Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Archive for the ‘teachings’ Category

Prayer of a Christian anarchist

The prayer of a Christian anarchist is much like the prayer of the mainstream Christian. But not exactly the same.

FOR MYSELF. I always start by praying for myself, because my own spiritual need is the number one point at issue. I am hungry and thirsty for Christ, but I am also adept at sinning. I know that Jesus came to save me from my sin (Matthew 1:21), and that part of my role in the divine purpose is to bring glory to God. Seventh-day Adventist Ellen G. White writes, “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend” (Steps to Christ, p. 93). This I endeavor to do. God is my friend and He wants to visit with me.

FOR REPENTANCE. Instead of praising Him with my lips (the kind of “praise” which He hears in abundance from those who do not do what He says), I want to praise Him with my heart. My first plea is that He will create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me (Psalm 51:10). This is a plea for the gift of repentance; I need this gift from Him; I need to turn ever more to Him. Unless I seek with desire such turning it will never happen. Give me the desire, O God, to be the most authentic follower of Jesus today that I can be. Why? Because God’s kingdom is on display in me. Others will be impressed (or unimpressed!) by the claims of Christ, very largely based on my daily sermon—the life I live in interaction with them.

FOR MY FAMILY. In my prayer, I pray next for my spouse and children. And yet, my primary expectation is that, while I am “arming” God to justly intervene positively for them in their lives, really this part of my prayer is a plea for God to transform me so that I am a godly spouse and parent to them respectively.

FOR MY CHURCH MEMBERS. Since I am a pastor, the next portion of my prayer is for my parishioners. The shepherd knows his sheep, and the pastor knows his parishioners. For some of them, the only person on planet earth who prays for them today, may be their pastor. I pray for them.

FOR THOSE IN AUTHORITY. I also pray for “kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2). Today, this mostly means praying for presidents and legislators of republican democracies (which as Hans-Hermann Hoppe so carefully sets forth in Democracy—The God That Failed (in my opinion, one of those very few “MUST READ” books), means that we are praying for the leaders of a civilization pointedly in decline). My prayer is not that they will excel in violence, usurpation, exploitation, slippery politics, military conquest, and empire, but for their personal conversion and salvation. I also pray that while they are perceived as being “in authority” they will take a minimum of steps that would lead to wars, to economic disaster, or to the repression of believers.

Because the anarcho-capitalist vision is the way things are naturally set up to run in God’s creation, I pray for the realization of a just society and the advancement of these principles that will prepare us for our eventual life on earth after this age has closed and the next begun. That is, I want to live by principles of holiness and peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14). My Bible says not only in Tanakh but in New Testament that you reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). This is Austrian economics in one short phrase, after all.

I do not know if we will get there during this age, but I think with Ellul that “the anarchist fight, the struggle for an anarchist society, is essential” and that “the more the power of the state and of bureaucracy grows, the more the affirmation of anarchy is necessary as the sole and last defense of the individual, that is, of humanity” (Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity, pp. 19, 23).

This is not a prayer for revolution, which replaces one repression with another. “Anarchy” in the sense of “Christian anarchy” does not mean chaos, but simply the refusal to seek power over others, and the insistence on obeying God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Those who should be the most consistent in praying for those in authority should be us—we who recognize the state as an enormous engine of exploitation and destruction. And yet, all of this is overruled by the asking that God’s will be done. If His will is to throw down the state altogether, then go for it. Jesus is Lord.

FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO SHARE CHRIST. The Christian seeks opportunities to share Jesus with others. If we seek them, if we, through concrete acts, actually make a dent in our local community, God will open the way and grant us opportunities to interest others in His things. If He is in it, He will help us to be efficient, facilitating our work for those whom He has already prepared in some measure to receive our life and teaching.

My daily prayer is not invariant; it is not a rote, always mind-numbingly the same. But the above is the general pattern. Possibly the reader will also find it useful. After all, taken all together, it is little more than an expression of the prayerful desire, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (Luke 11:2).

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Direct action

The ideal approach to addressing situations of need is direct action. Simply put, direct action means that one himself acts to deal with a given need. He does not wait for the development of a state program, or count a given situation as falling under the purview of some distant agency. He does not look to indirect action through elected representatives. He does not seek the implementation of legislation under the authority of the state. He is there; he is capable; he himself acts to bring relief as he is able.

Are there biblical examples of direct action? Consider the good Samaritan:

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise (Luke 10:29-37).

The samaritan did not wait for a state official to help the man. The Samaritan did not call to soldiers or any other law enforcement personnel. In Jesus’ example, even the clergymen did nothing. One lone, despised Samaritan, at risk to himself, stopped in the way and took the suffering victim under his own care.

He did not drop him on the doorstep of an aid agency or of the state. Nor did he promise to pay the victim’s needs for the rest of his life. What he did do was act directly, and guaranteed to the owner of the inn payment for the lodging and the care for the man in his return to health.

This example was presented by Jesus; He gave it just the way He intended to. He advocated direct action, and also taught to be careful whom you look down upon; your neighbors may be closer at hand than you ever imagined. Who is your neighbor? He is the man who acts directly in your behalf. Does Jesus want you to be that kind of neighbor? “Go, and do thou likewise.”

If Jesus says to go and do this, that is enough. But still, it is of interest to find similar thinking elsewhere echoed in the New Testament.

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone (James 2:14-17).

James says that telling someone to go and get warm is not the same as direct action taken by a believer so that the party in need can actually be warmed. Jesus asks us to consider how we would feel in an identical situation of need. “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

How would you prefer to be treated? To have someone who is able offer you immediate help, or to have them send you to some distant agency for possible help at a later time? Would you rather be voluntarily helped, or aided via resources coerced from other citizens paying the overhead to employ state workers to administer the whole scenario.

The Proverbs tell us something similar about how we should address the needs of our fellow men: “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it” (Proverbs 3:27). Returning to Jesus’ teaching about who is our neighbor, and considering His urgent appeal that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, it is difficult not to conclude that those to whom good is due are simply our fellow humans.

One example of direct action was the “underground railroad,” a grassroots, not officially-approved instrument for bringing slaves to freedom. Another was the “Boston Tea Party,” in connection with the American War of Secession from England. Direct action to hide Jews from murdering Nazis in Germany during WWII was also appropriate. The most important question is not whether an action is legal but whether it is ethical.

By direct action we do not mean public strikes, demonstrations, violence, or the destruction of property (a form of theft) to obtain one’s demands. Rather, we speak of direct action in terms of personally engaging in the alleviation of suffering or the immediate help of one legitimately in need.

To argue that we must always obey laws, even when we consider them to be unethical or to enforce unethical conditions, is to suggest that the arbitrary pronouncements of the legal establishment possess a higher moral authority than our own consciences, and that our complicity is demanded even in the face of injustice. When laws protect injustice, illegal activity is no vice, and law-abiding docility no virtue. God’s people should be willing to act. We should do what Jesus said, and avoid the curse of Meroz: “Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty” (Judges 5:23).

The flag salute declined

We respectfully decline

We mean no harm, disrespect, or injustice to persons or nations. We follow the Bible plan of living quietly and peacably with all men, praying for those in authority, and seeking holiness (Isaiah 32:17; Lamentations 3:26; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 3:4). To human persons and nations we grant our respect but not our worship. We deeply appreciate the liberties recognized in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. However, we cannot in good conscience pledge allegiance to the flag or participate in the flag salute.

Beginning and development of the Pledge

The pledge was never spoken by George Washington (d. 1797), Thomas Jefferson (d. 1809), Patrick Henry (d. 1799), or any of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Francis Bellamy, militant socialist, wrote the pledge in 1892. In its original form, the hand-motion attending the pledge was a salute almost identical to the Nazi, arm outstretched, “Heil Hitler” (“Hail Hitler!”).

The wording of the pledge was modified in 1954 when, in a movement begun by the Roman Catholic organization the Knights of Columbus, the words “under God” were added. The current wording is,

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Ultimate allegiance

Consider the question of ultimate allegiance. As a Christian, one’s personal allegiance is to God and all the things of His kingdom; one has no secondary allegiances. He does not hold a dual citizenship. Jesus warns that we are incapable of serving more than one master, i.e. that we are incapable of executing dual allegiances (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13).

For the Christian, any pledge of loyalty to a state must be secondary to one’s loyalty to God. This is made clear in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3). In the New Testament, the swearing of oaths is prohibited (Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12). In spite of this, the leaders of states have usually insisted also on loyalty to themselves. Respect can be given but never a loyalty that compromises faith. We may stand in respect, but we may not pledge (Esther 3:2, 5; Romans 13:7).

Jesus indicates that fallen human beings are psychologically incapable of serving two masters. Attempts to uphold loyalty to both God and state lead–always–to the corruption of faith. Inspired writ warns again and again of the peril of compromised loyalty through combination of church and state (Daniel 1, 3, 5, 6; Acts 4:19, 20, 24-30; 5:28, 29; Revelation 13, 17, 18).

Idolatry

Idolatry means the worship of that which is other than God. But we have no allegiance to the will of the majority or to the flag. Someone has said that if the flag is a symbol of anything throughout history it is that it has been the battle standard of the state, raised when its agents act to kill, burn, and maim the people of some other land. All flags are soaked in innocent blood. To revere these then becomes an idolatry or even the worship of crime and murder at massive scale.

The respect shown the United States Flag crosses the line into worship. No other nation has combined a Flag Day, a Flag code etiquette, a national anthem dedicated to the flag and a verbal salute to the flag. In many places in the United States, school children are daily required to salute the flag.

The Flag Code requires that the United State Flag be placed in the superior position.

When used on a speaker’s platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience (Title 4, United States Flag Code, Section 7, k).

Thus, if displayed according to US law, even inside the church, the inference is that worshippers are rendering primary allegiance to the state.

The law in the Flag Code says that “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing” (Title 36 USC 10, PL 344). Here, the law blurs the line fatally. It moves beyond representation and insists that the symbol itself has a substance, considering it a “living thing.” If it is a “living thing” and it is not God, and we are saluting, pledging, singing, we are going too far. We have passed to idolatry.

Should anyone doubt that the flag is regarded as holy, let it not be forgotten that there are laws against desecrating it. To desecrate is to de-sacralize, to divest of sacred character or office. But the flag is not holy. Some are so urgent to prevent the burning of the flag that they are willing to burn their own Constitution. We may, as always, render respect; but never worship.

The republic for which it stands

The concept of republic sounds good: the organization of a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives. Such is intended, in theory, to bypass the arbitrary exercise of authority. Unfortunately, after two centuries of the American experiment, the result is a bloated, distant, exploitative, intrusive bureaucracy. After 232 years, we see that the “representative” theory is a failure. Politicians agree to vote for each other’s new laws, spending the wealth of future generations (deficit spending—what your bank calls an overdraft).

We do not inherit national wealth from our ancestors; we borrow a national debt from our children. When the state spends trillions of dollars that it does not have, that will not be paid back by the generation that spent it, this is thievery. “Spend now, pay later” is an awful policy when applied personally; how much worse when the policy is “I spend now, your children pay later.” It is stealing (Exodus 20:15; 23:2; Proverbs 4:14-17). How evil it is to eat your children when you are starving (Deuteronomy 28:56, 57); and that much moreso when you are not!

In a monarchy, the king may be a problem but the royal family has a vested interest in the good management of the nation, for his wealth is their wealth. But in a setting where candidates vie against each other for a few short years in office, it is in their self-interest to portion out the resources under their authority as rapidly as possible into the arms of those who have placed them into power. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, and never mind about tomorrow.

A republic at its most basic level is a situation where every citizen has an opportunity to try to coerce the other citizens. Elections are periodically held determining who coerces and who is coerced. Since everyone had their opportunity, those who lose are expected to endure the imposition laid upon them. We can do better than a republic; better than a monarchy; we need not the state.

Under God

To claim to be “under God” risks credulity. Few persons are unaware that the United States has a long list of depredations to its account. It permitted slavery, slaughtered more than a half million of its own in the “Civil War,” killed thousands in the Mexican-American war, thousands more in the Philippine-American War, imprisoned Japanese-Americans during WWII, and nuked Japan in the same war–while it was urgently trying to surrender. While developing chemical and biological weapons during the cold war, it experimented on its own citizens. And this is not the whole list. Such is no description of a nation operating under God.

Indivisible

In case you thought this “indivisible” part of the pledge sounded wrong, maybe you were thinking of the Declaration of Independence:

…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government… (Declaration of Independence, 2nd paragraph, July 4, 1776).

Imagine that: a national pledge of allegiance that argues with the founding document of the same nation.

Liberty and justice

The pledge insists that America stands for liberty and justice for all. History tells a different story. Orientals, persons of African descent, Native Americans, and other minorities have all seen how “liberty and justice” has not always been “for all” in America. Liberty and justice for all is a fine ideal. We believe in it but the United States has not sustained it. Oppression has been practiced, our own Constitution subverted. Will we pledge our allegiance to such a state?

Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all (Mark 10:42, 43).

Our allegiance is to Christ and His kingdom. We appreciate the opportunities for liberty we have through the state such as they are. We gladly pray for the leaders of the nation, but we will not worship the image that they have set up.

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