Friday, May 11, 2007

poor proof-texting strikes again!

I'm getting really tired of people using Romans 13:1-7 out of context, especially when it seems quite clear that they haven't carefully examined that passage of Scripture, and are just grabbing for a verse that props up a particular political agenda. The latest example comes from CNN's Lou Dobbs, who, in a recent op-ed, stated the following:

"A new coalition called Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Wednesday will begin lobbying lawmakers with a new advertising and direct mail campaign on behalf of amnesty for illegal aliens.

The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine put it this way: "If given the choice on this issue between Jesus and Lou Dobbs, I choose my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ."

But before the faithful acquiesce in the false choice offered by the good Reverend, perhaps he and his followers should consult Romans 13, where it is written: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."

Now, obviously, the immigration issue is complicated and there are good points to be made on both sides of the issue (surprise! Jim Wallis isn't always right!), but SERIOUSLY: Romans 13 has nothing to do with immigration! Has Dobbs even tried to put the passage in its proper context?

Read along with the rest of Romans, Paul isn't praising the government, he is merely pointing out that God has allowed them to be in power, and that Christians should seek to live peacefully in the land, paying their taxes, and not attempting to mount any armed insurrections. Paul is NOT saying that Christians should blindly support their governments, he is simply pointing out that Christians should not attempt to overthrow the government by force, because Christians are first and foremost citizens of a kingdom that transcends all governments, and that kingdom requires our allegiance above all else.

What's ironic, however, is that Dobbs' comments re: Romans 13 are implicitly anti-American, since, after all, our country was founded on the notion that no governing authority should have the final say without the consent of the people. Given that the majority of the people in our nation have always professed Christianity, if we were to follow Dobbs' logic and blanket use of the passage, the founding fathers should have acquiesced to the British monarchy instead of standing up for a free nation based on "liberty and justice for all."

Of course, I doubt Dobbs meant to imply anything like this. But it just shows the danger of taking a passage of Scripture and haphazardly applying it to whatever suits our purpose. This is a lesson that many people dealing in the political realm, Christian and otherwise, would do well to learn.


Anonymous said...

Am I missing the Lou Dobbs quote? I don't see anything in your entry regarding what Lou Dobbs actually said that might be wrong.
The immigration / church situation is interesting because this might be an issue that some Christians feel is appropriate for civil disobedience. The church has the obligation to help the helpless and maybe right now that means providing sanctuary for them. If nothing else it is a distraction from the gay marriage debate that I am happy for a breather from. - roy

Geoff said...

the Dobbs quote is the section in "quotes"! :-)

Anonymous said...

Were the "quotes" always there? I think I need to set up a function on my computer that only allows me to respond to blogs after I've read them at least 5 times. How did I miss that? - Roy