A few months ago, President Obama said the following:
“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works; they’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”
The President simply touched on a sentiment that has always existed in the United States, primarily that, “Oh, that could never happen here.” We see tyranny in far off lands, we see the dictators oppressing the people, the stormtroopers busting down their doors, the people assaulted by the police for protesting the unjust actions of a government, and we gasp and say, “Thank God we live in America, that could never happen here.”
These same voices, however, seemingly ignore that America has in one way or another been tyrannical since its founding. While it has experimented with liberty and attempted to extend that liberty to all, once cannot ignore the tyranny of slavery, of genocide against the Native Americans, of segregation, and so on. Americans turned (and continue to turn) their heads to the police brutality against our minority brothers and sisters. Tyranny is a cancer, a disease that simply spreads across a populace, something that if left uncured and unchecked in one segment of a population will eventually spread to the country entire.
The idea of tyranny spreading from one segment of the population to the other segments is seen best in Martin Niemöller’s famous poem “First they came…” As many already know, he states that “they” came for the Communists and he said nothing, then the socialists and still he said nothing, and so on. Eventually when they came for him, there was no one left. That is because tyranny has voracious appetite, it must always feed off people. It has an unquenchable thirst for oppression. That is because tyranny is sin on a mass scale.
We live in a fallen world, one where we humans have rebelled against God. In rebelling against God we have forgone liberty – true liberty is when one is allowed to pursue one’s nature – and made ourselves slaves to sin. It is not a coincidence or a play on words that in John 8:34 Jesus states that sin is a tyranny, but the Son has come to set us free. The results of sin is always slavery. Thus, in a fallen world tyranny is our natural desire.
Tyranny exists for two reasons: First, the narcissism of those in power cares nothing for the masses (and only feigns concern; they entrench themselves and justify their tyranny by saying the masses need it). Secondly, the narcissism of the masses cares more about personal peace and affluence than anything else. That is, the tyrants throw the bread in order to stay in power and the masses accept the bread so they don’t have to make it themselves; all the while liberty is taken away, which eventually destabilizes a society. Every tyranny that has existed has collapsed in a violent fashion, not to mention the lives taken during its tenure. Yet, the masses allow it for their own selfish reasons and the rulers cause it for their own selfish reasons.
If tyranny is the natural state of humanity in a fallen world, then the contrary is that liberty is something that requires work. Contrary to what the President said, tyranny is always lurking around the corner. It comes ever closer whenever a society becomes more immoral, more lazy, more unloving. It knocks at the door when we not only have no problem with oppressing those who disagree with us, but find a sort of joy in it. Tyranny is always present and if we stop for one second in our pursuit of liberty, we only allow tyranny to catch up.
In a fallen world, history has shown us that the natural tendency of humanity is to allow themselves to be ruled by a tyrant. Only a strong and moral people have ever fought to find liberty. In other words, liberty is not the natural state of man in this unnatural world, rather tyranny is. We must always work for liberty, for tyranny is found in rest.