“Follow the Science?” Obedience to Authority vs. Personal Conscience

“Ordinary Americans are about as willing to blindly follow orders to inflict pain on an innocent stranger as they were four decades ago.”

Quoting from the results of a study carried out in 1963 by Stanley Milgram, Chuck Colson predicted the kind of C0V1D-19 lockdown authoritarianism that was birthed by Communist Chinese authorities and copycatted all around the world.

The Milgram ‘shock experiment’ was a study into “the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience.”

Milgram’s aim was to see how “easily ordinary people could be influenced into committing atrocities, for example, Germans in WWII.”

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He designed the study to answer questions raised by the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, and the defence’s justification that those on trial “were only following orders.” [i]

In 1974, Milgram himself wrote:

“I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist.

“Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ [participants’] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ [participants’] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not.”

Colson explained that up to 80% of those who participated in Milgram’s experiment were willing to “inflict painful electric shocks on another person if an authority figure told them to do so.” [ii]

In 2007, Santa Clara University’s, Jerry Burger ‘replicated the experiment, and Burger’s results were nearly identical with Milgram.’

This prompted New York Times’ Adam Cohen to conclude that “ordinary Americans are about as willing to blindly follow orders to inflict pain on an innocent stranger as they were four decades ago.”

Colson, not surprised by the results said, “the two experiments are a huge cautionary tale of how people respond to authority.”

The studies, he said, show that “nothing changes about human nature; we really do blindly follow authority, and very few people challenge it.”

Colson wrote, “when there’s social chaos, people will choose order over liberty. It’s the reason why, if you give a prison guard or a government clerk a little power, they become abusive.”

The “only real barrier preventing people from inflicting pain is conscience,” which Colson explains is our God-given “internal moral bearings” (see Romans 2:15) that have to be nurtured into maturity.

The problem and its cause are, as the Milgram/Burger studies infer, a lack of Godly nurturing, which is the consequence of “the breakdown of the family and moral decay in American life.”

The abdication from nurturing our God-given internal moral bearings blinds us to tyranny and binds us to sinful participation in it.

People will obey a lawful authority without question because there’s no acknowledgement of God; no other authority or power higher than Government fiats and stuffy, bloated Bureaucratic rules.

This is God vs. Government-become-god territory.

Where unjust laws are obeyed because, as Colson argued, “people have lost the concept of a law beyond the law.”

Which, says Colson, leads to a rejection of civil liberties, because “given a choice between order and chaos, Americans will always choose order – even if it shuts down some of our freedoms.”

The act of civil disobedience, he said, also becomes a farce, because “in a morally relativistic era, there’s nothing that kicks in and tells us that something is wrong.”

A docile, conditioned polis simply can’t know what they’re protesting, or find reasons to justify why.

It was a dismal prediction. Now a C0V1D-19 reality.

Atheist, secular humanist Governments following their Communist Chinese counterparts turned neighbour against neighbour. The police were weaponised against the people they’re paid to protect, and fighting the virus became about denouncing people perceived to be lockdown “lawbreakers.”

The highest civic duty was the surrender of civil liberties, wearing a mask, not questioning the mandated medical advice from bureaucrats, applauding their disaster porn, and staying glued to the media’s daily “briefings.”

As Milgram, commenting on the outcome of his experiment noted: “The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.”

To paraphrase Colson, the only sure-fire way to protect civil liberties, and live out just civil disobedience, is by ‘courageously asserting the law beyond the law’; disobeying unjust laws that are contrary to our internal moral bearings, informed as they are, by the self-revealing God of Grace, and His objective moral law.

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Though it may seem like we are being “plunged into the abyss of hell,” Charles Spurgeon once said, “God does not leave us there alone.”

The “star of hope is still in the sky when the night is blackest. Surely out of death, darkness, and despair, we shall yet arise to Life, light and liberty.”

[i] McLeod, S. 2017. The Milgram Shock Experiment, Simply Psychology
[ii] Colson, C. 2015. My Final Word, Zondervan  (pp.58-59)
[iii] Spurgeon, C. Not Left to Perish, Faith’s Checkbook March 3rd

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