By David Tulis
Lawsuits in the past 20 years over public postings of the 10 commandments have allowed Christians to take up a queer nonchalance about God’s law. Whether the uproar is over Alabama Justice Roy Moore’s 10 commandments monument or another ACLU petition against a Tennessee county for a courtroom hallway placard of God’s law, the Christian can find his ideas about the two tablets settling into an uneasy position.
It is easy to think that somehow these courtroom fights don’t touch at the heart of the Christian gospel, that they are merely over an outward form, a symbol, and not against any substance of the truth delivered by God to mankind. After all, the life of Christianity is inward. It is spiritual. Outward forms matter little; inner life matters much. Somehow, we think we can ignore the conflicts because we have the breath of the Holy Spirit in our souls, and can prosper from Him even as the cultural status quo goes secular.
One who helps shake me from such spiritual complacency is Charles Wysong. Mr. Wysong, 71, is probably Chattanooga’s richest man as tallied by a homefront census of 15 children born to him and his wife, Brenda. Until 2001 Mr. Wysong held a lucrative patent for a burner system. Since then he has made a living as a preacher, speaker and activist. He was a longtime player in Christians’ struggle against Chattanooga Women’s Clinic, which destroyed more than 30,000 boys and girls before being shuttered in 1993 after 18 years of boom and bust. He is a major player and an appellant in litigation to unseat the city’s mayor, Ron Littlefield.
His latest work — half business, half ministry — is straightforward: “My desire is to put a copy of the 10 commandments and the gospel in every home in America.”
He is working to find people in each of the 50 states’ 3,141 counties to organize through their churches and distribute versions of the 10 commandments to every household, precinct by precinct. One church that involved itself in a distribution outreach grew from 70 to 230 people and had 63 people baptised in two-year period, he says.
The sample he gave me is small, already scored and bent, of sturdy plastic that he says is cheap to produce yet able to last many years. He will use radio and a website to find people to help in the program.
HE LAMENTS THE INDIFFERENCE of God’s people to the 10-point summary of His standards. In the early 1990s Mr. Wysong’s brother, Gordon, was a member of the Cobb County Commission and was joined by fellow officials in a resolution condemning homosexuality. Meanwhile, the ACLU sued to remove a 1928 copy of the 10 commandments at the county courthouse. A court opinion ordered the display removed. The Tennessee Wysong polled Christian bookstores and schools in the county — 15 of each, he says. One store had a postable copy of the commandments, and one school had a copy on a wall. Of 20 churches that had backed Commissioner Wysong, one had a copy of the commandments on display.
“What the federal court mandated for your courthouse over here,” Charlie Wysong told Cobb County clergymen, “you’ve already done to your own walls years ago.” Mr. Wysong and colleagues distributed about 2 million copies of the commandments in the U.S. and other countries. But American Christians are steeped in indifference. Fewer than 1 percent of Americans can name the 10, he says. A few might know which commandment President Obama scorns in his endorsement of homosexual “marriage” (the 7th, to start with).
What is spiritual maturity? asks Mr. Wysong, dressed in a pressed white shirt and a tie in an interview at the foot of Chickamauga Dam. Is it faith? Witnessing? Fruits of spirit? “Being like Jesus?” His answer: “Knowing right and wrong from the Bible is the mark of a spiritually mature man or woman.”
“But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” Heb. 5:14. This verse and others he cites indicate the discernment God gives mankind through his law.
Mrs. Wysong discusses the purpose of the law of God. It defines the creator’s character. The commandments, which the sovereign wrote with his own finger and gave in tablets to Moses, sum up man’s duty to God, and man’s duty to man. The commandments tell of God’s perfect holiness, and make clear to the sinner how ugly and wretched he is in his rebellion against God’s lawful government. The law of God convicts men of sin. “I had not known sin but by the law; I had not known lust except the commandment had said, thou shalt not covet,” Mr. Wysong says.
“We are not bringing conviction of sin,” Mr. Wysong worries. “We are getting [new converts] to join our club, you know; we’re a lot better than the motorcycle clubs and the abortionists and the homosexuals. But that is not a reason to come to Christ.
“The reason we come to Christ,” he said, “is to save ourselves from the wrath to come, and that is the only way a person comes to saving knowledge of Christ. So when we leave off the law, we leave off the motivation of men and women, boys and girls to come to Christ.”
MIGHT THERE BE A DANGER in a program by a private individual’s emphasizing physical copies of the commandments? I ask. Might not there will be a willingness of people involved in his effort to concern themselves with an outward form and not an inward use of God’s law?
“That is always a risk,” Mr. Wysong admits. “But you have to understand that not teaching God’s law has brought about enormous problems in the church. We do not understand God any longer. *** One reason we’re so weak and ineffective against abortion, homosexuality, pornography is that we don’t know God any longer. Because we don’t know his law, we don’t know what pleases and displeases him.”
People wanting to learn more about Mr. Wysong’s work may call him at (423) 314-0183. A website is tenlaws.net.