Public authority and civic responsibility

Responding to those who quote Paul ‘s words such as “be subject to the governing authorities” in Romans 13:1-7 in order to deflect criticism of the unrighteous words and actions of Donald Trump, his adminitstration, and other elected or appointed officials:

Thomas R. Schreiner says:
“This text is misunderstood if it is taken out of context and used as an absolute word so that Christians uncritically comply with the state no matter what is being demanded. What we have here is a general exhortation that delineates what is usually the case: people should normally obey ruling authorities. The text is not intended as a full-blown treatise on the relationship of believers to the state.”

Also, Charles D. Myers Jr. writes:
“The Apostle Paul’s admonition to “be subject to the governing authorities” (13:1a) on the grounds that “those authorities that exist have been instituted by God” (13:1c) has caused much needless suffering and much misery even in the 20th century. This passage seems to lend support to ,existing government, regardless of how tyrannical or how corrupt, and any governmental policy, however repressive or unjust. This passage has been invoked by Christians to put down revolt, support war, and justify genocide. In fact, many Christians in Hitler’s Germany appealed to this text as the decisive biblical warrant for obedience to the Nazi regime. And it has been regret over the Church’s alignment with the Nazi regime that has forced a reconsideration of these verses, particularly by German biblical scholars.”

As a citizen, I am subject to the authorities, but that does not mean that I need not criticize them. In fact, as a citizen and a person of faith it is my civic duty to exercise my conscience and use my rights of free speech and assembly to speak out against iniquity. Also, as a citizen, it is my responsibility to use the legal powers granted to me to censure or remove unfit people from office.

The Bible is full of examples of righteous people standing up to oppose leaders who are abusing thier position. To give just one example, “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.” 1 Kings 18:17-18.

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