Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Archive for the ‘allegiance and worship’ Category

Regarding ‘Step Up for Your Country’–Letter from father to son

Dear son,
I read the article that you forwarded to me, “Step Up For Your country,” by General McChrystal. I am pleased that you are experiencing a desire to serve. I want to offer you a different perspective. As a Christian person, how do you pursue this desire to serve? Please listen. See what you think.

I noticed that McChrystal’s article is littered with numerous keywords (“service,” 30 times, “responsibility” 13, “obligation,” 4, relentless “we,” language–more than 30 times throughout). Sacrifice appears repeatedly, too. It sounds noble!

But why serve the nation-state? Do you really have responsibility and obligation to serve it? Is the nation-state you and your neighbors, friends, and relatives? And, from a Christian standpoint, is this biblical?

Let’s start by getting one thing clear: you are to serve God. He is your King. You have chosen fealty to Him. Your choice was voluntary. The second thing, is that you cannot serve two masters without corrupting your character. It just does not work. You may be able to serve one master with undivided loyalty and then interact thoughtfully with other agents, but you cannot successfully serve two masters.

Thirdly, it needs to be remembered that the nation-state is not God’s agent. It is not neutral toward God. It stands in direct opposition to Him.

When, in the time of Jesus and the apostles they were persecuted by the nation-state and then released, the prayer went up after:

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel” (Acts 4:24-27).

This arrangement of “church and state” was foretold in Psalm two. Human rulers set themselves up as kings and oppose their Maker. God says He will destroy them and their kingdoms–completely.

”As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. . . And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold” (Daniel 2:34, 35, 44, 45a).

If These kings/kingdoms/nation-states are actually in rebellion against God, and willfully resist Him, and if He foretells His destruction of them so that no trace of them will remain, and so that the place they occupied is filled with a kingdom encompassing the whole earth–then it is clear that these kingdoms do not represent God. They actually represent rebellion against Him.

But Jesus said to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. It sounds like there is a space there for Caesar, that something dos, in fact, belong to Caesar. And yet, biblically, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He made them and all that is in them (Exodus 20:11). He is the rightful owner of all creation (Psalm 50:11). We can give to Him only that which is already His own, which He has permitted us to borrow (“for all things come from you, and of your own have we given you,” 1 Chronicles 29:14).

Caesar’s kingdom is temporary, and God has scheduled it for destruction. In the time of Ceasar, coins bore the image of the emperor’s likeness; the money was truly considered to be his money. Jesus is only saying, “Go ahead; give him back what is his.”

But, back to the question about the nations: they stand in opposition to God. This is true all the way back. In 1 Samuel 8-12, God warns the Hebrews pointedly how choosing a human king comes with all manor of negatives. He even declares that in doing so, they have rejected Him (God) from being king over them. Very strong stuff, eh? And the testimony of Scripture stays on the same line all the way through the Bible. Looking through God’s Word, passage by passage, text by text, the story is clear: God has nothing good to say about human government. The Bible as a whole is decidedly anti-state.

That said, there is one passage consistently quoted by those who make the Bible justify the nation-state: Romans 13:1-7. Much is claimed for this passage, and doubtless, those who advocate “national service,” if they are Christians, would point to this text for justification of their program. What can we say about it?

First, we look at the whole testimony of Scripture, and as already pointed out, it is recognizably anti-state. Thus, one or two verses that don’t seem to fit, we should anticipate, read with care and researched with caution, should find a harmony with everything else in the Bible.

Second, these seven verses do not stand alone; they are part of a longer section, stretching from 12:1 to 13:14. The thrust of the larger message of these two chapters is, do not be conformed to the world, but be changed and exhibit Christian behavior. The believer is to serve God (Romans 12:11). He is to abhor that which is evil wherever it is found, and endorse the good wherever it is found. More than endorsing good, he is to overcome evil.

The message of 13:1-7 is far from an endorsement of all that a nation-state does, or call to serve it, or to make oneself its agent. We are to serve God first. As far as the nation-state goes, we are to be in subjection to it as far as we can do so ethically. This does not mean unqualified cooperation.

Paul argues that God has ordered the world this way. He has permitted these entities to exist, just as He permits thieves, sexual immorality, and drug lords to exist. But what is permitted is not endorsed, for He has made clear His law: no killing, no stealing, no adultery are permissable. But the nation-state in our day endorses all of these, encouraging poor health practices, licensing sexual immorality (endorsing immoral “marriages” of those who “divorce” their spouse without biblical grounds and who “remarry” (commiting adultery, violating the covenant with the original wife), and taking means and imposing fees by force.

The believer is not called to resist the order that God has permitted, nor is he instructed to cooperate with it. He is to be subject to it. This falls far short of unequivicol endorsement. The rulers are appointed by God to do His will, through them he sometimes takes down or raises up other nation-states. Particularly, they serve as instruments of wrath against those whom God chooses to judge.

But, very often, their behavior goes too far. Was it really God’s will for the nation of Israel to kill Isaiah the prophet? And for Rome to kill Jesus and Paul also–all of whom functioned in direct service to God? The leaders of a nation often bring collateral benefit to the believer, even if it is mostly incidental and unintended on their part.

We are subject to them because it is not God’s purpose for us that we invest our energies in attacking them. He sets up and removes kings, and vengeance is His, not ours. He will deal with them in His time and His way. Our part is to pray for divine intervention so that we may live quiet and peaceful, non-violent lives with as little interaction with the national machinery as possible. Our part is to do good quietly and stay out of their way. We should give Caesar the respect that he requires, but not to the point of crossing over into serving him. We have exacly one Master, God. The human nation is godless and temporary.

Love does no wrong to others. It serves neither self, nor Caesar. We are called to cast off the works of darkness and to live upright lives, and to seek out no excuses for satisfying our baser inclinations.

How odd it would be for Paul to begin his argument by asking us not to conform to the world (and by extension, the nations of the present order), and yet, to turn around and suddenly call us to conform to them! On the contrary, John the Baptist told soldiers to refuse to commit acts of violence, and God time and again breaks His followers out of prisons and intended executions–against the express wishes of the authorities, religious and national.

But what about these assertions that we have responsibilities, obligations, owe service and even sacrifice to the nation? It is always interesting to go back, and look again at the Ten Commandments and see which things God says actually are transcendant. What do we find there?

As far as obligation and responsibility goes, the story looks like this.

First Commandment: Our primary obligation is to God; all other obligations are secondary.
Second Commandment: We must worship God and avoid the worship of all idols and secondary commitments.
Third Commandment: God says that we may not empty the worship of God of meaning.
Fourth Commandment: God has made a day of worship for us to spend with Him; we must keep it. We must not cause others to work on this day.
Fifth commandment: God says that we have an obligation to our immediate family.
Sixth Commandment: God says that we have a commitment to our fellow men not to kill them.
Seventh Commandment: God says that we have a definite commitment to our spouse and to other married couples.
Eighth Commandment: God says that we have an obligation to respect the property rights of others.
Ninth Commandment: God says that we have an obligation to deal with other people truthfully and to guard their reputations.
Tenth Commandment: God says that we are not to desire the spouses or possessions of others.

And so, a look at the Ten Commandments reveals three circles of commitments:
(1) To God first.
(2) To our spouse and other couples, and to our immediate familiy.
(3) To our fellow man, in not killing him, telling untruths about him, stealing from him, or causing him to work on Sabbath.

Commitment to national units is nowhere to be found: not in the Ten Commandments; not in the teachings of Jesus; not in the teachings of Paul, or anywhere else in the New Testament.

Very simply, these are good values (responsibility, fulfilling true obligations, service). But anyone asking that you engage in them on behalf of their favorite nation-state, or any nation-state, is pressing upon you obligations not found in the Word of God.

Consider my words, my son, and avoid lying Generals.
Your Father.


Support Our Troops?

What happens when you begin to parse, from a biblical Christian context, the bumper-sticker thinking that pleads, “Support our troops”?


John the Baptist tells soldiers to do no violence to anyone. But that is what troops do. Their very job is to enforce by physical means the will of some person or group of persons that claims for itself the right to coerce others. This may be as a group of soldiers who are engaged in military assault, or, as in Palestine, merely an occupation force. Either way, troops are an agency for coercion. But if God makes compliance with His gospel voluntary during this period of the great conflict between selfishness and unselfishness, then there is no place for coercion of others; there is no place for troops.

There is a built-in feature some use when they argue that we should support our troops; they make a separation between the troops as individual soldiers, and the officers or the state. However, Every army consists of those who command and those who obey the commands. In terms of what the army does, there is no difference between grunts and the West-Pointers. Supporting our troops must mean not only supporting the private first class but also the general; not only those who kill on command but those who command to kill.

Those who support the troops also support the rifles, grenades, bunker-buster and hydrogen bombs of the military. The bullets and the guns and the bombs are the very tools used by the troops to murder and to coerce. Support of the troops must mean also supporting the use of these murderous weapons. The man who pulls the trigger or pushes the button is no less culpable than the one who commands, even from the oval office, that the button be pushed or the trigger pulled. To support our troops is to support the weapons used by the troops, is to support the nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that it was known by its planners would murder women, school-children, and aged men–civilians–and only a very few soldiers.

But then, some want to claim that the army is separate from the state, that the soldiers only do what the civilian leadership of the state tells it to do. And yet, what it all amounts to is a group that enjoys power on the basis of coercion; there is no difference between the political leaders and the military ones. Supporting our troops means supporting the dogface, the general, the representative, senator, and the president. The word “troop” traces back to Middle Latin and “troppus” meaning “flock.” Which reminds us to ask the question, What flock do I belong to as a Christian? Am I part of an earthly flock or a heavenly one? How could I identify with a group whose fundamental task is to murder or coerce–do violence–to others?


The troops are said to be “our” troops. Which calls forth the question, what business does a Christian have murdering or coercing others? Or, what business does he who endorses God’s law–“Thou shalt not steal”–have in aggressing against the property rights of others? Even from the standpoint of the Constitutionalist–the one who believes that the United States Constitution is what amounts to a magic formula that if we all embraced it would prevent all these kinds of issues in terms of government–we have a problem here. For the Constitution does not give authority to raise perpetual standing armies. But this is what we have had since the beginning of World War II. Although the Constitution does not permit it, there has been one for a third of the time the USA has existed. Go checks and balances!

Some of those who serve may be our sons and daughters, but they are not “our” troops. They exist anti-constitutionally. And, blood descendancy does not indicate rational or moral agreement with behavior. If they are serving voluntarily as murderers and coercers, aggressors for pay, they are mercenaries, pure and simple. I do not pay mercenaries to aggress against others. And if they were not voluntary in the present sense, but the state commanded them to serve, still they would be–voluntarily–choosing to obey. We can never be forced, but all of our choices ultimately are voluntary. This is the only way that all of our choices, ultimately, can be moral.

Finally, we do not command them. We have no control over them. The United states public has been opposed to many of the wars that have been fought in its name. More recently, the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And yet, troops, bases, military actions continue. They are not ours. These are not our troops.


Finally, we come to the question of support. What does it mean for us to “support” these troops which are not ours? Support boils down to our non-coerced approval of them. If we voluntarily choose to say, I will pay them to aggress against others and I agree with them when they pull the trigger and push the button that kills, we are disagreeing in the most fundamental way with God’s law which says “Thou shalt not kill.” And so, it is human law, ideas, attitude, versus God’s law, ideas, attitude. And I know where I stand.


I do not “support our troops.” They are not ours. I do not have aggressors and I do not support aggressors; it does not matter what emblem they wear or what flag they salute. I cannot serve two masters. The end result of the attempt to serve two masters is always the declaration “We have no King but Caesar.” I have no King but Christ.

Ten Commandments and the Christian anarchist 4

The fourth commandment is found at Exodus 20:8-11:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

The Sabbath, seen superficially by some as a marker of legalism, is actually a sign of righteousness by faith. It is a resting from works; Sabbath-keeping is not a work invested with human merit.

The seventh day is God’s day (“My holy day,” Isaiah 58:13). Although it is His day, it is made for man (Mark 2:27). Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (2:28). Jesus recognizes the perpetuity of the Sabbath. He cautions His followers that, decades later, when Jerusalem is surrounded by armies, they should pray that they will not have to flee the city on the Sabbath day (Matthew 24:20). Nowhere in the New Testament do we find a cessation of the seventh day Sabbath or a transference of its observance or holiness to another day. The New Testament church normally met on the seventh day Sabbath.

The conflict between God and pharaoh (church and state) in Exodus may have had at its center the Sabbath commandment (Exodus 3:18; 5:1, 3; 7:16; 8:1, 20, 27; 10:3; ch. 16). The preamble of the Ten Commandments is a special reminder that God brought the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt (Exodus 20:2). Under conditions of slavery, it would have been impossible for them to observe the seventh day Sabbath. Bringing them out from under the Egyptian state, Sabbath-observance became possible again.

Time is a commodity. It is limited; it has scarcity. One man who employs another can pay him on a per job basis or per hour basis. Either way, he pays him for his time. The state does not own us or our time.

God owns time as much as He owns us. We are His twice over: first, by creation; second, by redemption. Not only does He own us, but He declares His ownership of our time. He owns 100% of our time. He asks us to return one seventh of that to Him as Sabbath. In any case, it is good for us to observe the Sabbath. It reminds us that He is Creator and Recreator, and that things having to do with His kingdom are superior.

Since the Sabbath is God’s property (“My holy day”) the state has no business legislating about it, defining it, encroaching upon it.

Church and state have often blended their energies to persecute those who saw things otherwise than the accepted pattern. The seventh day Sabbath has been one of these. The first law affecting Sabbath and Sunday observance came under Emperor Constantine in A.D. 321.

Later, the Holy Roman Empire persecuted Radical Reformation preachers Andreas Fischer (1480-1539) and Oswald Glaidt (1480-1546) for teaching sabbatarianism (see Andreas Fischer and the Sabbatarian Anabaptists, by Daniel Liechty, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, Herald Press, 1988, 167 pages). Fischer raised up several Sabbath-keeping congregations, received the death penalty, and was hanged. For several hours he hung by the neck, but somehow survived and escaped to found more Sabbath-keeping churches. Glaidt was killed by drowning—a common practice employed against Anabaptists. Countless Anabaptists were killed although only a few for heresy; most were put to death by the state because they refused to fulfill their “obligation” to serve as soldiers in national wars.

As recently as the past century and a quarter, Seventh-day Adventists in the United States have been imprisoned for their practices relating to the Sabbath. In Arkansas and Tennessee they have even been compelled to labor in chain-gangs. The same commandment that tells us to rest on the seventh day also tells us that the other six days are working days. Hence, laws which restrict labor on Sunday have a testing aspect quite similar to the seventh day Sabbath.

Even in 2009, many blue laws continue to exist throughout the United States. Some have been repealed, but some persist, outlawing in one way or another business transactions on Sunday. The original intent of blue laws was to encourage church attendance on Sunday, but in the process Seventh Day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Jews, and others, have been inhibited. In fact, everyone’s property rights are inhibited when they are prevented by law from buying or selling on a certain day.

The seventh day Sabbath is a part of God’s Ten Commandment law. As such, it is a helpful part of understanding His character. Whereas many of the Ten Commandments are framed in terms of “thou shalt not,” the Sabbath commandment is presented with great positivity, starting with the plea to “remember.”

As usual, the state stands ready to legislate and plunder to its own satisfaction. It is not content to impose its financial burdens upon us, but at times it has gladly insisted that citizens involuntarily serve time in its armies. It is no surprise, then, that the state, machine of coercion that it is, has its hands in laws impacting conscientious observance of the seventh day Sabbath.

Seventh-day Adventists, based upon their understanding of the Bible prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, fully anticipate the development of a situation in which the state will seek to enforce the observance of Sunday. There have been attempts at national Sunday laws in the past, especially in the decades centering in the 1890s. Time will tell whether we have been right.

The observance of the seventh day Sabbath ever remains a marker, a reminder, that the state is not supreme, that personal conscientious conviction takes a higher place, and that when God’s law and man’s law collide, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Revelation 13:11ff proposes that the state will interfere under economic auspices, restricting buying and selling. In 2009 the state is Pharaoh. It remains a dangerous machine ready to interfere. To this sabbatarian, Edmund Opitz’ warning seems especially prescient:

If the state sets itself up as the supreme arbiter of human affairs, it must domesticate the individual lest any lingering remnants of self-reliance weaken the state’s authority. The state must restrict the individual’s effort to follow the dictates of his conscience, lest they conflict with the decrees of Caesar. In the interests of its own safety the state must eventually deny that the individual is a person, for the individual can be a person only when he puts his obligation to God ahead of his obligation to Caesar” (Edmund Opitz, The Libertarian Theology of Freedom, p. 145).

Ten Commandments and the Christian anarchist 3

The third commandment reads

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain (Exodus 20:7).

In the Bible, a person’s name stands for his character. This is not always the case, but quite often the case. Certainly it is true when we come to God. His name is mentioned in Exodus 34:5-7

And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation

God’s name represents His character qualities. The above description is a little sample of that. The name of the Lord is full of meaning. All who follow Him are supposedly carriers of the same meaning, albeit in a lesser sense. This commandment has to do with our claim to represent God. Taking God’s name in vain, that is, making it empty or void, is much more than an ill-mannered utterance. It means to misrepresent God in any way.

If we claim to be His representatives and our behavior is a denial of His name, i.e. a denial of mercy, grace, justice, etc., then we are guilty, through our actions, of misrepresenting Him. From the standpoint of the Christian anarchist, this is especially troubling. The reason why, is that the fundamental reason for choosing to become a Christian anarchist is because of the quest for justice. Anarchism says that no created person stands in the place of Christ above any other created person. It rejects all lords but Christ, all antilords, that is, all antichrists.

The Christian anarchist supposedly has a better grip on history and the depradations of the state. This should shape his behavior. As a representative of a more just world, his behavior should be the most appealing, the most attractive, the least obsessive, the least statelike, overbearing, invasive, repellant. He represents the highest ideal: the fully responsible, responsibility-taking, eyes-wide-open Christian. If he has shed the injustice of the state, if he is truly antistate, then he is called to be a model of the most just life a human can live.

We can summarize this by saying that, far from emptying the name of God of its moral power, the Christian anarchist should be the kind of person whose life is an illustration of the opposite: his life should as fully as humanly possible echo the divine name. If ten Christians live on his street, he, the Christian anarchist, should be the most like Jesus.

Ten Commandments and the Christian anarchist 2

The second of the Ten Commandments falls out as follows:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:4-6).

The first commandment clarified for us that nothing else comes first but God. It also warns us of the possibility of easily coasting along into the worship of a false god. Someone may present a false god before me and tell em to make it first. I must not succumb by passivity. Yes, I am created a worshipping being, but not to worship any which thing or person or being who presents himself to me. I am made, quite specifically in God’s image, not in the image of a pseudo-god. God, THE GOD, THE ARKY, He and only He is to be first.

With this in mind, we consider the second commandment and find a particular warning. We are not to create for ourselves any false gods / pseudo-gods, and worship them. God gave us a creative faculty. We are at risk of making to ourselves, and in our own image, a god to worship. The state, after all, is not God’s conception, is it? No, it is not.

The first state we find explicitly noted in Scripture was conceived by Nimrod. Later, we find the Hebrews wishing for a king and national greatness—all against God’s counsel. The state is not a divine conception, at least not as we know the state. It was first introduced among men in a fallen situation, in a world where the plutonium of sin was loose on the winds.

Man is not to serve the state; he is to serve God. The state is, it becomes so apparent, an idol, and we are neither to create them nor to bow down to them. Theology, of course, can be a notorious, ferocious stage for the creation of gods. The state will use whatever tools it finds that it can use. It cares not whether it corrupts religion, not in the least. What it cares for is to seduce the Christian, seduce the church, to reshape it, to turn it from humanity into something as unreal and unliving as itself. The cold monster is set on absorbing all.

We are not to make our own towers of Babel. We need not any ziggurat markers to show our greatness. We have none. We are not designed to bow down to other creatures but to THE ARKY. We must be anarchists with respect to all other arkys but God. He is the first and He is the last. He is not one among many, He is alpha and omega. There remains no room for human idols fashioned after flatulent human productions. God will brook no other. If we set ourselves to the making of idols, we are introducing competition. Then we are out of our league.

Ten Commandments and the Christian anarchist 1

[This will only be an introductory set of thoughts. Perhaps at a future time I will actually offer something at finer granularity.]

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me (Exodus 20:2, 3).

I included the preamble here, for it reminds us of an important truth; God did not just give His law; He delivered His people and then He gave them His law. Man subjugates man; God delivers man. Notice that in Egypt man was in bondage. Man has only two situations; he is either in liberty or in bondage. Here, a people managed to get themselves into bondage and God provided a deliverer. However, once God delivered the Hebrews He immediately brought them His law.

Christian anarchism is not antinomian (although historically, there have been some). By definition it should have no trouble with an infinitely kind and loving and just Being offering insight—or legislation—in the form of His law. The fundamental appeal of anarchism is that it provides the outline for a just society. God’s laws, the Christian anticipates, are just to begin with. The issue for the Christian anarchist is not THE ARKY, God Himself, but it is the human arky, inevitably unjust.

In any case, on to the first commandment. Here is an anarchist advantage:

This commandment is exceedingly clarifying in the anarchist context.

Whereas your garden variety Christian may, all unawares, be trapped in a fog of essential obeisance to the state, the Christian anarchist has the relationships of the various structures much clearer. He knows that every earthly arky is an armed and running machine of violence, injustice, exploitation, human degradation. Its monopolies it inevitably spends to preen itself for an ever more engulfing godlike role. Like mold, it creeps in on people, surrounds them, demanding, small increment by small increment, their fealty. The state cannot help itself, cannot keep its hands to itself, but relentlessly slimes out from behind its mask of goodness and greatness. It makes itself necessary. This is all illusion, of course.

By His Ten Commandments, it is as if God roars, “You are a human being, a moral creature, made in My own image. You shall not create structures between the reality and the reflection. You shall not make any entity your god, you shall not place in any entity the trust you place in Me. The best that Egypt, the world, has to offer, is nothing compared to what I have designed you for.”

The first commandment differs little from the first chapter of Romans, in that it makes it clear that all human constructs are other gods, and have the inevitable quality of reducing the truly human, the image, to mere animal.

Perhaps nothing is quite so clarifying as the idea that God is supreme and there that no other gods must obscure the connection between God and man. “No” other gods means no mixed loyalties, no half-commitments, no separation of realms. God does not divide His creation up into two separate kingdoms, one He rules through His church and one that He rules through the state. He does not partner with any government to make a franchise. He rules in the kingdom (singular) of men. Beside Him there is no other.

Seeing the cold monster

Friedrich Nietzche, for all his strangeness and antipathy toward Christianity, was equally as unsparing regarding the state:

A state? What is that? Well! open now your ears unto me, for now will I say unto you my word concerning the death of peoples.

A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.”

It is a lie! Creators were they who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life.

Destroyers, are they who lay snares for many, and call it the state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them.

Where there is still a people, there the state is not understood, but hated as the evil eye, and as sin against laws and customs.

This sign I give unto you: every people speaketh its language of good and evil: this its neighbour understandeth not. Its language hath it devised for itself in laws and customs.

But the state lieth in all languages of good and evil; and whatever it saith it lieth; and whatever it hath it hath stolen.

False is everything in it; with stolen teeth it biteth, the biting one. False are even its bowels.

Confusion of language of good and evil; this sign I give unto you as the sign of the state. Verily, the will to death, indicateth this sign! Verily, it beckoneth unto the preachers of death!

Many too many are born: for the superfluous ones was the state devised!

See just how it enticeth them to it, the many-too-many! How it swalloweth and cheweth and recheweth them!

“On earth there is nothing greater than I: it is I who am the regulating finger of God”–thus roareth the monster. And not only the long-eared and short-sighted fall upon their knees! (First part. Zarathustra’s Prologue. Zarathustra’s discourses. 11. XI. The New Idol).

Nietzche tells us that the state is not the people after all. It is unliving; relentlessly it comes and obesely squats in everyone’s pathway. It is its own machine, with its own laws and ways; a bloated, unnatural, deadly virus. It is a machine of violence and pillage, attracting unthinking drones whose ready obeisance it turns to its own cold ends. It entices and swallows them, consumes and reprocesses them. They accept the squatting idol and acquiesce to its demands. They bow down to it and serve it and they live through its death. His thought continues:

Everything will it give YOU, if YE worship it, the new idol: thus it purchaseth the lustre of your virtue, and the glance of your proud eyes . . . . Power they seek for, and above all, the lever of power . . . . There, where the state ceaseth—there only commenceth the man who is not superfluous (Ibid.).

No Christian will subscribe to Nietzches’ philosophy on every point. Still, he seems to have had fundamental insight into the nature of the state. The state is Babylon all over again. It is man rising in rebellion against God and against His laws.

The psalmist, of idol-makers wrote, “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them” (Psalm 115:8 ESV). The state invites our trust. It beckons us, offers men hope that they may build a tower, rewrite morality, and remake the world in their own insidious image. It is a cold and dead competitor with God. It suggests an alternative virtue, where men are prey to men, and this is a good thing.

The image in Daniel two, representing the kingdoms of man is at last broken at its feet and destroyed by the kingdom of God; so the idol, the coldest of all cold monsters, is likewise destined. Its place will not be taken by a society of persons shining with their own glory, for that would only be another cold, new, dead statue. Jesus came to give to man life and that he might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). In Him and only Him is life (John 1:4). He is the opposite of the cold monster.

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