I’d like to take minute to examine a passage that many christians or religious people especially in the US cite as a rationalization for supporting a government, especially their own government no matter how insane or diabolical it’s figureheads.
ROMANS 13:1 ESV Let every person be subject to the governing authorities there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
At first glance this sounds as if scripture is saying all governing authorities (meaning government officials) have been put into place by God himself and we are to subject ourselves to such.
Right? It clearly says there is no authority except from God.
Then I suppose the not so savory guy in the picture above. Ruthless Cambodian dictator known as Pol Pot who was directly (or indirectly) responsible for the piles of skulls below and many hundreds of thousands more was installed directly by God and all of his followers were doing not only their civic duty to country, but their duty to God.
This would further imply that anyone attempting to stop that insanity was not only working against their rulers but also God himself.
Why I have a problem with this sort of reasoning is obvious in these types of cases especially when the perpatrator doesnt look like you, speak your language or share your cultural norms, but maybe not so much in the case of a “constitutional republic” such as the United States of America. I think this is the reason that so many christian statists feel the need to vehemently defend their government and country no matter what “we” do. We are supposed to submit to our leaders, “support our troops,” and “respect the office” of the President.
I’ll further the point by saying if you honestly believe this then, Anne Frank was an ungodly dissident and Heinrich Himmlers SS was on the right track. She should have given respect and honor where it was due and turned over all those Jews to the proper governing authorities. Likewise the abolitionist movement in the US was working against the very parameters outlined by the apostle Paul in the book of Romans and they all should have handed those slaves back to their “rightful owners.”
If there is no authority except from God then what were we doing fighting the Nazis anyway? Hitler was God’s man for the German people!
Why were so many “christians” so excited about bombing Iraq into the stone age? Including our former president George W Bush? Wasn’t Hussein “God’s Guy” for the Iraqis?
I could go on for days with these sorts of examples but, I think you see where I’m at with all of this.
I know the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein get alot of blame for the atrocious things that their regimes doled out. In all honesty without blind submission to these sorts of sociopaths and all the people who imagined them to be legitimate authority it could have never happened. Everyone, I mean everyone from the taxpayers who funded their empire, to the clerks shuffling the papers, to the people dropping bombs and bulldozing piles of human remains into mass graves played a part, yet I’m guessing very few felt directly responsible.
Here is how the authority of this world appears to work.
-We have rulers who issue commands to their underlings who may directly do their bidding or may further delegate it to somebody else further down the pipe to get some sort of end result, it’s a team effort.
-We have those who do the bidding in an extreme case like somebody responsible for Hitler’s master plan of extermination of all sort of “undesirables.” They maintained after they were caught and tried they were only “following orders” and therefore not really personally responsible. The man at the very top probably felt some what insulated from real responsibility because they weren’t doing the actual killing. Hitler is reported to have never actually set foot in any of the concentration camps because he did not want the stigma of ever having his hands directly on his own vision of eradicating the Jewish people and many others.
-I’ll also point out in the story of the crucifixion of Jesus nobody really took responsibility for the entire event. The Jewish religious leaders wouldn’t execute Jesus on the Sabbath so pushed him into the hands of the Roman govenor. Who by the way stated he “found no fault in this man” then subsequently handed him over to be flogged then, proclaimed he had washed his hands of any responsibility for the execution which was then fully accepted by the crowd who declared his blood would be on their hands, even though it was actually carried out by some lower level soldier in a bronze breastplate who ended up with the actual blood on his hands but, was simply “following orders.” The whole thing literally becomes this circular finger pointing contest of who is really responsible for torturing someone to death. This is how nearly all authority works. Everyone is just doing their job and nobody is really responsible.
While Jesus was being questioned by the Roman Govenor Pilate he was very clear that his kingdom was not of this world.
*Matthew 20:25-28.ESV But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This passage from the book of Matthew gives us an idea of who the kingdoms of this world belong to.
*Matthew 4:8-9.ESV Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
He did not advocate an armed resistance nor is he recorded as bowing down to the govenor or even answering his questions directly. Doesn’t much sound like “respecting the office” since failing to pay proper honor to Roman authority could be punishable by death at that time.
I say these things because as a Christian or any other number of sentient moral human beings out there you will eventually have a choice to make between following the directives of your governing authorities or to resist. This is a near certainty that someone in power will tell you to violate your personal morals.
Whether that resistance be armed or non agressive will be a choice you will have to make and be personally responsible for. Simply following orders will not be an excuse for evil.
The history books are piled high with warnings of blind obedience to authority.
The scripture also warns us of the dangers of allowing another human being to rule over you.
So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.
When someone, anyone claims authority over us we must ask ouselves where did this authority come from? Am I obligated to follow? If so why? At what point will I resist, and how? Am I simply going to stand by idly and let anyone with a uniform or title do whatever they wish to whomever they wish in the name of law?
I will end these thoughts with the fact that the following verses seem to describe authority as it should be and if they do not fall into these parameters what obligation do we have to follow them?
Romans 13: 3-4.ESV
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God.
I chose to accept the teachings and example of Jesus as the final authority in my life. What will yours be?