Exchanges about the above from my public Facebook author page:
Michael Bulla: Does that also apply for despots like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim, etc? I don’t think so.
Rod Bennett: Believe it or not, it applies even to Satan, Michael. St. Jude writes that even the Archangel Michael “did not dare to pronounce judgement on him in abusive terms, but simply said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.'” (Jude 1:9).
Michael Bulla: I wouldn’t condense the whole Bible to one word, but argue, that none of these despots got to power by God’s will, but seized it by themselves, either by violence or by deceit. Also, all of them banned people from spreading the gospel to all nations, as Jesus has commanded us, and last but not least, we are supposed to love our neighbors, which also includes to protect them from harm. If it was as you are saying, all the allied troops in WW2 were sinning and working against God’s will.
Dave Armstrong: Most rules have exceptions or qualifiers in extraordinary circumstances: in the Bible and in general. So, e.g., Jesus talked about turning the other cheek. Many people think that is an absolute command. It’s not at all. The Bible doesn’t teach pacifism and absolute lack of self-defense. Hence, St. Paul fought back vigorously at his trial, even appealing to Caesar (being a Roman citizen) to save himself from crucifixion and relatively worse treatment as a prisoner. That was one of the passages above, which was during his trial.
My point is that the existence of despots and tyrants and dictators does not wipe out the general, broad scriptural injunction to honor rulers. And of course, it is altogether disputable whether President Trump is a despot or tyrant or dictator.
Bobby Bell: It also says if they are unjust you can protest or resist but you have to be ready to suffer the consequences. You can find this in Romans in the Holy Bible.
Dave Armstrong: That’s correct (e.g., Rev 13), but it is far less common of a motif than this, and even in resisting, honor and respect would have to be shown, per the above.
Rod Bennett: It’s simply an extension of Christ own words, to love even your enemies–to bless rather than to curse. Honor and respect everyone. In other words…but especially, perhaps, those that carry great responsibilities. But we can, of course, criticize and even protest against specific policies and actions. My question now, however, is did we do unto Obama as we would have men do to Trump today? People would be much more receptive to this call not to mock or slander the President now if we had done a better job treating the other President this way.
Dave Armstrong: I did. I wrote exactly four posts about him, that I have listed on my blog, and they critiqued his policies, not him as a man, and overall jerk, liar, insane, Hitler, narcissist, dumbbell, KKK member, etc.
As to people being receptive, what you say is unfortunately a fact of human nature, but it is atrocious biblical reasoning: “you screwed up by slandering the President you didn’t like, and I detest that; therefore, I’ll be a hypocrite and commit the same sin in slandering the President I don’t like.”
That’s sort of like a diabolical, perverted “Golden Rule.”
Rod Bennett: Didn’t mean to suggest that there’s any excuse for payback. I’m just suddenly hearing calls to respect the President from people (not you, Dave) who I personally know breathed little else but malice and mockery against Obama for eight years. I’ve got one guy in my feed who, I know, once posted a picture of Obama as a monkey. Now he’s bemoaning the loss of decency and respect for authority in this nation.
Dave Armstrong: You’re absolutely right about that hypocrisy. But in the Christian life we have to rise above what has become a corrupt “norm” around us (regardless of political affiliation in this case), and model right and just and non-hypocritical behavior.
It’s a lot like moderating web pages or forums (I did that as a paid staff job for three years at The Coming Home Network). Moderators have to fairly apply the rules across the board: whether the person in violation of them is on our “side” (theologically or politically) or not.
I’ve blocked many extreme pro-Trumpists on my Facebook page, and I have banned several anti-Protestant zealots as well.
Let’s hope that biblical commands such as the ones I highlighted spread far and wide.