Romans 13 and National Defense
by Laurence M. Vance
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. (Romans 13:1-5)
Christian apologists for the state, its leaders (when they are Republicans), its military, its spy agencies, and especially its wars (and especially when they are started by Republicans) sometimes refer to the above passage from the Book of Romans as if it somehow justifies their blind nationalism, their cheerleading for the Republican Party, their childish devotion to the military, their acceptance of national-security state, and their support for perpetual war.
There is no greater abuse of this passage than when it is applied to national defense. I have come across two examples of this recently.
The first is from an exchange between a readers of my columns and his theologian friend. Earlier this year, when the United States had just begun its military adventure in Libya, a reader informed me of a conversation with a friend who happened to be a theologian and seminary professor. Said professor posted something on Facebook about Libya and how Obama the evil Democrat wouldn’t hesitate to use force on Americans if they tried to institute a new government like the Libyans. My reader agreed, but then added: “So would Bush. Statism knows no party.” The response of the theologian was simply: “Governments have a God-given right to defend themselves. Romans.”