Christian patriotism

Jesus casting out the money changers at the temple, Carl Heinrich Bloch
Jesus casting out the money changers at the temple, a painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890). Are we right in supporting activities that prevent people from worshiping God?

I touched on the topic of loyalty to the government in The law of nature. First of all let me clarify what I suggest if the conclusion is the opposite, disloyalty. I’m not suggesting anything illegal. I am simply thinking that disobedience means not volunteering help that will aid the powers of evil, and of course speaking out. I don’t believe in quiet Christians. If I have to choose between the government and God, I’m not sure the political leaders ought to be our first priority, unless they are truly democratic of course.

The Bible, and especially Paul, tells us to be loyal to the authorities. Romans 13 has probably been used, like most of the Bible to justify all sorts of wrong things, as if Paul was speaking to future generations. I’m not sure he was. One of the problems with the Bible is that a lot of it, although it is very useful for believers today too, probably had a specific meaning to the people in the 1st century. I don’t know what the word for authority in the original text really means, how the original readers of the letter understood it. I don’t know much about the political and religious power structure in the Roman Empire, or the relationship between Jewish and non-Jewish Christians at the time. I have a feeling this is very complicated even to people that know all these things, or maybe it is very simple.

Romans 13: 5-7

Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 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. NIV quoted from Biblegateway

Maybe a apart from paying taxes and making sure you didn’t attract the attention of a wacko like Nero, Paul wanted Christians to just go about their business? It seems wrong to me to generally submit to a government. That would be a matter of conscience to me. What if the government does something that is truly demonic in nature, and you are locked into a pledge you’ve made?

Besides, Paul had a Roman citizenship and he knew what it meant to those that didn’t. Among the rights this ensured was immunity from some taxes, the right to have a legal trial, a Roman citizen could only be tortured, whipped or sentenced to death if he was found guilty of treason (Wikipedia). It was basically open season on the rest as fair game. It doesn’t work if everyone doesn’t have equal rights, equal protection under the law, so if Paul really thought along this line, he was short sighted.

Paul said that authorities are placed there by God. I don’t think anyone really believes that it’s wrong to criticize the evil isms that have governed us the last century: Communism, capitalism, Nazism. I think we know what to do when our government is doing something wrong.

This is one of the most controversial subjects in Norway. Most people expect Christians, and especially church leaders to keep quiet about their political opinions. If being a Christian feels like wearing a straitjacket, something is terribly wrong. Aren’t we supposed to feel free? That should include freedom to criticize and freedom not to support the government when it’s doing something wrong, without being labeled a traitor. Instead it seems like we are expected to accept everything. I’m sure it worked for Nero, so why not for the prime ministers and presidents of the 21st century. Right?

In a democracy we are supposed to be the government. We vote for politicians that are supposed to govern according to the will of the majority. That sounds beautiful, but we know it doesn’t work like that. In the USA it is theoretically correct as there are only two parties, and one of them always has majority. Still it didn’t seem like it was the will of the majority of the American people to get involved in wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Iran-Contas affair (the Bush administration supplied weapons to Iran without involving Congress), CIA-operations in South America etc.

Most European countries have a bunch of parties and it’s difficult to get more than 30-40 % of the votes, so they negotiate after the election to get support from other parties. Sometimes that leads to coalitions that their voters don’t necessarily support. The situation in Norway seems quite bizarre at the moment. After 8 years in power where a coalition of two socialist parties and a farmer’s party had had more than 50 % of the seats in Parliament during those two 4 year periods, they now focus on criticizing the new coalition government for the same issues they failed to accomplish themselves. The present government has 77 of 169 representatives, with support from two other parties (+ 19 representatives) that chose to stay outside the coalition. That means there are key issues they couldn’t agree on, but they have pledged to support the government on other issues.

Paul tells us to pay bills because the authorities are Gods servants. This is puzzling to me. Many people will remember this news story. The Pentagon couldn’t account for $ 2,3 trillion.

Are these whistle blowers and journalists bad Americans or bad Christians? Some would say so, but I disagree. Some connect this to 9/11 because that seems to have stopped the probe into this problem. It was natural that no one worried about money when the country was under attack. I am not going to pursue the conspiracy as there is no way to prove anything, but the missing money is enough to make the case that the question of democracy isn’t a very simple one.

Most countries probably have cases like this. The most obvious one in Norway in recent years is the new purchase of military planes. After debating this for a very long time Parliament decided to buy new military planes in 2008. These will replace the old F-16’s. The main contenders were the US F-35 and the Swedish Jas Gripen. The Swedes were understandably irritated as it seemed like Norwegian authorities had chosen to go with the allied F-35 very early, but pretended there was a contest. The American plane has been a huge problem, and I believe many other countries have put their final decision on hold. The 52 new planes were supposed to cost 30 billion NOK, but the last figure media reported (october 2014) was 62 billion, and if you include the maintenance for the period these planes are going to be used, the price is estimated to be 248 billion. There’s a lot of potential to hide other budgets in this big pot.

This purchase seems to have been a series of setbacks from the beginning. The price kees going up and a report from Pentagon in 2013 questioned the reliability and capability of this craft after inspectors had discovered more than 800 flaws.

Norway is a very loyal ally to the USA and the government rarely asks questions. Jens Stoltenberg, who was prime minister at the time, pushed for a Norwegian participation in the air strikes against Libya in 2011. According to a book that was published last year the justification for this was that it would be good training for the Norwegian Air force. These strikes have been criticised because they killed a lot of civilians and caused a lot of suffering, as well as not really creating any political stability. I find it quite disturbing that Stoltenberg is the Secretary General of NATO today.

When our governments go to war we don’t really know what they are doing, what they spend all the money on, how many civilians they could have avoided killing, how much torture and humiliation they are responsible for, what this is doing to the men and women serving in our military organizations (they deserve to be put though this only when it’s absolutely necessary). War is evil, even if you represent the good guys. I know not going to war isn’t an option because we clearly need to stop evil, but I resent the implication that we need to be patriotic at all costs.

This always reminds me of the World War 1 poem by Wilfred Owen called Dulce et Decorum est, it is sweet and honourable to die for one’s country.

These are just a couple of examples of what we know about. There are probably many really shocking things we don’t know about our governments. Knowing this I feel that this changes everything. I feel that Paul as a Roman citizen was loyal to the empire in the sense that he wanted Christians to pay taxes and not give the authorities any reason to persecute them, but I find it hard to believe that he would have condoned some of the tings that are happening today.

I am reminded of the account of Jesus driving the moneychangers from the temple.

Mark 11: 15-18

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’[c]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.

According to Matthew 21:13 Jesus quoted Isaiah 56:7:

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’

Jesus was clearly angry. There are limits to what you can allow yourself to do in Gods name, and I believe you have less room to maneuver within if you are a leader. In this case the high priest probably got some of the surplus from this business, and he most likely allowed a lot of dishonesty in Gods name, such as selling sacrificial animals at a higher price than elsewhere in Jerusalem. So they took advantage of people wanting to worship God, and this may have appeared to be official, something the high priest approved of.

This whole situation undoubtedly interfered with the worshiping of God. I suppose the question is the same today. If we support the government in everything it does, is this coming between God and individual Christians? As I understood it NATO only wanted to help the people of Libya and Egypt to live peacefully in a democracy. We can say what we want about the dictators we freed them from, but this doesn’t seem like an improvement. There are more and more news reports of Christians in Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Syria being killed because of their faith. The killing of Christians is also on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa. I believe we have some responsibility in creating this situation, but also because the governments we are supporting are not doing anything about it now. I believe that every time we support evil in the universe, something we know is wrong, evil grows stronger. We can’t just say that we didn’t cause this. We share the responsibility.

I’m not a big fan of using some verses to contradict others, but I’d like to quote some verses When Grace Abounds shared with me after reading The law of nature, James 4:1-7. James may be talking more about envy and fighting between Christians, but i think it is also relevant in terms of loyalty to authority, either to political authority or God. Many of the tings in this world contradict God’s will after all. These verses suggest to me that you can’t be totally focused on this world, and still be just as focused on God. This is verse 4: You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

One last example. We produce more than enough food for everyone, and when we come up with something new we only share with those that can pay. A man named David Ropeik wrote a guest blog in Scientific American in March 2014. In this he suggested that someone should be held accountable for health problems related to vitamin A deficiency if they oppose GM technology. This is an old debate, if we just help developing countries produce food, there’ll be enough for everyone. We have been producing enough food for a long time. In fact, we have such a big overproduction that we through away a lot of food. The problem today isn’t the amount of food we produce.

There is technology being developed where they are trying to have nanobots replace neurons in the brain. There are several projects where the researchers have successfully planted false memories in mice. This will probably be presented as being very beneficial to for example Alzheimer patients. The future could also be about who can afford to upgrade their children’s memory. This sounds like science fiction of course, but I believe the future will be here before we know it.

The question is then. If we have the attitude that we support this because it’s good for the old and sick, we are also supporting the aspects we don’t like. Are we then being disloyal if we oppose it? We probbaly can’t stop it, but I think it’s still important to make it clear that we don’t like this, that it isn’t from God. We are already seeing that there is no such thing as being sceptical to big pharma and vaccines. Either you support big pharma or you are the enemy.

It’s like the Dementors (we know them as demons) in the Harry Potter universe. I think Professor Dumbledore tells Harry Potter in one of the scenes that they will not distinguish between the one they hunt and the one who gets in their way. I think J.K. Rowling told us something important about our own universe  as well. They will cause a lot of damage, but in the end we know who wins.

I’m not sure it would be wise to join the other team, or to fail to oppose them.

All Biblequotes are NIV from Biblegateway

I read some comments from enduringword.com Romans 13 analysis and on about religion

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One thought on “Christian patriotism

  1. John, with regards to Romans 13, you might want to do some research on the FEMA Clergy Response teams in the US. Somehow, I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Render to Caesar that which is Ceasar’s, and to God that which is God’s.” The thing is, it ALL belongs to God.

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