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Author Topic: "Obey the laws of the land..."  (Read 5997 times)

penguinsscareme

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"Obey the laws of the land..."
« on: November 03, 2005, 08:54:19 pm »

I got into an argument, a friendly one, with a co-worker today.  He's deeply religious, and a great guy.  Anyway, I let slip that I oppose the government and do so partially on spiritual grounds.  He quoted to me the Bible verse that I've heard so many times before and always in the same context that says that we are commanded to obey the laws of the land.
 :rolleyes:
I know in my heart that there are some fishy barnacles there, but I'm not enough of a theologian or a biblical scholar to argue on that turf.  Anyone able to help me construct a biblically based counterpoint?
I was thinking of Shadrach, Mishach and, uh, the other guy whose name I can't spell who were ordered by law to bow down to an idol and were cast into the fiery furnace because they refused.  Also I thought of Daniel who was thrown to the lions because he unlawfully prayed in the open.
Furthermore, although this isn't based on scripture, I was thinking that according to his interpretation, America was morally wrong to revolt against England, and the Christian missionaries were wrong to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union and communist China.
Chapter and verse citations would be helpful if you can supply them.
Thanks.
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O Lord,
Thine Ocean is so great,
And my boat is so small.

Sportos, motorheads, dweebies, wastoids...they think he's a righteous dude.

The utter waste of our $2,000,000,000 a day military-industrial machine was never demonstrated more vividly than on 9/11.

You do what works.

velojym

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2005, 09:05:51 pm »

Lucky for me I don't worship a book. *whew*
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penguinsscareme

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2005, 09:14:16 pm »

I wasn't really looking to get made fun of for my spirituality, at least, not on this thread.
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O Lord,
Thine Ocean is so great,
And my boat is so small.

Sportos, motorheads, dweebies, wastoids...they think he's a righteous dude.

The utter waste of our $2,000,000,000 a day military-industrial machine was never demonstrated more vividly than on 9/11.

You do what works.

penguinsscareme

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2005, 09:16:19 pm »

I also thought of the people who used to run slaves on the underground railroad, to say nothing of all the acts of civil disobedience by Rosa Parks, MLK, et al.
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O Lord,
Thine Ocean is so great,
And my boat is so small.

Sportos, motorheads, dweebies, wastoids...they think he's a righteous dude.

The utter waste of our $2,000,000,000 a day military-industrial machine was never demonstrated more vividly than on 9/11.

You do what works.

mikethewreck

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2005, 09:19:04 pm »

Here is the most quoted pro-authority passage in Scripture from the book of Romans:
Rom 13:1  Let every soul be subject to higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, but the existing authorities have been ordained by God.
Rom 13:2  So that the one resisting authority has opposed the ordinance of God, and the ones opposing will receive judgment to themselves.
Rom 13:3  For the rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the bad. And do you desire not to fear the authority? Do the good, and you will have praise from it;
Rom 13:4  for it is a servant of God to you for the good. But if you practice evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword in vain; for it is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to the one practicing bad things.
Rom 13:5  Because of this, it is necessary to be subject, not only on account of wrath, but also on account of conscience.
Rom 13:6  For on this account you also pay taxes, for they are ministers of God, always giving attention to this very thing.
Rom 13:7  Then give to all their dues: to the one due tax, the tax; to the one due tribute, the tribute; to the one due fear, the fear; to the one due honor, the honor.
Rom 13:8  Do not continue to owe no one, nothing, except to love one another. For the one loving the other has fulfilled the Law.

I have bolded certain parts of the passage which I believe are crucial but most pro-authority folks gloss over.
v.3: For the rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the bad. (A lawful authority punishes evldoers and does not hinder the good. Would you say that describes the government of which you spoke?)
v.6 for they are ministers of God, always giving attention to this very thing. (Would you say that the government of which you speaks ministers in the same manner as God, giving freely, without compulsion, allowing free choice?)
v.8 Do not continue to owe no one, nothing, except to love one another. (Would you say the government acts in a loving manner?)

Remember Christ, most of the apostles, most of martyrs throughout history were not killed by religious institutions but by governments.

What did Jesus say? John 18:36  Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have fought that I might not be delivered up to the Jews. But now My kingdom is not from here.

All quotes LITV (similar in other translations).
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velojym

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2005, 09:34:40 pm »

I wasn't really looking to get made fun of for my spirituality, at least, not on this thread.

Sorry, Birds... I'm really agnostic, which doesn't exactly fit with my earlier post.
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Joel

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2005, 09:34:55 pm »

"Abed-nego"

Three men who chose to be "cast into the burning fiery furnace" rather than fall down and worship a symbol of the state.  And who walked away unharmed because God wasn't on the side of the symbol, either.  Gave the king something to think about.

It's one of the most profoundly libertarian - and confusing - stories in the Hebrew scriptures.

I think the verses you're looking for are the ones where Paul says you should obey the officers of the state, because they hold the sword to punish the wrongdoer.  But Paul made a career of defying the officers of the state, because there are two laws: the law of the state and the law of God.  And where they conflict - and they do - the Christian will obey the law of God.

I'd have to spend more time than I'm willing to right now to provide chapter and verse.  But the spirit of the thing is that for millennia true Christians have died to smuggle the Word into secular states, and were quite happy to do so. 

Extended into our own situation, the law of the state just isn't the final word.  Where the law provides penalties for those things which are clearly wrong, a right-headed person does right to support those laws.  But where the state usurps the definition of "right" and "wrong" to itself as the only legitimate arbiter, a right-headed person does right to follow the right in spite of anything the state has to say on the matter.  And even though it might cost him his life to do so, he gains more by doing so than by complying with the state.
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padre29

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2005, 10:01:45 pm »


The interesting thing about the quote from Romans is the early Christians ignored it.

The book is attributed to the period of 60's to 70's AD. The Chrisitians were being killed in a later
period and went on to run the roman Empire. That can discussed both ways but the plain fact is
the early Christians were dead set against the Rome the city, they compared it to Babylon.
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DTOM

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2005, 10:12:20 pm »

I also thought of the people who used to run slaves on the underground railroad, to say nothing of all the acts of civil disobedience by Rosa Parks, MLK, et al.

I always wonder why people worship (hell, we have a damn holiday for the evil bastard) MLK, an staunch communist. His real name is not even MLK.

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rockchucker

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2005, 11:34:15 pm »

I don't know that you'll really be able to get too far in this, PSM. The plain, simple reason is that you can find a lot of things in the Bible, if you look hard enough. I found sufficient contradiction, at a foundational level, to cause me to leave the faith. But that's another story.

In the examples you give, which JDW already has the nut of, consider that the state in question had ordered these men to act against their faith. Their defiance of the state was also an affirmation of faith in Jehovah. So there's a line in the sand ... somewhere. The trick is in defining where it lies, and what's on either side. And there's an enormous amount of philosophical ground to cover there.

Taxation? "Render unto Caesar ..."

War? Some Christian theologians will argue that God can/will use governments as his instrument to further his purposes, but on the other hand, of course, men, burdened as we are by original sin, but also possessing free will (unless you take the Calvinist (?) position) will use war -- or other violence -- to serve evil.

Then there's the somewhat more metaphysical course of pondering the nature of God. In the dogma I was taught, God (the Triune God of the Christian Bible) is omniscient. If the future is mutable, how can it be known? But an omniscient being would have to know the future, as it is part of "all". And then there's the question of whether an all-powerful God would allow something to happen if it didn't serve his ultimate purposes -- whatever those might be.

In the end, it seems to me that if one accepts the Western Judaeo-Christian tradition of who/what God is, that one winds up not being able to make any real judgements. If the American Revolution had failed, for example, then one must conclude that such failure served God's will, but of course it succeeded, so that must have been the outcome God wanted. You can know only in retrospect.

It's really quite a paradox. If we have free will, then what of God's will?

Not much help, am I? Well, I can't think of any New Testament admonitions for people to cast off corrupt governments. You could try to make Old Testament references (such as the Exodus -- seems to me that qualifies as a revolt), but it's likely that your target will counter with the argument that the New supercedes the Old -- and there's Biblical justification for that.
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padre29

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2005, 11:45:58 pm »


Then just use the common sense that God gave you.

It is easy to get lost in the "nuance" of the bible. The bible is a guide meant to help. When it
comes to applying the bible that is where free will comesinto play and ones conscience should
guide one.

The bible is meant to be teacher not a tyrant.
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Leonidas the Younger

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2005, 11:50:21 pm »

The simple answer is that "the Christian is to obey the laws of the state unless they come into opposition with God's law".

-- Leonidas
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Bear

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2005, 11:59:30 pm »

Quote
Furthermore, although this isn't based on scripture, I was thinking that according to his interpretation, America was morally wrong to revolt against England, and the Christian missionaries were wrong to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union and communist China.

PSM, I'd go with this because it's simple, recent, and is not open to mistranslation of arcane text.

Or how about this: "During WWII many Jews tried to flee Nazi Germany and occupied countries to save their
lives. If Life is a gift from God, were they wrong to protect life and break the laws of the State?"

Bear
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Thunder

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2005, 05:31:29 am »

The simple answer is that "the Christian is to obey the laws of the state unless they come into opposition with God's law".

-- Leonidas

Darn good answer.

I used to be Southern Baptist, but have recently become agnostic.  Check out Shevek's works called "God is an Anarchist"  It might help you out a bit. I found his idea of the concept of "Do not trespass" was most helpful.

God is an Anarchist
« Last Edit: November 04, 2005, 05:35:50 am by Thunder »
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Pagan

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Re: "Obey the laws of the land..."
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2005, 08:01:08 am »

I don't think what he needs is scripture from the Bible by you. Just point out to him there are so many laws on the books that contradict each other -- so how do we/you/he choose which ones should be obeyed in the face of this contradiction?

Let HIM quote scripture in the face of attempting to determine which law the Bible would uphold as righteous living.

(You might also point out to him that Jesus himself was a "traitor" and a rebel, and condemned by "the law of the land".)
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