My country, right or wrong, my country
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor (Romans 13:1-7) [emphasis mine].
I will submit for your consideration and debate I will be on pretty safe grounds when I postulate that many people have either heard or uttered the quote that begins this blog post but has no clue about the origin or the identity of the author. I am so confident because I believe I am an astute observer of history, and I had no idea about the background behind the cherished quote of many Americans, even though I am very familiar with the quote.
Tragically, like African Americans Evangelicals in particular, many Evangelicals, in general, are more aligned with Evangelical Nationalism than they are to their fidelity to Jesus Christ. I would posit that for the Caucasian Evangelical community, too many are more committed and devote far too much energy to all things Conservative than they are to Evangelical Orthopraxy.
I believe I can make this bodacious claim simply because of the American Revolution. I can still remember presenting this topic for consideration in a Sunda School class I taught. One of the class attendees brazenly declared she “knew “ the American Revolution was indeed of God without hesitation, period, end of story, full-stop!
I would submit that this reply is part and parcel of the misplaced trust and devotion that far too many Caucasians, though certainly not exclusively, posit as Americans. What you have on view is called “Christian Nationalism.” It is insipid and genuinely misses the point.
Let me be bold and not unnecessarily provocative. I believe the United States of America to be a most blessed human enterprise in spite of and not because of. Sometimes God blesses, not because the person or entity has merited God’s favor but simply due to God’s generous benevolence.
The thinking Evangelical fully understands that God does not grade on a curve. So while Americans can justifiably make the case that America has led the world in Acts of Mercy, this reality is tempered by America’s inhumane treatment of Native Americans, Japanese Americans during WWII, Jews fleeing Germany during WWII, and African Americans for most of American’s history.
Let me now deal directly with today’s thesis, which is I submit the American Revolution was not biblical and a direct, brazen, and blatant violation of God’s revealed will. Some would posit agreement with the hypothesis “to the victor goes the spoil,” but I submit this is not a worldview a critically thinking Evangelical will grant.
If you think the matter through carefully, you will conclude the grounds of contention about the American Revolution were two pressing issues: taxation without representation and religious liberty. Astute historians may submit there were other issues. While I will readily concede there were other issues, I believe I remain on sound footing with my understanding the two chief issues were taxation and religious liberty.
While I can make the case that the infringement of religious liberty did not warrant a revolutionary response in today’s blog post, I will deal only with the issue of taxation without representation for the simple reason Romans 13 speaks explicitly about this matter. I will mention in passing two points for your consideration.
#1: Christ-followers never advocate or participate as revolutionaries. Reformation, yes! Revolution, never!
#2: Christ’s mission nor His immediate successors, who served as the foundation of God’s building, the Apostles, never advocated the transformation of temporal matters. Thus, the Church has never had as its marching orders Revolution, only Reformation. I will address the juxtaposition of Revolution and Reformation in a subsequent post, but I can biblically and strongly advocate and affirm the Protestant Reformation but dissent adamantly against all Revolutions that have taken place in human history.
Consequently, if I am going to think critically and consistently, America must not be given a pass simply because she has acquitted herself relative to the moral conduct of other nations and because I am an American who loves my country.
Sober analysis necessitates we call spades a spade when the evidence conforms to that assessment. In fact, Americans should be the first to hold their fellow Americans to the highest standard. My mother was keen to remind my brothers and me ubitiquously that “charity started at home and then spreads abroad.”
Now, let’s delve into Romans 13, particularly verse seven, but first a little historical context. The Apostle Paul wrote during the time of world history that Rome served as the great world power. Rome was a severely immoral and oppressive realm. Yet, while writing under the full inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul commands (remember Romans is an Epistle, and thus much of what it reveals is didactic, meaning God as the ultimate author is commanding the reader to obedient action) the believers in Rome to pay their taxes without qualification. There is no qualification or discussion on what would constitute a fair taxation assessment. There is no caveat concerning whether the taxed individual had any voice or chance to register a complaint or dispute.
In the most direct manner, Paul, in his Apostolic office, plainly and matter of factly commands his audience to pay their taxes. As a sober reader, I would hope you can easily connect the biblical expectation of fidelity of the Roman believer and the professing American colonists.
Both found themselves obligated to pay taxes and submit to their governing authorities, as Romans 13 makes so abundantly clear. Look back at the beginning of Romans 13:1a, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities.”
Now, I grant I am a simple country boy from the great state of Mississippi, but even a good ole Mississippi country boy can easily grasp the meaning behind let every one be subject to the governing authorities.
Everyone demands the elimination of exceptions. That means every colonist living during the colonial times was biblically mandated to submit to whoever was their human potentates. Now, you as the reader may not like or agree with your governmental officials (think, for instance, about my brethren currently living in, say, North Korea), but the biblical mandate is still the same: submit.
Consequently, George Washington and his cohorts were rank and rebellious sinners, both against England and God Himself, most importantly. I do not see how anyone can come to a different conclusion. That is why I submit the American Revolution was a direct, brazen, and blatant violation of most Holy Scriptures.
Just because the Americans came out on the winning side does not mean God actively endorsed the action. Again, I submit God blessed, has blessed, and is currently blessing America in spite of NOT because of.
Huge Difference, Huge!
As always, let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.
With fear and trembling,
Ricky V. Kyles Sr. DEd.Min