Scripture publishes the fifth commandment in several places, not only in the original narratives of the Decalogue (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16) and from the mouth of the Savior (Matt. 15:4; 19:19; Mark 7:10; 10:19; Luke 18:20); but it is also described as an especial commandment by St. Paul, the “first commandment with promise” (Eph. 6:2). It is not merely as if God has arbitrarily decided to bless obedience to the fifth commandment as unique, though He could if He wanted. Rather, in His predestining wisdom, God has so constituted reality such that the fifth commandment is interlaced with extremely important factors of our existence and well-being; there are sets of blessings naturally adjoined to our obedience to the duties of the fifth commandment. Consequently, destruction awaits those who violate these duties.
We can see such destruction today. God’s ordained family structure is despised. The West abhors tradition, and sees all the ancestors of its civilization as racist bigots. Inferiors hate and envy their superiors, seeking to rob them in the name of a perverted sense of justice. Aliens rise higher and higher, plundering the native populace. Whites loathe themselves.
These are all the fruits of our disobedience. In a word, the ground of our defiance can be summed up in the ideology of egalitarianism, the worship of equality and the full-blown leveling of distinctions and authorities. Our God is a God of order and hierarchy, and He therefore hates egalitarianism. Specifically, He opposes egalitarianism in His fifth commandment, which He has proclaimed as a divine and solemn duty for all of His people, indeed, for all mankind. I will proceed to show specifically how this antithesis manifests itself: how the fifth commandment wars against egalitarianism.
His voice thundering from Sinai, the Lord delivered the Decalogue to the Israelites. He commanded: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex. 20:12). Before entertaining the implicit ways in which this commandment opposes other strains of egalitarianism, it would be profitable to consider the explicit duty contained here: we are to honor our parents. The vast majority of youths1 today will not even make their beds when asked; much less will they seek to learn their parents’ preferences and strive to please them—and even less will they seek to preserve the good name and reputation of their parents. The father and mother are usually the first among their children to receive scorn and blame. Parents are the ones from whose presence children wish to flee, so they can openly become drunk and commit fornication in college. Parents are the ones with whom children most easily engage in puerile but fiery arguments. Whatever children decide to display to their parents, in no way can it be described as honor.
One substantial sphere in which this dishonor is palpable, perhaps the most important decision children will ever make, is the choice of a spouse. But when it comes to marriage, modern children have been brainwashed to view their parents’ desires as bigoted preferences deserving extinction. The sin of miscegenation amplifies this deep-seated dishonor, where children not only directly contradict their parents’ commands, but even become so presumptuous as to see their parents as wicked. Even if only implicitly, the average children today have mutated into “murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers” (1 Tim. 1:9). They may speak well of them at certain times, giving lip service to how they “couldn’t live without their friends and family,” but in their actions they display only contempt. Even though parents are certainly not the paradigms they ought to be, nothing resembling tribute is shown for the God-ordained office.
Against Gender Egalitarianism
A somewhat brief but still important distinction presupposed in the commandment is between father and mother. God states this distinction not merely because the customary structure of the family has involved a male and a female, but because the normative and divinely ordained structure of the family is so. God’s law has a perspicuous foundation of patriarchy grounding social and familial ethics, a foundation intertwined with the commandment itself. This is one reason why Paul cites the fifth commandment when teaching the Ephesian church of the rules attendant to each family member: immediately following the obligations of wives to submit to their husbands and of husbands to love their wives, he cites the fifth commandment in informing children of their own familial obligations (Eph. 5:22-6:3).
Though the commandment only presupposes the distinction and does not explicitly oppose feminism, it still serves to wage war against this variant of egalitarianism. Modern antichrists see gender as purely the result of human social interaction, an arbitrary set of norms imposed upon unsuspecting women not innately desiring to be feminine, but only forced into such a mindset by an oppressive society. Against this ludicrous perversion of reality, God unequivocally states in His Word, in His law, that male and female are natural and irreducible categories, ordained by His decree and with their attendant obligations. “Honor your father and your mother” is a bane to the feminist—and not only to the feminist, but to the homosexualist as well. Though the “traditional family” is today treated as one option among many, it is also the biblically normative model. Sodomites seeking to adopt children cannot, twisting God’s words, teach them to “honor your father and your other father.” The dictum forbids it.
Though it might seem an improbable conclusion at first, the fifth commandment also militates against the popular tenet of American civil religion known as universal suffrage: the inalienable right of all people not to submit unto a civic authority except by their antecedent consent. This was the (radical) doctrine underlying the first wave of feminism, and it remains a high-standing bulwark of democracy today. The doctrine requires that every member of the citizenry have a share of political authority, that every subject is also some sort of ruler.
Against this, the rationale forbidding the doctrine of universal suffrage is quite simple: children do not select their parents. God commands those who do not select their authorities to nevertheless be subject. Children have an unchosen obligation to submit to unelected superiors; they do not consent to be born. The premise that all lawful authority requires the consent of the subjects is thus plainly false, and democracy or universal suffrage is thereby overthrown.
Of course, it could be that there is a fundamental and basic difference between familial and civil ethics, such that, as a brute fact, lawful authorities in the family may be unchosen while lawful authorities in civil ethics require universal consent. Space does not permit me to fully critique this objection, but suffice it to say that modern (and older) proponents of universal suffrage do not usually care to make the distinction. It is just assumed that authority requires antecedent consent, notwithstanding the implied destruction of patriarchal authority, and even of God’s own authority. If nothing else, the fifth commandment lends prima facie weight to the idea that civil authority need not require consent. And given David Opperman’s work in showing how legitimate civil authority is at root patriarchal, I would contend further that the unchosen nature of authority extends in some sense to civil government—certainly undermining the idea that every single subject must give his consent, at the very least.
Against Racial Egalitarianism
The genetic nature of parent-child relations demonstrates one way in which God has so constituted us. By embedding the authoritative paternal and maternal relations into the fabric of our bodies, that is, by ordaining relations of authority to naturally and characteristically coincide with relations of biological generation, He has also designed us to live in the context of family. He did not without reason ordain that children be obliged to submit to parents; He did not simply pick a random relation and decide to imbue it with authority. Rather, He has so framed us that family life is natural to our bodies and souls, fitted for us. In other words, the fifth commandment was made for man, not man for the fifth commandment (cf. Mark 2:27).
But when we recognize the way in which our fifth-commandment duties conform to the social-familial nature with which God has endowed us, we inevitably recognize that such duties do not restrict themselves to the family. The momentum of fifth-commandment obligations just cannot be contained within the nuclear family, but must extend to include our ancestors beyond our parents “vertically,” as well as our kinsmen beyond our siblings “horizontally.” Consider: if we ought to honor our parents, seeking their consent and blessing, then should we not also, to some extent, seek the same from our grandparents? And would not the same apply to our great-grandparents, and to our great-great-grandparents, and so on? (If not, why call them “great” and “grand”?) Someone might respond that we cannot seek the consent or blessing of ancestors now deceased, but that does not nullify our duty to do what would receive their consent, any more than an orphan is relieved of any obligation to honor his parents and seek what they would desire.2 Likewise, note the “horizontal” dimension: the fifth commandment presupposes fraternal (as well as paternal) relations and obligations, but would we say that we must treat everyone outside the family equally? If we are to treat those born to the same parents (our siblings) in a special way, then are we not also to treat our cousins and extended family in a special way too? And what if we keep extending this principle, keep extending this circle? Clearly, it follows that we have lessening but still special relations and obligations attendant to those who are genetically closer to our family.
But what is the logical end of this? It is this: the Lord has crafted us not merely to flourish in families, but also to achieve ethnic solidarity in our own nations. Just as we are naturally fitted to live in families, having an especial care for and solemn duties unto our own families, so also are we naturally fitted to live among our own ethnic and racial kinsmen, having a special care for them. St. Paul espoused this principle clearly in his epistle to the Romans, longing for his nation’s salvation even to the point of his personal damnation (Rom. 9:3). The trajectory of the familialism explicit in the fifth commandment leads the biblical mind to accept nationalism and racialism as well. The Christian, while not seeking to oppress other nations and races, nevertheless ought to seek the good of his own first and foremost (1 Tim. 5:8). Consequently, the fantasy of racial equality—where whites convince themselves that they are deracinated “world citizens,” without special obligations or relations to any people in particular—is utterly false. Like all the other heresies of equality, racial egalitarianism is obliterated by the fifth commandment. The genetic reality presupposed in the precept entails the normativity of flourishing in the proper familial, national, and racial context. The Divine Designer has constituted us to live among our own, to be naturally fitted for familial and national life. We are therefore not to treat all peoples and races equally, since one of them is ours.
Against Equality of Ability
One of the reasons (though certainly not the only one) for which God requires children’s obedience to parents is merely because the parents are smarter and wiser than they. Though teenagers might be convinced by their friends, schools, and media that they are themselves the sole and eternal repositories of wisdom and greatness, parents are necessarily the ones who have been there and done that. And just as experts in a certain field—real experts, not merely ones whom the state licenses as “official” experts—ought to be heeded in their advice and counsel, so also should children obey the precepts their parents have issued forth from their accumulation of knowledge and insight in their lives. This is why the Westminster Larger Catechism, asking, “What are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?” states:
A. By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.3
Today, due to the fantasy of racial equality as applied to abilities, far too many are convinced that all races are equally gifted, having the same strengths and weaknesses. This denial of common sense also violates the biblical teaching that the Holy Spirit distributes gifts as He pleases (1 Cor. 12:11), and leads to a downward spiral by which any perceived inequalities among races’ abilities are inferred to be the result of systematic discrimination and oppressive “racism.” But this native and predestined distinction in racial capacities is part of a larger truth, that different people have varying strengths and weaknesses; and this larger truth is itself embedded in the fifth commandment.
The fifth commandment is not some baseless order God decided to give, but is inextricably tied with the nature of our identity and existence as humans. God created us to live in families and in homogeneous societies, and therefore the violation of this divine law undergirding such a model assuredly leads to misery. When we fail to keep this commandment, society breaks apart at the seams and in a multifaceted way, as can be witnessed in the decadence of our own Western culture.
Therefore we must strive to uphold God’s law in all its requirements. We must understand that the ordained familial order prescribed in the Decalogue also points to a tribalistic and nationalistic sense of human identity: familialism entails racialism. To destroy egalitarianism, we must apprehend that the momentum of fifth commandment obligations must extend to include other authorities, and must extend to include our ancestors; it goes far beyond (though certainly includes) doing what one’s parents ask and desire. If we repent and seek to follow this norm breathed from God’s very mouth, then He has promised us life: “that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex. 20:12). Let us hold fast to His promises, for He is faithful.
- And I don’t mean “youths” according to newspaper crime-concealing jargon. ↩
- Naturally, all this blessing-seeking must be done in accord with God’s law. If our ancestors were the worst of pagans, then we should not seek to emulate them or to obtain their sinfully-formed consent. But it would be outrageous to suggest that, in general, our obligation to seek our parents’ and ancestors’ blessing is nullified by higher obligations. Certainly our blessing-seeking obligation can be overridden in various circumstances, but it cannot be outright nullified. ↩
- Question and answer 124. The catechism can be accessed here: http://reformed.org/documents/wlc_w_proofs/index.html. ↩