19 June 2009

A Necessary Submission

(Razing the Servile State II)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That 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, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
~ Declaration of Independence, emphasis added.

[I]t has always happened that tyrants, in order to strengthen their power, have made every effort to train their people not only in obedience and servility toward themselves, but also in adoration. ~ LaBoetie, The Politics of Obedience, Part II.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.... Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities.... ~ Romans 13.1, 5

Paradoxically, one of the dogmas underlying our own United Servile States of America, is that the state is owed virtually unquestioned obedience, and to some extent, even a modicum of adoration, by its subjects. I say paradoxically for two reasons. First, because these states owe their existence to the fact that the founders dared to question and then reject the obedience they owed the British Crown. Second, because some of the most state-adoring people in this country are conservative Christians, who rely upon texts like Romans 13 to urge this virtually unquestioning obedience, in contrast with some of their forebears who, in fact, urged rebellion on the grounds that government must obey the laws and when it does not it is no longer owed obedience. (During the period during which revolution was simmering, a "patriot" was one who favored liberty in the form of secession -- yes, secession -- from Great Britiain, as opposed to loyalists.) In the circles in which I move, I daresay most Christians, who look upon the Revolution favorably, would look upon a rebellion against the government in Washington, even an unarmed one, as a sin. I could be wrong. (But I'm not.)

Because I am a Christian, I must deal with this underlying dogma first because in expressing some antipathy for (servile!) statism I may seem to run afoul of specific Biblical passages such as the above-quoted from Romans 13. Especially is this the case when one considers the phenomenon of "Christian Patriotism", which, like men, women, teenagers, soldiers, college students, environmentalists, etc, etc, etc, even has it's very own niche Bible. How can I desire the razing of the (servile) state in the face of such passages? Moreoever, how could I possibly favor razing a state which my own faith played some part in founding. It comes to two things. First, nothing about a requirement to obey a governing authority implies that the governing authority is not in certain respects usurpatious. Second, this is no longer the state which Christianity played a role in founding. I'm not going to spend any time, here, arguing the second point. I shall devote attention to the first.

In questioning the authority of the state (by arguing that it should not have much of the authority it exercises) I am violating Paul's command. I am, in fact, going against God because Paul says that the state, as an authority, has been established by God. What the state, established by God, commands, I must obey. The voice of the state must be held to be the voice of God. In fact, however, unlike Rothbardian libertarians, I do not rebel against the state per se. I rebel against the state's usurpations. It is the state, not I, that is wrong.

Let's look first at what Paul says about the role of the state, or the "governing authorities". These authorities hold no terror for those who do right. One could argue that my antipathy to the state must indicate that I am one of those who do wrong. If I were keen to do right, I would not be bothered by the state. But I am bothered by the state; and I think I am justifed in being bothered. Paul does not say that the state first decides what is right and then punishes those who act contrary. He says the state simply punishes wrong-doers. The state is not the final word on what is right. The state, properly, is the enforcer of a law it has not created of itself, a law which pre-exists the state.

The situation in which we find ourselves is one in which the state acknowledges no law not posited by itself. The state shall first decide what is right and then punish those who do wrong. We live under the domination of a state which is the final word on what is "right" -- a divine state. We live under the domination of a state which forces us to live not by laws but by opinions. One can know this is true, by considering the fact that during the recent campaign season, the President asserted that, while government cannot and should not do everything for you, it should do for you what you cannot do for yourself. (He has not been alone in making that claim, of course. I mention it because it is recent history.) Perhaps it is a true proposition that government ought to do for people what they cannot do for themselves. Frankly, I see no way to justify belief in its truth. That is an opinion. It is his opinion. And if one listens closely, one notes that we are never told why government must do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We are told this, hear this and obey this. (Well, some of us anyway. Others of us question.) So we are to be ruled by opinion, dogma really. Wrong-doers are those whose opinions are at variance with those of the state and act accordingly, in other words, heretics.

With respect, then, to the matter of usurpations, the question is not whether (and by whom) the state is empowered to do for some what they cannot do for themselves, but rather, from a Christian perspective, whether God empowers and authorizes, for a pertinent example, the governing authorities (Party A) to seize and employ the resources of one (Party B), not, as St. Paul says, to punish wrong-doers, but in order to do for another (Party C) what Party C cannot do for himself. If the state is not thus empowered, then it usurps this power and is, therefore, illegitimate.

So, I agree with Paul that the governing authorities have been established by God. That is not the question. The question is whether the governing authorities are authorized by their Establisher to do as they will, or to do as they were established to do. The question is whether the governing authorities still recognize themselves as having been established to punish wrong-doers, or whether they prefer to substitute their own notions of wrong-doing and punish in accordance with those notions, whether they prefer not so much to punish wrong-doers but to do for others what those others cannot do for themselves, and confiscating whatever properties needed, not to support their work of punishing wrong-doers but to do those things they prefer to do. And all this without the consent of those whose property is confiscated for these purposes.

Of course, those to whom Paul wrote also lived under the dominion of such a state. The governing authorities to which St. Paul enjoins obedience were also usurping powers not legitimately theirs. And yet, he says, "Obey them." Uncritical reading and recitation of this passage and others might lead us to continue a habit of submission to illegitimate authority. (Not very unlike some Christians who accepted the Nazi state on the grounds that "governing authorities" are established by God.) This is why it is important to take careful note of two very, very important facts. First, at the very moment in time at which Paul was urging obedience to the "governing authorities" he was proclaiming a message which would eventually turn that state on its very head. Second, on occasion St. Paul insisted on the prerogatives of his Roman citizenship. Roman citizenship was not something just everyone had back then. When the governing authority violated his rights as a Roman citizen, he asserted those rights, insisted upon them, in fact.

Like Paul, we have a citizenship which gives us rights against our own governing authorities. Not only that, ours is a citizenship in a country whose legal background (Anglo-Saxon law) includes the right of the governed not only to consent to being governed, but also the little known right of rebellion. So, in the same way St. Paul could appeal to Ceasar, which many of his readers could not, we can, even as Christians, legitimately insist upon our rights, including, should the need arise, the right of rebellion (as a consequence of the right of the governed to consent to their governments).

Speaking of Rome, it is interesting to pause and note that Rome, the capital city of an empire, was a republic before it degenerated into an empire. As a republic, it also was established in an act of rebellion against the Etruscan kings. So we have the ironical fact of a republic birthed in act of rebellion degenerating into an empire with a government rebellion against which was considered an act of treason. The Romans who founded the republic, claimed a right for themselves which they turned round and denied to others by expanding Rome's imperium through warfare. To be sure, beginning with Juilus Caesar, there was a pattern of granting Roman citizenship to provincials (i.e., wiping out the distinction between conquerors and conquered), but this was only to make the conquered easier to rule. Becoming a citizen of Rome did not come with a right to consent to the rule of Rome. In truth, granting citizenship to the conquered was nothing more than making their subjugation complete. But I digress.

While I affirm the right of rebellion under Anglo-Saxon law tradition, as well as another tradition going back to Juan de Mariana, of regicide, I think we (i.e., Christians) should prefer another route. Bearing in mind, as I said, above, that while Paul enjoined obedience to usurpatious, Roman governing authorities, he proclaimed a message which undermined the very state those authorities served. The best approach, it seems to me, is to agitate -- not call, not request, not even beg -- for surrender of illegitimately exercised powers.

Others, of course, would assert another approach. Christians, they would argue, should seek to hold public office, and hold those offices as ministers of God, as Paul calls governing authorities. In those offices, then, they should devolve these illegitimately exercised powers back to the states where they belong. Chief among these are, I think, Christian Reconstructionists or Dominionists, with whom I disagree.

I suppose, since the topic has come up, I should explain why. I'll have to do so another time.

To sum up my position, nothing about the requirement to give obedience to the governing authorities, means we are therefore prevented in insisting upon our rights under the laws of the nation in which we live. We can raze the servile state and at the same time acknowledge the excerise of legitimate powers. Razing the servile state is best done by attacking the dogmas upon which it rests, not the people in its employ. In other words, razing the servile state by attacking its underlying dogmas requires use of our first amendment rights, not our second amendment rights.

Part III


About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
View my complete profile

Blog Archive