As mankind actively turns away from the rule of God we forge for ourselves a new pattern of life based on our motives and desires. Without boundaries set we will end up living by the oldest rule of this world – the Iron Rule. To some it may sound childish, but whether considered or not moral rules like this one illuminate much of what has happened throughout human history.
There are always those who have endeavored to subjugate others, to seize what is not rightfully theirs, who serve themselves, their desires, and who live outside of the laws and the societal order by which god or humankind has given to itself. Some of these types rise to the top of governments and nations thinking they are the equivalent to gods. In any case the input and output is always the same. Their need becomes the only need. Whether in shadow or in the open they live outside the lines. They often prefer to be the center of attention. Some of these God had allowed to prosper as it suited his purpose. Strength rules.
There were Pharaohs and Kings, who to their subjects were demanded to be treated as gods, who conquered their neighbors destroying lives sometimes by the hundreds of thousands, seizing the land and goods of other people and nations. Many rebuked or ignored God’s messengers and his will, thereby holding up their own as the word of another god.
There were warriors. Genghis Khan united all of the Mongolian tribes and built the largest empire in the history of the world. While true, they were united under his power, which he also used to bind them to do his bidding. How many millions do you suppose were killed or dispossessed under the Khan?
Alexander wept when he felt (at the ripe old age of thirty-two), that he had no more empires left to conquer, having slaughtered and displaced millions with his army. And it seems as though his assessment was correct. He died less than a year after stating that.
There were emperors. Julius Caesar dreamed as a child of conquering and leading Rome. And he did exactly that. He oversaw the destruction of Germania by killing, enslaving and displacing nameless millions. In so doing he also sowed the seed for later emperors and kings made from the displaced offspring and tribal remnants that would in time overtake a Roman people not then born. He was murdered by supporters and friends. And Alaric by 476 seized Rome and the world fell into its Dark Ages. Memories are indeed long and swords are honed and sharpened upon the rule of iron.
There were demagogues of all sorts and descriptions, who challenged rule by fiat and by employing the iron fist. They often are called champions of the common people or of their ideals. But what they truly sought was adulation and to be worshiped – that is along with the ever present accumulation of riches. Mao Zedong murdered millions of his countrymen and his own family in his climb to power. He reaped the benefits of wealth and power for more than half a century while the majority of his countrymen remained exactly where they were found when he had started. It has been noted that a full third of today’s Peoples’ Congress he established are multi-billionaires. The dictator of North Korea follows the same path right now, just as his father and grandfather did before him.
There were and are radicals who have seized the moment. Fidel Castro is a mass murderer though not on the scale of some of the others (as if that somehow matters). He has faithful supporters and followers around the globe. This even though he is largely responsible for the massive drug trade that right now afflicts South America, Mexico and the United States; and as a result, he also became one of the wealthiest men in history – as both Forbes and former members of his cadre attest. His terrorism and radicalism schools have trained many of the world’s best known killers and the current leaders (and more than one “tin pot” dictator), of the countries in Central and South America. His instruction in revolution has fomented and funded upheavals around the world. How many souls cry out and have been enslaved by the claims and greatness of socialism?
Everyone knows of Adolph Hitler and his murderous ways, and the destruction he wrought even though he had never been elected to any office and was not German by birth. Pol Pot is less well known. And there are hundreds upon hundreds of the same cut who murdered many thousands of their own or of other nations in fits of insatiable lust. It seems we live in a time where the calling card of one of man’s religion or form of nationalism is to murder anyone who may be outside of their own group. But this is not the only time of such things, and these are not the only ones who have taken up that bloody sword.
There are the murderers of family, friends and strangers. We pay little attention to this cast of thousands. Persons who murder father or mother, sister and brother, kith and kin, or who kill those who are strangers — just to kill, even a score or to settle some perceived slight. They like it.
In the past, when “Farmer Jones” went nuts and killed his family or his neighbor, the town folk once informed, just stopped by and hanged him, while weeping over the rest as they buried them. There was never a news report going town to town let alone coast to coast or continent to continent. The Green River Killer’s or The Killer Clown’s names and those of their victims fall lost in time. Some we call psychotic or just plain crazy. Others we may let go free. The Spanish say, “Que lastima.” What a pity.
There are thieves. They covet what is in front of their eyes and would wrap their fingers around it all in a moment. Societies take less note of them.
The thieves of nations conquer by strength of arms, ballot, graft, or inside dealing; and some, as we noted, have held sway over the lives of millions. I can make an argument for Muhammad, the later Caliphs, the current ISIL leaders and a lot of less dangerous folks as being counted within this group. Joseph Stalin, a thief and mass murderer too (Stalin being an assumed name: the Russian word for “steel”), once said “It is not the man who votes that wins the election, but the man who counts the votes.” He makes the list of the well-known and his modern counterpart is no different. What do you suppose he was all about having named himself “steel?”
It does not matter what name we give it, what drives it or even if we lend some seeming legitimacy to these forms of godlessness and sickness. Whether it is racism, nationalism, feudalism, fascism, socialism, communism, radicalism or some other “ism.” The Catholics or the Protestants, that denomination or this one, this cult or that one, my party or yours, his country or mine, or some other vilification – they all drive hard down the very same roads. They exist with no thought for God or God’s creation, whether they march clutching a bible, some other manifesto or nothing at all. It is done by the rule of men.
We pass the woes of history and of various lands often only by reading or hearing of the plight of the least among us: immigrants and plain commoners – the poor. Men and women nameless and unbeknownst to us. Those who are displaced or eliminated and swept away like litter caught up in a dust devil. There now – soon gone.
And we may feel sorrow over the brutality of murders and crookedness that abounds, but we are less inclined to sorrow over the personal or even wholesale looting of goods – to the theft that often comes alongside it. We spend little or no time on it at all noting quietly that such things will go on or may have had some smoky sanction from someone or some place or another. It too has been around forever.
Thieves and con artists have plied their stock and trade in communities and states where the least to the greatest of these grasp for the accumulation, or redistribution of goods or wealth. But we often think nothing of those who steal this way, whether pencils or millions. It does not seem to bother us much – that is unless it is our stuff that gets liberated by their swift hands.
Some schemers steal in the name of Jesus. And if our pockets get picked in the name of God it is often accompanied with a smile or a swelling chorus. A great host of conmen and women then and now have prospered mightily this way. Christ has said, “They too have their reward.” Religion is the last great perpetual money machine and tax haven for scoundrels. We never seem to be able to see past the five thousand dollar suits, the million dollar compounds and the sound stages long enough to wake up and smell the stench. You can dress up a pig, but what have you got when you’re done?
“‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’”
All these have followed a Rule of Iron. They did not conceive it and they likely never gave it a moment’s thought. But it is what describes their actions and explains what they do and how they carry themselves.
The product and output has always been the same. Might makes Right. It often comes out “My way is the right way.” Or it’s “My way or the highway.” We can say it softly and thoughtfully as in “What I do serves God and is good for you,” or “this is my due.”
But the thief is no different in God’s eye than the murderer or the religious deceiver. And the killer of millions no worse than the killer of one. This rule had its start long before any of these types (or anyone else) ever thought to seize power, to abuse, steal or kill, or to subjugate their fellows.
We ignore history almost as well as we do the Bible. And whether or not we have ever considered it – the father of the Rule of Iron and its many complements was Cain. Many people know nothing about the Bible, but nearly everybody knows of Cain and Abel. Cain willfully broke God’s law whether or not it had ever been explained to him, posted somewhere or stated aloud. And every person innately knows that it is wrong to murder. We don’t need to be told.
Cain rejected everything around him and acted on his own conceits and emotions. God had no respect for his offering over Abel’s. So Cain killed him. And all that he really needed was a redo and to humbly offer up a better or more acceptable offering. That is what God told him.
So Abel and his offering was not the problem. And of course, God was not the problem. Cain was the beginning and end of it all. Satan may have deceived Eve, but he owned Cain: lock, stock and barrel. Cain in his vanity took away the gift of life.
The unseen cost of giving in to his own thoughts and wickedness was huge. His brother was dead by his hand. He never saw his mother and father again. He was made a wanderer cursed of Heaven and known of men. He said that his punishment for killing his brother was too great to bear. Thousands since have said similar things.
Cain will be standing inside those fiery gates right next to the others who follow this rule. In eternal torment crying in pain and watching the greater part of the rest of humanity as they check in to test out the accommodations, all having ignored God and the exact same warnings. The Rule of Iron costs those who live by it at the rate it is paid out to their victims.
I believe Cain never gave any of that so much as a moment’s thought. Arrogance is one of those gifts that just never stops giving. Conceit is another. Hatred a third. So it seems Cain both got what he wanted and exactly what he paid for.
God already knew how and where Abel had ended up when he asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Why does his blood cry out to me from the ground?” And Cain in his arrogance answered the only God, the one he personally knew, the God of heaven and earth, with an insult: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Might makes right.
We believe that we will escape exposure for our “trivial” deeds and thoughts. As with many today it did not matter at all to Cain what God thought. And most of us are just a single feeling away from being any different.