The Dukes of Hazzard: Christian Patriots
Seriously? I think so. But before I begin I probably need to ward off undue objections. Yes, Daisy Duke needs to reform her wardrobe. Her attire is not justifiable. That being said, she is a far cry from someone like Jessica Simpson (who tried to imitate her in the so-called “movie” produced a few months ago, which I am proud to say I did not see). Secondly, it is to be admitted that Bo and Luke are not perfect in their actions. But that being said, I am quite impressed with them. Now that I have appeased the nay-sayers, let’s begin. I repeat, I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THE TRASH THAT CAME OUT THIS SUMMER.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Dukes of Hazzard, here is the basic summary of the show: Car Chases. Ok, Bo and Luke Duke (cousins) are usually being chased around by the crooked Sherrif Rosco P. Coltrane. Roscoe is doing the bidding of the county machine, Boss Hogg. Boss is the County Commissioner and is crooked as (_____ insert your own horror story). In other words, the Fox is guarding the Hen House. Boss usually has some scheme to swindle somebody (a poor farmer, the federal government, or IRS, or the Duke Boys). Worse, he usually invents some trumped up charge to get them Duke Boys arrested.
Romans 13 exhorts Christians to be in submission to the higher powers (it also says rulers should rule justly and justice can only be defined in terms of God’s Law-word). So, on first glance it looks like the Duke boys should be good evangelicals and allow themselves to be taken to jail. But it is a lot stickier than that. The Duke boys know that there is a law above the law. They know that to obey and acquiesce to Rosco and Boss is to break the law of the land (this really isn’t a paradox if you think about it. Just imagine any ole crooked politician. To obey him, say, in aiding and abetting thieves is sin). Even more, they know that by breaking the law they can help some poor soul from being cheated (or robbed, or taken to jail indefinitely). Or, turn the situation around: if they do what is right and help this poor soul, that puts them at odds with the law.
There is another nuance on the meaning of the word, “outlaw.” It can also mean, not a law-breaker, but someone denied the protection of the law. Such a definition is important since it allows the Dukes the platform of moral high ground. So, you see: it is not quite that easy to just obey the higher powers no matter what. What if the higher powers are the bad guys? Or, to move this into the realm of jurisprudence: What if there is no court of appeal beyond that of tyrannical man? Enter John Knox and the Protestant Reformation.
John Knox knew that “black is not whate and man’s tyranny is not God’s most perfect ordinance.” To quote Knox, “We mean neither sedition, nor revolution.” Knox opted, rather, for a restoration of the social order. More important than the capricious whims of a tyrant being obeyed was the peace and welfare of the citizenry. In other words, the critical patriot is not to overthrow the government. FAR FROM IT!!! The patriot is to work for the welfare (defined in historic terms, not those of the Democratic National Convention) of the people, to protect the helpless, and maintain peace in the land. Therefore, when the well-being of the poor and helpless is attacked and threatened in disregard of the law, the Patriots (Bo and Luke Duke) must act. How must they act?
Already being established that not any man can start a social restoration, there must be--in accordance with Reformed Calvinistic Political Theory--a lesser magistrate who is raised up of God to lead the people to liberty and justice. Since the man in question is a lesser civil magistrate, he is given the duty of protecting his citizenry. Secondly, given the proper preconditions necessary for such a movement, his actions will be just and lawful. Rushdoony wrote, "Law was sovereign, if any sovereign existed, law as ancient custom, justice, and right. Every king was under law and therefore could be lawfully resisted if he broke the law." Therefore, the lesser magistrates actions, to the degree he is faithful to just war theory, are lawful.
This means he must interpose, if necessary, against the State who seeks the blood of the people. R.J. Rushdoony writes,
When the humanistic state, in terms of the nature of its being, claims absolute competence, it claims thereby that it is itself above the law. The state therefore stands above its citizens and above its own law as its own justification. But, since the essential nature of the humanistic state, which has no law above itself, is power, and it maintains itself in terms of power, its basic law is power. The basic and essential self-determination of the humanistic state is thus in terms of power…The humanistic state, because its claim is to universal jurisdiction, is thereby a competitor to and a supplanter of the various law spheres and of man. It gains power by robbing power. It gains power over the economic sphere, and over education, by robbing economics of liberty and power, and by usurping the independence of education. The humanistic state, instead of being a benefactor of its people, is their powerful competitor and supplanter. It can only prosper by displacing man and man’s legitimate activities. The state thus seeks to supplant both God and man. Basically, the humanistic state is simply the organization and control of the legislative or judicial powers. “Right” is therefore what the state does, and what the state does is to develop, consolidate, and extend its power, and the positive law of the state is the formalization of this power. It is the absolutization of the state.
Rushdoony elsewhere writes, “If the judge does not represent God’s law order, he is ultimately a political hack and hatchet man whose job it is to keep the people in line, protect the establishment, and, in the process, to feather his own nest. Ungodly judges ar eto be feared and hated: They represent a particularly fearful and ugly form of evil, and their abuse of office is a deadly cancer to any society.
Therefore, it is the duty of the lesser civil magistrate to protect the people. Ideally, the lesser magistrate must be at the county level. Of the peripheral things that America needs, one is a restoration of the centrality of the County and the decentralization of the State. In other words, power must go from bottom-up.
Now, the shrewd reader will point out, “Them Duke boys ain’t magistrates. Therefore, your entire theory is wrong.” Not necessarily. The Duke boys do not take positive action against the Boss and Rosco. They are merely defensive in their resistance with regard to human life. This keeps them, broadly anyway, within bounds of Just War Theory. Secondly, Boss and Rosco, while crooks, aren’t bloodthirsty. Bo and Luke know this. So, on this level, positive resistance is not the crying need of the hour.
Final Thoughts:The Duke family is within the Calvinistic tradition. When Jesse’s (their uncle and the family patriarch, more on him in another blog post) life was on the line, Bo and Luke pleaded with a Sovereign God and took action (Patrick Henry, anyone?). Secondly--and I thought this was cool--Jesse Duke always refers to the U.S.A as these United States. This was how the USA was referred to before the War of Northern Aggression. Unless you are a history buff you probably won’t catch that. Implication is, “Lincoln’s war destroyed the union and we no longer speak in terms of our country being a union, but a nation.”
So why did I do this? Why did a write a theological justification of the Dukes of Hazzard? Well, I pulled a “bait and switch.” Nobody is going to read dense expositions of Reformed political theory and Rushdoony quotes, but if I throw in some cultural references, I have a ready audience. Secondly, this didn’t take too long to write. I threw these thoughts out at Puritanboard, to the chagrin of quite a few. I never could figure it out…
Soon, I will do a cultural appreciation for the Dukes of Hazzard. In the meantime, back to Greek and Hebrew...