Sessions, I’m Calling BS On Your Understanding of Romans

Sessions, I’m Calling BS On Your Understanding of Romans June 16, 2018

By now, I’m pretty sure almost everyone knows that Sanders and Sessions decided to claim that this current administration’s policy of removing children from their parents when those parents are seeking asylum is supported by Scripture. While I call Bull Shit on this I do realize that when one picks and chooses one line, or part of one line, from Scripture, taking it out of the context of the entire narrative, you can “prove” pretty much anything. But deeper than that, taking any line and using it to justify a cruel unjust policy is beyond insane, it’s shows a lack of biblical understanding that centers around most Conservative Political Leaders who strive to use the Scripture to justify their inhuman policies.

Some want to give Sessions a kudo on quoting Romans 13:1 to defend this administration’s policies, I’m going to have to take that kudo back because he quoted it without any real understanding of how the whole narrative of the Divine stands against his simple understanding. Which, when you think about it, is the norm for most Conservative Evangelicals who define their faith based on Republican principles and not the teachings of Christ.

Let me see if I can explain what I am thinking:

 

Following the Law

Many Conservative Evangelicals are quick to whip out Romans 13:1 as if it some kind of scriptural phallic symbol or trump card to show how biblical they are in what they do. Yet, they only do it when it fits into their agenda, and yes, they have an agenda. For example, if we were to gather a group of people and protest in front of one of their Containment Centers where they’re holding children, Conservative Evangelicals would quote Romans and tell us we should stop because we need to “obey the law.” The hypocrisy comes into play when Conservative Evangelicals organize a protest at a Planned Parenthood building claiming that choice is immoral. They would say that they had the right to picket immoral laws. But they can’t have it both ways.

So, let’s look at what Paul had to say about obeying the law, and the authority of the government.[1]

“Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order.”[2]

The idea that we’re to follow ALL the laws of a government because they have authority given to them by the Divine is just plain silly and not supported by the narrative. There is a difference between claiming a government is “ordained” by the Divine and is given “all authority by the Divine,” and one that is “under” the Divine. If we believe that all governments are ordained by the Divine and must be followed, what are we saying to those living in North Korea, Russia, China, or other authoritarian dictatorship? What do you do when the laws in a nation proclaim they can kill another person because of their faith? The color of their skin? Their ethnic background? It seems to me, we’re telling them to “Suck it up buttercup” and just follow the laws of your government, no matter how oppressive they are.

It would mean that Hitler, Stalin, and other dictators were placed into leadership because the Divine desired them to be in leadership and we had no right to intervene or challenge their laws. It would mean, that those living in Germany under Hitler MUST turn in their Jewish neighbors to be murdered – Because it was the law and the government had every right to do as they desired.

Keep in mind, many Nazi supporting Pastors in all nations quoted Romans 13:1. What many Conservative Evangelicals forget is that there is a difference between a “just” and “unjust” law, and we should never make oppressive decrees, or policies.

 

Oppressive Decrees and Unjust Laws

One of the first thing we need to understand is this: there is no Federal Law, NO FEDERAL LAW, requiring we separate children from their parents when they cross the border without permission, it is a policy [decree] of this current administration. This current administration seems to forget we are never, never, to make an oppressive decree or policy or an unjust law. If they do, they are violating what Paul calls “peace and order.” I think the Rev, Dr. Martian Luther King said it best in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail:

“I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”[3]

Many Conservative Evangelicals strive, on a regular basis, to try and find biblical reasons to support unjust laws, oppressive decrees or policies. Quoting MKL, or Augustine may not impress the average Conservative Evangelical, so let’s see what Isaiah can add to the conversation:

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”[4]

The Message says it this way: “Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims.”[5]

Just to make your head spin, let’s go back to Paul, and read what he says a little further down Romans.

“When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along … Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.”[6]

 

Accepting Foreigners and Equals

Leviticus, Numbers, Exodus, Psalms, Proverbs and Deuteronomy are loaded with provisions on safeguarding vulnerable groups against injustice. So, I’m always very confused when Conservative Evangelicals are unable to remember any of them. When I call their attention to things like, “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?[7] they are quick to whip-out the Romans 13:1.

But this goes beyond unjust laws, oppressive decrees, and Romans 13:1 – any policy or law that would treat an immigrant as a “second class” citizen would stand directly opposed to the Divine’s call on how we treat foreigners in our land:

“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God. “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”[8]

I know, many Conservative Evangelicals will claim, “They are not foreigners, they’re here illegally” as if that changes the reality of Leviticus. When I hear this, I am always reminded what Jesus said, “Love your neighbor” and someone said, “Who is my neighbor?”[9]  Jesus shares a story of how the Samaritan came to the aid of a man in need. To the Jews of their day a “Samaritan” was not seen as a people. They were less than human; they were considered an illegal people; polluters of the Jewish faith. Yet Jesus used them as an example of who our neighbor was and are. Jesus di not care what the Jewish Law said about the Samaritans; to Jesus they were his neighbors.

As a follower of Jesus, I am called to love others, to accept then for who they are, to embrace the marginalized, to openly serve the poor, those in need. I am called to see no one as “illegal.” I am called to walk with those who are being treated unjustly in our world. If we are unable to treat those who enter our land with love, grace, compassion and acceptance, we need to question who we are as a nation; we need to question our faith and wonder if we are truly following the teachings of the Divine through Jesus. If Conservative Evangelicals are unable to express the full breath and life of the Collective Narrative, I have to wonder if they are truly wanting to be followers, or just political.

 

END NOTES:
[1] Let me say this, I love The Message. I find it to be very faithful to the Greek and Hebrew. You can disagree, but that does not change my mind.

[2] Romans 13:1 MSG
[3] http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
[4] 10:1-2 NIV
[5] Isaiah 10:1 (MSG)
[6] Romans 13:8; 10
[7] Psalm 82:2
[8] Leviticus 19:33-. 34 [MSG]
[9] Luke 10:25-37

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