Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Of the People, For the People, and By the People

To what extent are we as Christian citizens of the United States of America supposed to be submissive to government authority? My question stated this way would lead Bible Thumpers to Romans 13. I love Bible Thumpers by the way: I'm trying to be one!

What if I asked a different question? What is the role of the Christian in the government of the United States of America? The first question presupposes that the Christian is separate and apart from the government authority unto which one is submitting. The second question does not contain this presupposition.

If we lived in a monarchy, a communist state, a fascist state, or any other form of government other than ours; then we would be bound to submit. But what about a government of the people? What about one by the people and for the people? Lincoln stated that our founding fathers envisioned a new kind of government based on the "proposition that all men are created equal".

How does the vision of our founding fathers affect the Christian's responsibility in light of Romans 13?

In his farewell address, George Washington stated, "The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government."

He continues, "All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction; to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community, and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans, digested by common councils and modified by mutual interests."

Proverbs 29:2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Did George Washington have Proverbs 29 in mind when he said this...

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness – these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, "where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?" And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Romans 13 teaches that everyone is expected to be subject to the government authority in their life. God ordained the entity of government. That does not mean every government acts in accordance with God's designs. God invented parents as well; and how many poor parents do you know? Paul makes it clear that poor governing is no excuse for an individual Christian to revolt.

Why can't I revolt? Submission is part of the Christ-like life. If you study the American War for Independence; you will find that Americans were very submissive and respectful. King George attacked us, not the other way around. The Americans had every right to form a "more perfect union" and as a formal government cast off the shackles of the English monarchy. They made every attempt to do this in a peaceful manner, but were forced into a war for their very survival.

Paul knew something about stubborn monarchs. He dealt with the likes of Emperor Nero (a.k.a world's craziest emperor ever!)

Christians have a higher purpose in life than forming a perfect government to rule; however, that holy calling does not preclude a responsibility to govern as God would govern. If we are really in charge, then we are the government! It is "of the people", so if we fail to govern as God would govern; then we are failing in our God ordained responsibility.

In America, it could be argued that failure to vote and get involved in the political process is actually failing to submit to the government. "I'm not going to vote, because it doesn't matter anyway" is a rebellious attitude that causes the American governmental system to break down. It is, after all, a government of the people.

So how is your government doing?

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