WorldNetDaily is currently in a tizzy about a government program that recruits clergy members to help keep the peace in times of national disaster. I can’t say that I blame them for mistrusting these so-called “Clergy Response Teams,” though as with everything WND blows a fuse over, I suspect the program is a mite less sinister than they let on. The real crux of their outrage is the suggestion that the teams will be citing Romans 13 in order to encourage Christians to obey the civil authorities (presumably so that the men in black helicopters can take the guns straight out of people’s gullible, live hands).
Now, for those not familiar, Romans 13 basically says that since all government authorities are in place only by the inscrutable establishment of God, Christians “must submit” to authorities and not rebel against them. WorldNetDaily, however, has come up with a slightly different reading: the passage only applies to “good” government that, as Tony Perkins says, doesn’t [undermine] its very basis of support by trying to remove the Christian ethic, the Bible, the Ten Commandments from the public square. The upshot of this is that WND readers should feel free to shoot those homosexual-loving U.S. government officials right in the face if they ever issue civil orders that WND doesn’t like.
Now, I’m a little loathe to start getting into the scriptural interpretation business, but isn’t there a rather glaring problem with in this argument that someone needs to address?
I mean, the governing authority in place at the time when the Apostle Paul wrote his “Letter to the Romans,” and thus the people he cannot help but have been talking about submitting to, were, well, the Romans. If WND thinks the U.S. Government is an unacceptable authority because it won’t allow Tony Perkins to teach devotional classes in public schools, what the heck could Paul have been talking about? Far from having Perkin’s requirement of a “Christian ethic,” the Romans were whole-hog pagans who worshiped their Emperors. And the Roman government didn’t merely work “to eliminate the Bible, the Ten Commandments and prayer from any part of the formal proceedings of the government.” For quite some time, they worked to eliminate the Bible, the Ten Commandments, and Christian prayer from reality. Paul, in fact, is traditionally held to have been beheaded by these guys, and martyring yourself by basically inviting the Romans to kill you became something of a fad for many early Christians. Perhaps this was because these folks had also read Romans 12, in which Paul reiterates ideas like “bless those who persecute you,” “do not take revenge,” and not to repay “anyone evil for evil.”
Realizing that this is sort of a problem for any aspiring paramilitary Tribulation strike-teams, some of the gung-ho for God set have lamely noted that almost all of the Apostles died refusing to submit to civil authorities. But come on: none of these guys organized daring prison escapes or waged Jason Bourne-esque campaigns against their oppressors. They may well have refused to stop peacefully evangelizing, but they all accepted the civil consequences and went happily to their deaths, willingly submitting to unjust and evil punishments in emulation of Jesus.
Now, I’m perfectly happy to declare that if your local pastor comes by in the middle of nuclear winter and advises you to come help work at the concentration camps, you should feel free to tell him to get bent. But then, I’m not a nutty right-wing newspaper committed to the infallibility of the Bible’s advice on everything under the sun.
I don’t discount (and as an unbeliever, am ultimately indifferent to) the idea that there could be a legitimate reading of Romans that permitted rebelling against, say, Hitler. But it’s simply mind-boggling that anyone could honestly get away with painting the U.S. Government as illegitimate because it doesn’t directly sponsor Jesus camps with tax dollars while happily accepting rule by the very same Romans that freaking killed Jesus.