The headline jumped out at me in my morning e-mail, as it was intended to.
But I was not shocked, saddened, surprised or encouraged, and I know I was supposed to be at least one of those.
It was an opinion piece, published in the New York Times on May 31, 2022, and written by Steve Descano.
No, I was not familiar with his name either. It turns out that he is the head prosecutor for Fairfax County, Virginia. With a little research, I learned that it is the most populous jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with about 13% of the state’s population.
What did Mr. Descano have to say? That he will never ever prosecute a woman for having an abortion.
He is defying a law that does not exist, and Mr. Descano knows that. Currently abortion is quite legal in Virginia. Glenn Youngkin is Virginia’s governor, and Mr. Descano is concerned that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, which seems likely, Mr. Youngkin “could well strip women of their reproductive rights.”
To be honest with you, I don’t know how to feel about Mr. Descano’s defiance of a non-existent law. I suppose he is trying to intimidate Mr. Youngkin. Maybe he’s just passionate about his position.
But it all seems like premature posturing to me. It’s quite unlike the defiance of a fellow named Daniel. Now that was defiance.
Worse than lions?
Daniel in a den of lions was a real thing, but preceding it was something more dangerous. These weren’t lions, they were jackals and hyenas and wolves and snakes. In a single word, politicians.
Darius, the king of Persia (now Iran), had divided his kingdom into 120 provinces. He appointed a governor for each of those. Over the 120 were three administrators who would supervise the governors and protect the king’s interests.
Daniel was one of those three, and he was the best of the three. So the king made plans to make him second in the kingdom. That did not make him popular with the hyenas, let alone the wolves.
They tried to find some fault in him (has that ever happened to you at work?) but they couldn’t. Then they thought there might be something in his religion (he was a faithful Jew) they could use against him.
So they convinced the king to pass a law that said for the next thirty days any person “who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to the king—will be thrown into the den of lions.” No exceptions.
Of course they also told him that “everyone” was in agreement with this. That lie was the snakes’ idea.
Daniel found out about the law, but he didn’t go to Darius to argue. He went home to pray, as he did three times every day. He faced the direction of Jerusalem and prayed with the windows open.
A meal for the lions
The menagerie naturally told the king, led by the hyenas, who were laughing. Darius tried to think of a way to save Daniel from the den of lions but couldn’t. They arrested Daniel, put him in with the lions, put a stone over the mouth of the den, and sealed it. Darius went home and fasted, worried for Daniel.
Very early the next morning Darius went to the den and called out, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”
When he heard Daniel’s voice he knew the answer was yes. Darius got Daniel out of the pit.
He then took the men who had “maliciously accused Daniel” and had them, along with their wives and children, thrown into the lions’ den. Like Darius the lions had been fasting, and they were hungry.
The difference with Daniel
Pointing out the differences between these defiances may be useful. On the one hand we have a politician saying, “If you ever make a law like that, I’ll break it!” On the other we have a man of extraordinarily high office unwilling to defy God and willing to be punished for breaking the law.
This was only a 30 day law. Could Daniel have prayed in private for a month?
Of course he knew this wouldn’t be the end of it if he somehow went undetected for 30 days. It could have been a 3 day law and Daniel would have acted the same.
On the one hand we have a fellow being loudly and openly opinionated. He is calling attention to himself. On the other hand we have a humble, quiet, servant. His actions call attention to God.
In fact after God rescued Daniel, King Darius sent out this message:
“Peace and prosperity to you! I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end.”
Go ahead, defy
Defiance, you may know, is not welcome everywhere. It is now illegal in Russia to call the war in Ukraine a war. Punishment is up to 15 years in prison, and many have already been arrested. Even people who have gone into the streets with empty hands pretending to carry a poster have been detained.
And yet, according to Global Voices, “a lot of people in Russia continue to defy the authorities.”
If you live in America, as most of our readers do, you generally do not have to fear the authorities for something of that nature. We do not have a totalitarian state.
What we do have is “causes” that, at least for their own purposes, are authoritarian. They are not the government, but some of them wield a fair amount of local power. Just ask (now former) Princeton professor Joshua Katz.
Defy, but when you choose to defy, do it because you are for something and not just against something.
Be like Daniel. Do good, even in your defiance. It’s in you.
This Post Has 2 Comments
Such a good read. Thank you, Lewis
Thanks very much, Bob. Glad you liked it.