Thursday, April 27, 2006

My Politics: Faith's Place Therein (Part II)

In Tuesday's post I started talking about politics and scripture, noting that my primary read on the texts speaking to our role in politics start from two key priorities: God's work takes priority over politics (though hopefully the two can coincide), and we are to submit to authorities placed over us - even if they're not so nice to Christians.

The first point should be obvious. Jesus was about His "Father's business" instead of about instigating rebellion against Rome. The second point is more contentious. We often think we have the right to break unjust laws, but scripture doesn't really allow that in all circumstances. As I noted Tuesday, the only time we're "allowed" to disobey laws are when they directly contradict a scriptural command.

The Bible contains many examples of people of faith who submitted to authorities despite injustice. Joseph submitted to the authority of Potiphar and the Pharaoh despite being unjustly sold into slavery. Daniel submitted to the Babylonians (and Medes and Persians) who kept the Israelites in bondage. Paul submitted to the authority of Rome, and encouraged others to do the same. And above all, Jesus submitted to Rome's authority to crucify Him despite His complete innocence.

There is a reason for this demand. God Himself has set up governments for His purposes. Submitting to them is therefore submitting to God (again, noting that any government requiring citizens to act/speak/think contrary to God's direct revelation must be disobeyed due to the precedence of God's will over mankind's - although as noted in this text, Peter and John didn't say they shouldn't suffer consequences; they indicated that the authorities had the right to judge whether they should have obeyed God or man, but Peter and John were going to obey God despite the authorities' judgment.) Jesus was actually submitting to His Father when submitting to Pilate, the one to whom God granted authority for a purpose.

Now, of course, the argument can be made that those were different times. That is true: it was much more dangerous to rebel openly back then, at least compared to modern America. However, there is nothing in scripture to indicate that submission is no longer required when people are freer than in 1st century Rome.

The difference between then and now, though, that does matter is the form of government we have. In our democratic republic, we have a government that itself grants the right to "buck authority" to some extent. In other words, we're freer to counsel against one government action or another than were the original disciples. This brings me to my final point about political involvement, which is something of a corrolary to our responsibility to submit to authority. When it is not against the law to do so, we are certainly able to use the processes outlined by our authorities to address and demand resolution of our grievances.

As this post is already getting long, I'll go into more detail tomorrow. But as a preview, I'll just say that Paul and Daniel, while submitting to unjust authorities, certainly were not shy about using legal options available to them to request better treatment. And in America, so long as one obeys applicable laws (remember: lawbreaking is NEVER scripturally condoned unless lawkeeping directly violates God's word) we are free, both scripturally and legally, to attempt to influence authorities and question their judgment. In short, we can submit in such a way that we can fight injustice and oppression in ways people couldn't in the past.

God bless!

No comments: