noah, his family and some animals to begin history again. Later, God entered into the covenant with Abraham so that, according to Genesis, Abraham—a father to Christians, Muslims and Jews—and his descendants would “keep the way of God, doing charity and justice.” God’s law is essential to upholding that justice.

After the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, God led them to Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, the system of laws that immediately and for millennia since governed and elevated human behavior and protected security and freedom.

More than 80% of Americans believe in God, according to a 2022 Gallup survey. The next time anyone considers a movement to undercut the police, to threaten the lives of judges they disagree with, or to ignore a final judgment of our courts, they should recall the disorder that existed before the God in whom most Americans believe gave humanity the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai.

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