Christian Civil Disobedience

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by Ancora Imparo, May 2, 2005.

  1. Ancora Imparo

    Ancora Imparo
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    My dear pastor shocked me this Sunday by emphatically stating that there is no place for Christian civil disobedience. He went on to state that while he disagreed with the judicial rulings in the Schiavo case, that all those who were arrested (peacefully)seeking to bring water to her in the hospice were wrong and those being arrested outside abortion clinics were wrong (and he opposes abortion). He cites Romans 13 as the basis for Christians always obeying the law. I am stunned. While I knew Christians disagreed on when civil disobedience should be practiced or how it should be practiced, I have never heard of the belief that it should never be practiced by Christians. I can think of many biblical examples of those chosing to 'obey God rather than man'. I know my pastor does not elevate the law of man over God's law but somehow, from what he said, I gather he believes that God's law requires us to always obey the government.
    My question: Does anyone out there believe that civil disobedience is scripturally forbidden--or know someone with this belief? What is the scriptural basis for this? You won't change my mind on the subject :) but I would like to understand where he might be coming from.
     
  2. Marcia

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    We are to submit to civil authorities (Rom. 13 and other places). I think the only valid exception would be if the law was forcing us to do something against God, such as a law making women have abortions, or a law against sharing the gospel, etc. Then we would have no choice but to disobey in order to obey God. But that is not the case in what you cited.

    I think it's fine to demonstrate outside an abortion clinic, but it's not biblical to violate any of the laws (like crossing a certain line, or disobeying the police orders, etc.).

    It's not up to us to decide it's okay to violate God's word for some "higher" reason as though God is not in charge and forgot to tell us it's okay to do so.
     
  3. StefanM

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    What about the biblical principles of standing up for the widowed, the orphans, and the powerless? Are we always required to obey civil law even when it requires us to neglect these principles?
     
  4. Ancora Imparo

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  5. Ancora Imparo

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  6. Ancora Imparo

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    Good point. It demonstrates the complexity of this issue. I still haven't heard from anyone that believes that civil disobedience is never an option for Christians.
     
  7. Ancora Imparo

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    Something to think about:
    "Three weeks later Bonhoeffer spoke before a group of Berlin pastors on “The Church and the Jewish Question.” This talk was to be the first and only reaction from within the Protestant church as early as 1933 to the abolition of civil rights for Jewish citizens, which began with the boycott of Jewish stores and the proscription of Jewish civil servants, and which was to end in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and Treblinka. The “Law on the Reconstruction of the Civil Service,” the so-called Aryan Paragraph, adopted in April 1933, was reason enough for Bonhoeffer to resist the state: “The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims ...” Moreover, the church has the possibility and the duty, “not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself.” (Or, more exactly: the church has to throw itself between the spokes of the wheel in order to stop it!) After these words, Bonhoeffer continued his lecture to an almost empty room. With his call for political resistance he remained alone in his church."
    From "A Spoke in the Wheel" by Renate Wind
     
  8. Marcia

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    I don't see what this has to do with the price of soap in China (or however that saying goes).

    As I stated, when a law mandates us to take action against God's word, then that is a different matter.
     
  9. Marcia

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    Yes,I think that civil disobedience would be okay if we were being required by law to go against God's word (as in China with mandated abortion after on child, or being told pastors had to hire homosexuals, etc.). But as far as I know, in the U.S. there are no laws that REQUIRE us to violate God's word.


    You're welcome!
     
  10. Marcia

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    In that situation, the Germans were being asked by the gov't to boycott Jewish stores and clear actions were being taken against the Jews. This is a case where the gov't was requiring its citizens to act against other human beings and would fall under what I said before as far as resisting the gov't when it requires or mandates unbiblical actions.

    I often wonder what Christians in the U.S. would really do in such a situation. What if we had a gov't that required us to close the churches or be put in jail? Or abort after one child or die? How many believers would "resist?"
     
  11. Ancora Imparo

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    I think StefanM's point is that there are sins of ommission as well as commission. For instance, some Christians felt that it was necessary for them to at least try to bring water to an innocent, helpless woman who was being forcibly starved and dehydrated by order of a judge. Likewise there were Christians in Germany who felt it necessary to hide Jews from the Nazis. Neither group was being forced by law to commit an act against God's law but both groups considered themselves to be in a position where to do nothing to help victims of evil or injustice would be in opposition to God's Word and His command to love our neighbor as ourselves. These are complex matters of Christian conscience and appear to me to fall into the area of disputable matters. Certainly, in these matters, no one should make a decision to act, or not act, without much prayer and searching of the scriptures.
     
  12. Marcia

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    Yes, I see that point. But the people trying to take water to Terry S. knew they would not get in. They just did it to make a point. This can fall easily into pride -- "Look at me. I'm being heroic because I'm willing to be arrested trying to take water to this woman."

    I agree that some of the issues here are complex and not easily answered or pigeonholed.

    But I keep noticing that Christians in the U.S. love to debate about how they should disobey the law to protest at an abortion clinic or maybe try to take water to someone like Terry S. because the consequence is very small: maybe a fine or one or two nights in jail. Let's see what happens when the consequences are your life. Until then, all this is just talk.
     
  13. Ancora Imparo

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    [/qb][/QUOTE]In that situation, the Germans were being asked by the gov't to boycott Jewish stores and clear actions were being taken against the Jews. This is a case where the gov't was requiring its citizens to act against other human beings and would fall under what I said before as far as resisting the gov't when it requires or mandates unbiblical actions. [/QB][/QUOTE]

    True. But in the case of the killing of Jews, no one was being required to do that--yet people risked their own lives, hiding Jews, in order to save them from being murdered by the authorities in power. The government in these cases is no longer functioning as God's instrument of justice to punish the wicked but as an instrument of evil. Here, in our country, today, the issues aren't (yet) always quite so clear.

    [/qb][/QUOTE]
    I often wonder what Christians in the U.S. would really do in such a situation. What if we had a gov't that required us to close the churches or be put in jail? Or abort after one child or die? How many believers would "resist?" [/QB][/QUOTE]

    Far fewer than we would hope, I'm afraid
     
  14. foureys

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    this is an interesting topic. read some of "fox's book of myrters". christains were put to death for reading the bible and for not joining the church. now thats an interesting one, would you become a catholic if it became law? Would you pay for someone elses abourtion if it was the law..... Well it is the law, you do pay for abortions, millions are taken from tax dollars to pay for abortion. So should christains stop paying taxes?
     
  15. Ancora Imparo

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    (I am such a 'newbie' I haven't yet learned how to use the forum's 'quote' features, icons, etc.!)

    I agree much of the civil disobedience in this country is 'symbolic'. However, I have heard of women who have been convinced to not have abortions by witnessing the efforts and sacrifices of those seeking so earnestly to turn them back. And sometimes symbolic acts are necessary in order to demonstrate the depths of depravity to which we have descended. The concentration camp survivor who was the first to kneel before the police officer (who was just following orders) requesting permission to bring a glass of water to Terri S. was a powerful symbol. One thing it pointed out was the fact that the judge had ruled that not only was her feeding tube to be removed but that she was not to have so much as a drop of water on her lips. There was much evidence that she could swallow--yet she was not to be given food or water.
    Anyway, I didn't mean to digress on Terri. The point is that the news shots of people being arrested for trying to give a dying woman water is a pretty powerful statement about the condition or our country--regardless of what was in the hearts and minds of those doing it. God also calls us to do what is right regardless of our chances of success and to point out evil regardless of whether or not anyone listens.
     
  16. Marcia

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    If you want to quote the whole post someone put up, click on the Quote button that is above the post on the far right and it will automatically bring up a post that includes that quote. Then you just respond below that.

    If you want to quote part of what someone says, highlight and copy what you want, then bring up the post as usual, then click on the Quote button that shows up at the bottom, two marks saying quote will come up and you copy and then paste what you want in between those marks using the Edit button or whatever you have on your computer. I had to play around with it a bit at first, too, since it was different than another forum where I post.

    You can break up someone's post, too. What I did here was hit quote on your post and the whole thing came up. Then I cut out part of your quote, hit the quote button below this post, and pasted the rest of the post into that so that I have your post in 3 parts.

    But one can protest without violating laws. Standing outside with tape over their mouths was very powerful and they were not violating any laws.

    I agree it was powerful but that is not our criteria for deciding how to do things. It was against the law to try take the water in and therefore was going against God's word (unless one though one could really save her with a cup of water, which one could not). We don't make the standards, God does. God called the early Christians to obey a sometimes ruthless, very pagan gov't. We think we have it bad here. Ha! It's nothing compared to what the early Christians dealt with. Their society was soaked in the worship of idols, despotic leaders, cruel punishments, etc. yet God clearly told them to obey and pray for the leaders and rulers. We are told the same thing. We don't get to decide to disobey God's word because we think that it is justified. That is like telling God he made a mistake in telling us to obey the rulers.
     
  17. StefanM

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    Just for a point of clarification--my post was in no way referring to the Terri Schiavo case. Heaven knows I want to go nowhere near the can of worms that lies in that issue.
     
  18. Ed Edwards

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    Ancora Imparo: "God also calls us to do what is right regardless of our chances of success and to point out evil regardless of whether or not anyone listens."

    Unfortunately, it is often good Christians that are
    lured into working for evil, while being told they
    are performing "God's will". In general,
    Christian Civil Disobedience is not Christian
    and not civil but is always disobedient.

    Ancora Imparo: "The concentration camp survivor who was the first to kneel before the police officer (who was just following orders) requesting permission to bring a glass of water to Terri S. was a powerful symbol."

    Yes, that is a powerful symbol. But a symbol of what?
    Did he know that the water would probably kill
    Terri, were she given it? And what kind of a symbol is
    the 10-year-old who brought a cup of killing water
    to the Hospice? What kind of a father allows his
    minor child to go to jail? Sounds like a symbol of
    child abuse to me.
     
  19. StefanM

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    I'm not saying that we should get out and be rebellious, but when in doubt, I'd go with action. In the judgment, I would rather say that I went to far in trying to do what I thought God would have me to do than to have to say that I didn't do enough.

    And, again, this does not refer to the Schiavo case.
     
  20. Ancora Imparo

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    Rome was a ruthless authority, but it did maintain law and order and even a harsh government is better at keeping wickedness under control than no government at all. But there is a difference between harsh and evil. Eventually Christians did have to disobey Roman law. When they refused to participate in the worship of Caesar they were considered in rebellion and thrown to the lions. (Revelations tells of a time when Christians will have to defy the laws of an evil government and will be killed or unable to buy or sell.)

    I don't believe that Romans 13 was addressing the problem of an evil government or edicts from evil rulers. It was addressing the problems of a harsh government, hated by many--but one which nevertheless was to be recognized as God's instrument of bringing 'punishment on the wrongdoer'v.4 At that time, their rulers 'held no terror for those who did right' v. 3 But that was not always to be the case. And has not always been the case at various times and places throughout history. Romans 13 tells us that we cannot disregard the law, be disrespectful, refuse to pay taxes, etc. simply because we don't like the laws or the government. It was addressed to the Romans at that particular time in history and does have some application for us today. But we have to look at the whole of scripture and God's overriding principals to determine what to do in individual circumstances.

    Again it's just not a simple issue. We are in agreement that there are times when we have to obey God rather than man--just not when that becomes necessary.
     

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