Joel Belz: Muscle restraint


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, the 29th of August. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. WORLD founder Joel Belz now on the use of strength.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: A long editorial in The Wall Street Journal brought to my attention a fine point 25 years ago. It was this: 

“People want to be lightly governed by strong governments.”

That observation made such good sense that I wrote a column about it. Now it’s time to reflect on that wisdom again.

It’s what you’ve yearned for since you were a small child. You wanted your dad to be big and strong and able to do anything he wanted—except that when he dealt with you. Then you wanted tenderness.

You wanted that, I think, with every authority figure who was part of your life. You wanted your junior high teacher to know everything there was to be known and to be able to solve all of your problems, but never ever to embarrass you in front of your classmates.

You wanted a policeman on the corner with the heft to stop a neighborhood bully, but who would also hoist you on his shoulders to help you find your parents when you lost them in the crowd at the county fair.

You’ve also wanted a church that knows in some detail what it believes, defends that truth vigorously, ferrets out error before it does serious damage—and deals with you like a shepherd deals with a lamb.

Lots of muscle. Lots of restraint.

There’s an innate yearning in almost all of us for that rare combination in civil government. When evil leaders rise up, within our borders and without, we want a government with the clout to back them down. Yet we never want that clout turned on us.

That’s why the U.S. Constitution—the most effective man-made charter of government in human history—is such a slender document. If you spread its words in news­paper format, it wouldn’t fill two pages of USA Today. And it’s why that Constitution—and especially its amendments—majors in what the federal government shouldn’t do, and only minors in what it should do. Phrases like “Congress shall make no law . . .” are basic to its assumptions.

“People want to be lightly governed by strong governments.”

You know it by intuition. But ultimately, that’s not how you know it. In the end, it’s a theological truth. People want to be lightly governed by strong governments because that’s how God governs.

The omnipotent governor of the universe is also the one who invites us so tenderly: “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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