Exploring the Social Imagination

Monday, April 21, 2014

Romans 13, Obey Government, what does that mean in God's Imagination?

"You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul." Mahatma Gandhi. 

In Romans, we can read to obey the 'government/authorities' (depending on which Bible you read). And, as we read further that anyone who does not obey the government, is in fact rebelling against God. Romans 13. Considering when Paul wrote that, he lived in a world where all governments were autocracies 'kings reined or Caesars'. People had no influence over laws. Gandhi, on the other hand, was living in a time and place where the values of citizen government were well known. In ancient times you were either a lawbreaker or a law follower. Kings and Emperors made laws not the people. Paul believed that Christians should not be lawless people but under the protection of the law (insofar as it did not conflict with their faith) and not give excuse for the government to persecute them. However, in our society, the citizens are supposed to be directly involved in making laws. We are the government ( at least that is how our Founders saw it; they through their Christian sociocultural and religious orientation could think no other way). Through Christianity, they realized the importance of individuality.  Martin Luther gave Christianity the self aware individual who is now allowed and encouraged to seek a virtuous life... through his/her pursuit of happiness; this produced the American.   So since we in the United States make the laws ( and not some king), we have the duty to treat the laws as breakable when they have been created either intentionally or unintentionally to violate the social contract which our Founding Fathers and we call  the Constitution.
Therefore, Gandhi was right a good person, should resist an evil system and or charge it with failure to uphold the Constitution and charge it with failure to promote and sustain the granted and guaranteed civil liberties defined in the Bill of Rights. And, the Romans 13 is good for today as Christians because we are the government, and we should obey our authority - we the people. In that realization, we are again asking who are we 'the people'. Christians and non Christian Americans are finding this difficult to do? As a sociologist and a Christian I can answer yes. Why? Because, we are less and less a unified society bound by the same beliefs about freedom, private property, the pursuit of happiness and traditions. So, Who are we? Some say that regardless of who we are, the State knows who/what it is and such a State is a necessary overriding mediator that will equally share provision and guarantee everyone's 'equal' pursuit of happiness. I could agree. However, a free society whereby we the people rule, there could never and should never exist such a State. Today, we face the evil system Gandhi spoke of.  And, so today, we have to re-affirm our position 'we the people' as bound to and by our given Constitution and we have to re-assert our right to practice religion and right to pursue happiness which we are already guaranteed by our precious American doctrines; and that is definitely in God's imagination.

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