Paul Tweaks the Emperorís Nose
by Randy England: Father
Cummings and the Loyalty Oath
will always drag out St. Paulís epistle to the Romans to demonstrate
that disobedience to government is not an option:
person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no
authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted
by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what
God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 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, for he is Godís servant for
your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear
the sword in vain. Rom. 13:1-4
ignore, however, certain exceptions to that "always obey the
government" rule, for St. Paul here equates obedience with
"doing what is good." Governments have never confined
their conduct to what is good. We find the famous standoff recorded
in the Acts of the Apostles where St. Peter and the apostles defy
the rulers saying "We must obey God rather than men."
Acts 5:29. Numerous other approving recitations of civil disobedience
occur in both the Old and New Testaments.
So we must
disobey some laws, but even government manages to get a few
laws right Ė the ones that seek to prevent or correct harm to others
Ė but those prohibitions would have to be obeyed in any society.
In between the protective laws (which must be obeyed) and the laws
which command us to do evil (which must be disobeyed) we still have
that great morass of laws designed either 1) to steal from us; or
2) punish us unless we behave as the ruler demands.
It is often
wise to obey these particular laws out of self-defense, but as to
any Christian moral obligation to obey, a closer look at St Paulís
epistle to the Romans suggests another layer to the analysis and
raises the question as to what duty Ė if any Ė is owed to the authorities:
For the same
reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of
God, attending to this very thing. Pay all of them their dues,
taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect
to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Rom.13:6-7.
might read this passage as satisfying homage, but the subversive
undercurrent of this verse is barely beneath the surface for we
who must serve the masters. Indeed, justice might cry out that no
taxes are due; that the bloody hands of the ruler merit no
respect; and his thefts deserve not honor but punishment. Only a
fool feels honored at having been wished "all the respect he
is due." St. Paulís words are reminiscent of Bilboís speech
at his birthday party:
donít know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like
less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
~ J.R.R. Tolkien,
Lord of the Rings
Itís hard to
make out whether he is insulting or paying a compliment.
As with so
much of scripture, the writings of St. Paul are rich with multiple
levels of meaning. It turns out that the apostle possessed a perilous
sense of humor, quite capable of lampooning a king.
In 66 A.D.
the Emperor Nero left Rome to compete in the Olympic games and make
a concert tour of Greece. At Olympia, he competed in the four-horse
chariot race. The historian Suetonius, in The Twelve Caesars, reported
that Nero drove his chariot with at least 10 horses. The emperor
was thrown from his chariot during the race and had to be picked
up and put back at the reins.
was unable to remain in his seat and gave up the race before the
finish. Since he was the emperor, the judges crowned him the winner
anyway. Nero generously declared the whole province a free country
and gave the judges large sums of money.
would have been fresh news when the buffoonish emperor returned
to Rome and soon afterward had the apostle Paul beheaded. Could
there be a connection between Paul's execution and a letter he penned
from a prison cell in Rome? The apostle wrote this in his last letter
to his young friend Timothy:
is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. . .
. [T]he time of my departure has come. I have fought the good
fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth
there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the
Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day. 2 Tim.
Nero the athlete
had also won a crown, but he never finished the race. Nero
did not compete according to the rules, yet was awarded the crown.
Can there be any doubt that St Paul combined his bittersweet farewell
to Timothy with a joke at Neroís expense? If Nero was due respect
simply for being the emperor, then St. Paul failed to follow his
own rule. It is something to ponder when we consider oneís duty
to any ruler or government.
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.