On Resistance

So, a long time ago, after years of being bullied, I consciously adopted a policy: when tripped or shoved, I trained myself to immediately punch them without further reflection. Action-reaction.


This ended the bullying. It also got me in a lot of trouble, trouble which was such a relief compared to the torment of going to school every day, that I welcomed the chance to argue with my teachers rather than try not to crumple from the humiliation of being around my peers.

I eventually–after my second year of college–learned the lesson that I was too immature to grasp, and that for some reason nobody could teach me. It is the lesson you need in order to be an effective resistance, too. It is the distinction that enables all effective resistance, and it has taken me decades to get it fixed in my mind.

The simple terms are these: “He may have had it coming, but that doesn’t mean I had a right to give it to him.”

Recognizing that there is a distinction between recognizing lawless evil and assessing its just deserts and having the authority to use affirmative force to punish wrongdoing is something our culture struggles with.

If I point out that “an unjust law is no law at all,” I am not asserting that you have the right to revolt, to engage in the use of force until you consider justice has been established. I am only asserting that such a lawless imposition cannot in any way bind your conscience, so that you are morally free to disregard the putative authority of such a lawless “law.” You have separate obligations to the common good, to a divine command to live peaceably with others as long as you’re permitted to, and to a divine command not to scandalize others (i.e., lead them into sin, in this case by appearing to countenance disobedience or rebellion by disobeying what appears to be real authority).

When I say that you must resist, I mean that you should maximize your discretionary authority, and use it maximally in the right direction, even when doing so is contrary to typical customs and norms in your field, even when it is “bad customer service” or might result in subpar performance reviews, etc. If your company sells tickets to Satanist rites, you should probably miss some phone calls, misfile some papers, fail to present options, refuse to offer some services and courtesies, deny all optional grants, maximize scrutiny and fees, etc. You should definitely burden evil, beyond-the-bounds-of-society behaviors, and oppose them and investigate them and give them no peace.

That is qualitatively different, discernibly so, from revolt or rebellion or violence. It may be met with violence (certainly has been). But it is not violence, and ought not to be turned into that–or treated as though it were.

You will be free from a false obey/revolt dichotomy that is endemic to our culture and ruinous to our potential for future civilization, when you realize that this is a real distinction: that another may be engaging in lawless evil, even under color of “law,” and that they may not only be unable to bind you in conscience but may in fact be able to “command” your resistance (as in the case of fake marriage laws, which you have a moral obligation to oppose vigorously); and yet you may not be authorized to use force to punish that evil, to subdue it with your own personal power.


That resistance is not revolt, but it is active refusal to cooperate combined with maximal use of discretionary authority to disrupt beyond-the-bound evils.