When I Said Theocracy, This Isn’t What I Meant

When I Said Theocracy, This Isn’t What I Meant June 18, 2018

I grew up in a conservative evangelical homeschool community—the kind where leaders talk about “taking back America for Christ.” I well remember.

I went to a summer program at Patrick Henry College where homeschool pioneer and former Virginia attorney general candidate Michael Farris communicated this vision directly—he pointed to those on one said of the room and identified them as future U.S. Senators, those on the other side as U.S. Congressmen, Supreme Court Justices, etc.

Farris told us we were the “Joshua Generation.” Our parents took us out of Egypt when they decided to homeschool us, and we were growing up in the wilderness. We were the generation that would retake and occupy the promised land. Farris’ college offered majors in journalism, government, and education—fields we were to target.

There was also an emphasis on entertainment—on raising up conservative evangelical filmmakers, authors, and others to combat cultural change and restore traditional mores. We were to retake the culture and the nation, and restore it to its biblical roots.

But I have to say, this is not what I envisioned.

In his remarks, [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions hit back at the “concerns raised by our church friends about separating families,” calling the criticism “not fair or logical” and quoting Scripture in his defense of the administration’s tough policies.

“Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution … I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves … and protect the weak and it protects the lawful.”

He called on religious leaders to “speak up strongly to urge anyone who would come here to apply lawfully, to wait their turn and not violate the law.”

Later Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders doubled down on Sessions’ comments, saying it is “very biblical to enforce the law.”

“That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” she said, responding to a question about Sessions’ comments about Scripture’s supporting the administration’s policies.

I’m not sure exactly what I envisioned—fewer R-rated movies, yes, the Bible restored to the public school classroom, perhaps—but it certainly wasn’t this.

The Bible being used to justify removing children from their parents.

Immigrants who approach our southern border typically do so fleeing violence, or seeking better lives and to improve their children’s prospects. Our immigration system is broken. In many cases there is essentially no way to get on a list to make it in—and in other cases, those who come are following the law, turning themselves in and applying for asylum.

And we’re imprisoning them and removing their children from them—and using God and the Bible to justify it. I’ve seen a lot in the past two-and-a-half years, but I’ll admit to being gobsmacked last week when Sessions’ statements came across the wire.

Sessions’ insistence on obeying the law over all else is a harsh judgement on any form of civil disobedience, perhaps unsurprising given that Sessions’ ideological predecessors opposed the civil rights movement on exactly this grounds. Yet his insistence on law-keeping at the expense of all else ignores the actions of abolitionists—many of them Christians—who broke the law to assist and hide runaway slaves.

Would Sessions have opposed hiding Jews during WWII?

There’s another issue, too—when Paul wrote Romans 13, the Christians did not control Rome. They did not set law or affect or determine policy. In this case, Sessions is the one who created the policies in question. He is the one who announced that ICE would now prosecute all undocumented immigrants and separate children from their parents.

Additionally, as many Christians have been pointing out since Sessions’ made his remarks, the Bible actually has some pretty strong things to say about welcoming refugees and strangers. This isn’t the place to have this conversation, of course—our governmental policy is not dictated by Biblical precepts. Or at least—it’s not supposed to be.

I can only hope that Sessions’ words will awaken more to the dangers of the very theocracy I was raised to hasten—a theocracy that looks far different than I thought it would in my youthful naiveté and passion.

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