Yesterday's Rebels, Today's Heroes

Yesterday’s Rebels, Today’s Heroes

By Dr. Patrick Johnston

“Lawrence Coburn, soldier honored for intervening in the My Lai massacre of civilians by U.S. soldiers, dies at 67”
So reports an MSN news story today.
Larry Coburn was an American hero. As was Hugh Thompson, Coburn’s superior, the helicopter pilot who took the initiative to stop the U.S. soldiers from machine-gunning babies and unarmed civilians at My Lai in the Vietnam War. Hugh Thompson even ordered his subordinate Coburn to fire on the U.S. soldiers if necessary!
“The massacre was horrific, and the cover-up was horrific,” claimed journalist Seymour Hersh, who won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the massacre. Larry Coburn is “as much of a hero as anybody I can think of.” (Hersh’ photographic images of the civilians massacred by U.S. soldiers is adjacent.)

The massacre was horrific, but the cover-up was worse than horrific. The cover-up was a worse crime than the massacre! When lesser authorities like the senior commander on the ground at My Lai murdered innocent people and ordered his subordinates to murder innocent people, it is the duty of their superiors to justly punish them. Instead, they covered it up and lied about it to the public, broadening the bloodguilt for massacre. You see, God is the ultimate judge, and he designated a punishment appropriate for the shedding of innocent blood that wipes away God’s wrath for bloodguilt (Deuteronomy 9, Numbers 35, Genesis 9:6). We should fear God more than man.
Coburn and Thompson and Seymour Hersch knew that some things are wrong, even if they are orders from superiors. We know these things intuitively. In the blockbuster “Rogue One, A Star Wars Story”, the protagonist scolded a rebel soldier who did something morally questionable because he was “just following orders”: “What if the orders are wrong?” the hero inquired. Even Hollywood exalts as heroes those who rebel against lawless civil authority.

Might does not make right. We all know this intuitively. There is a standard of right and wrong that transcends the opinions of our government leaders.
Let’s bring the sharp blade a little closer to home. What we now almost universally recognize as heroic in history – the intervention of Larry Coburn and Hugh Thompson at My Lai, the German soldiers who rose up against their Fuhrer Adolf Hitler (immortalized in Tom Cruise’s movie “Valkyrie”), the Christians like Irena Sendler who disobeyed their government and rescued Jews from the Holocaust, American abolitionists like Charles Finney who hid runaway slaves from the federal Marshals who hunted them – we unfortunately condemn those who walk in their footsteps today.

For example, our anti-abortion leaders in this nation consistently call abortion “murder” and a “Holocaust”, even as they insist that the judicial decisions that legalized abortion are “the law of the land.” I read it just today in an E-newsletter from a prominent Ohio pro-life leader. Roe v. Wade, they argue, is “the law of the land.” Support our Republican candidate, they insist, who will appoint judges who will one day change the law so states can protect the threatened babies.
That confuses law and lawlessness! Even if the courts can make law (they can’t, according to the U.S. Constitution, but even if they could), when they commit lawlessness, their words are not binding. In Martin Luther King’s letters from the Birmingham jail, he forcefully argued that those being arrested defying Alabama’s tyranny were not lawless, but that the laws that discriminated against them were lawless and therefore not binding and should be defied. We should keep the law, but lawless orders should be disobeyed. We don’t need to elect Republicans to appoint judges to one day overturn Roe v. Wade so that one day in the future we can protect murdered children. No! We need to be like Larry Coburn and Hugh Thompson and intervene now in the murder of our brothers and sisters – “the least of these”. They are being daily murdered, and we need to love them as we love ourselves.
What would this look like? This would look like state leaders ordering law enforcement to arrest mass murderers and ordering state prosecutors to them, at the urging of pro-life leaders who want to abate God’s wrath on the land for the shedding of innocent blood. The massacre is horrific, but the cover-up is even more horrific! As law enforcement and state leaders sit idly by as babies are murdered at abortion clinics down the street, the pro-life leaders insist these state leaders are “just following orders.” They condemn today’s rescuers and abolitionists. They subordinate the the U.S. Constitution and even the Word of God to the vote of judges in the Supreme Court.
To quote the Star Wars heroine, “What if the orders are wrong?”
The heroes praised tomorrow, and praised in the halls of Heaven, are the rebels condemned today -  the Coburns and the Valkries and the Sendlers and Bonhoeffers who defy their lawless tyrants and pursue righteousness and justice on behalf of the innocent. Let us be courageous and not just honor them, but imitate them.



Melody Luecke
Melody Luecke

Well said!! We should keep the law, but lawless orders should be defied. We need to LOVE THEM as we LOVE OURSELVES. Excellent. Thank you!