Wicked Rulers Honored (Saul, Solomon, Nero, High Priest)

Wicked Rulers Honored (Saul, Solomon, Nero, High Priest) November 13, 2018

This was originally a back-and-forth debate on Facebook. I have condensed the heart of my thoughts.

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From his Facebook page tonight. Rod Dreher wrote a hit-piece on President Trump (“Trump: The Long Emergency”), with all the usual insinuations of out-of-control insanity, etc. It’s yet more Trump Derangement Syndrome. Did he go after the turkey-pardoning ceremony? Did Trump screw that up somehow, too: just like Melania’s Christmas decorations were described as post-nuclear destruction? I was hoping Dreher would go after the turkey pardon as Yet More Evidence that Trump is a madman. Drats!

But the decorations criticisms from others are gut-bustingly hilarious. If Melania were a Democrat she would almost certainly be worshiped more than Jackie Kennedy was. We’d be hearing constant awestruck hushed tones about “refined elegance” and “sophisticated fashion taste.”

What’s “visible-from-space-obvious” [citing someone else”s words] is how so many Never Trumpers are Never Rational in their hysterical denunciations of the man. It’s quite comical and entertaining to watch on one level, but frustrating from a perspective of reasonable discourse.

I oppose Trump’s tweets (widely detested by his critics), because I oppose all tweeting as essentially stupid and trivial. I only use my account to post links to my articles. How many people these days can say they never use a Twitter account to do tweets (as in my case)?

Criticisms of a president are fine. Assertions of mental illness and utter incompetence are beyond the pale of rational discourse. When I myself was classified as a “psychotic” and “evil” by online anti-Catholic Protestant polemicists like James Swan and Steve Hays I stopped all serious discussion with them (some exceptions here and there, but for the most part . . .). A line was crossed there that never should have been. It stops any constructive discussion once it is introduced.

It’s the same with a president, and even more so, given the repeated scriptural admonitions to honor rulers and not speak evil of them (look, for example, at how Paul approached the high priest at his trial). Dreher, thinking he is some sort of superior moralist, craps all over the very Bible he purports to be following. The Orthodox Bible (he’s a former Catholic Orthodox Christian) has the same passages in it.

I agree that some of Trump’s tweets are particularly stupid and idiotic. But I think Dreher’s article is infinitely more so. Trump critics keep ignoring what Scripture says about honoring rulers (which at the time was pagan rulers who were killing Christians). The Bible contains quite a bit about it. The critics have no problem with regularly classifying President Trump as insane, and obsessing and bashing about him daily. They see no conflict with principle or the Bible at all.

Of course, much the same was said about President Reagan (some of my readers are too young to remember those days as I do). This is nothing new. He was senile, a dunce, a warmonger, stupid, naive, racist, was gonna bring about WW III (his only conflict was little, short-lived Grenada: less than Obama), uncaring about the poor, voodoo economics (George H. W. Bush’s initial assessment). It’s standard Democrat tactics. The difference is now we have the Third-partiers and establishment GOP joining in.

1 Peter 2:17 (RSV) Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the [pagan, anti-Christian, persecuting] emperor.

Exodus 22:28 You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people. [cited by St. Paul in Acts 23:5 below]

Ecclesiastes 10:20 Even in your thought, do not curse the king, . . .

Titus 3:1-2 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work, [2] to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men.

Acts 23:1-5 And Paul, looking intently at the council, said, “Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience up to this day.” [2] And the high priest Anani’as commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. [3] Then Paul said to him, “God shall strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” [4] Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” [5] And Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, `You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

Never-Trumpers think that their constant bilge is perfectly consistent with the above commands?

Political leaders are not guided by the Holy Spirit, but they are definitely described as agents of God and to be respected as such:

Romans 13:1-4, 6 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. [2] Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. [3] For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, [4] for he is God’s servant for your good. . . . [6] . . . the authorities are ministers of God . . .

King David was a mere political ruler, but God made an eternal covenant with him, knowing that he was to commit murder and adultery. David respected Saul when he was king, even though he was persecuting him. Imagine if Trump (like also the apostle Paul and Moses) had murdered someone in his past . . .

The vast majority of Trump criticism is of an irrational, hysterical nature. Dreher’s blasts are bilge, because he says stuff like:

It’s possible too that Trump might be mentally ill.

We have a president who cannot govern himself and his impulses.

The most powerful man in the world is a petulant child who has no sense of grounding, of wisdom, of prudence. We are headed toward a national emergency.

The biblical quotes are obviously relevant to the whole issue: how Presidents ought to be accorded a standard amount of respect due to their office. Sorry to provide too much of God’s inspired revelation!

Trump and King David are similar insofar as they share a trait of being a leader of a nation, which the Bible talks about and provides models for. But anti-Trumpers seem immune to logic and reason whenever anything is discussed about Trump. Logic is the first casualty of the emotions of bias every time. It’s true of all of us in some way. We all have biases. It’s a universal trait. Bias and unfairness and gross disrespect towards another, however (and one in high office at that), are different things.

It’s pointed out that David (among others) repented. Yes he did. But that’s completely beside the scriptural point I am making. Nero was the emperor when St. Peter told us to “honor the emperor.” He was slaughtering Christians at the time. He never repented. Peter was martyred during his reign.

Nero was emperor when St. Paul wrote: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” and “he is God’s servant for your good” and “the authorities are ministers of God” (Romans 13:1, 4, 6). He himself was also killed under Nero a few years later.

King Saul never repented and was running around trying to kill David, when David was honoring him as king, and refusing to kill him when he had the chance. David was soulmates with Saul’s son Jonathan, too.

How did David react when Saul essentially killed himself after a failed battle, after he had fallen into deep rebellion against God?:

2 Samuel 1:17-19, 23-24 And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan his son, . . . [18] . . . He said: [19] “Thy glory, O Israel, is slain upon thy high places! How are the mighty fallen! . . . [23] “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. [24] “Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, . . .”

2 Samuel 2:5-6 David sent messengers to the men of Ja’besh-gil’ead, and said to them, “May you be blessed by the LORD, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord, and buried him! [6] Now may the LORD show steadfast love and faithfulness to you! And I will do good to you because you have done this thing.

All of this for a king who had fallen into apostasy and who rejected God!

So David repented of his great sins. But it’s also the case that God allowed King Solomon to build His temple (which David didn’t do because he was a man of war). Yet Solomon also fell into serious sin, and seems to have died that way, unrepentant (and God knew that from the start: knowing all things and being outside of time):

1 Kings 11:1-14 (RSV) Now King Solomon loved many foreign women: the daughter of Pharaoh, and Moabite, Ammonite, E’domite, Sido’nian, and Hittite women, [2] from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods”; Solomon clung to these in love. [3] He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. [4] For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. [5] For Solomon went after Ash’toreth the goddess of the Sido’nians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. [6] So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. [7] Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. [8] And so he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. [9] And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, [10] and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD commanded. [11] Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. [12] Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. [13] However I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.” [14] And the LORD raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the E’domite; he was of the royal house in Edom.

Despite this, we don’t see anywhere (as far as I know) that he should not have been honored as king by the people.

We have no record of the high priest during St. Paul’s trial becoming a Christian or ceasing to oppose Paul. Yet Paul shut up as soon as he was informed who had him struck, saying, “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.”

I don’t contend that no one can ever say or do anything about a wicked ruler (not at all!). The Bible also contains Revelation 13 as well as Romans 13, as I noted recently to a severe critic on another page. I have taken the same view of popes: one can criticize under rare circumstances, with the right attitude and spirit (and the right people doing it). I’ve literally expressed that view for 20 years online (while the reactionary Catholics always denied that I did).

What one cannot do, and pretend to be honoring either pope or President, is lambast, bash, condemn, slander, speak evil against a President day in and day out for months on end. That is not “honoring” a political ruler, as we are commanded to do: in any way, shape, form, or matter.

Dreher wrote: “It’s possible too that Trump might be mentally ill”. In an article dated 7-25-17, Dreher wrote: “Trump really is an unstable lunatic whose word means nothing, and who sees no higher obligation than serving himself.”

On 10-1-16 he served up “The Madness of King Donald” and wrote: “When you get to the age of 70 and you cannot keep yourself from behaving like a tabloid clown, even when the US presidency is within your grasp, you are damn close to being a madman.”

On 10-24-16 he cited a Peggy Noonan column “saying that if Trump were not a ‘nut’ — which he clearly is — he would be winning this thing by a landslide” and opines: “she is ‘particularly sorry’ that Trump is a nut (me too! me too!). She wonders what would have happened if we had had a Sane Donald Trump.”

Rod Dreher loses credibility when he plays the “insane” card, just as arguments lose credibility when they go reductio ad Hitlerum. Dreher also lost a lot of credibility when he left the Catholic Church because it had sinners in it (which Paul clearly showed was also the case from the beginning, in his dealings with the Corinthians and Galatians).

I never said Trump was perfect. I’ve always freely and readily acknowledged his faults and shortcomings. I don’t agree, on the other hand, that these tweets and other such evidences lead up to the conclusion that Trump is insane or nuts or mentally ill or psychotic or whatever the hell else is concluded about him by hysterical Never Trumpers.

In any event, I have presented lots of relevant biblical data. Now, in effect, for Never Rational Never Trumpers, the biblical view of honoring sinners like Nero, Saul, and Solomon is “madness.”

It’s certainly extreme to blow off relevant Bible passages and play games, rather than address them straightforwardly. We simply don’t find models of Never Trumper behavior in the Bible, even as regards one of the most wicked tyrants in history, Nero, or wicked kings of Israel, such as Saul and Solomon.

I guess President Trump is more wicked than Nero: whom St. Peter said Christians should honor. And/or, his innumerable slanderers are more righteous and knowledgeable than St. Peter. Or those who savage Trump every day, every hour simply don’t care what the Bible teaches about honoring rulers. Take your pick . . . There are only so many choices, for those who accept biblical inspiration.

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(originally 11-30-17)

Photo credit: The French actor Talma as Nero in the play Britannicus by Jean Racine as painted (1852 or 1853) by Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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