Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Politically Most Dangerous Verses of the Christian Bible (New Testament)

Romans 13:1-7
"(1) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.
(2) Therefore, whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
(3) For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval;
(4) for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.
(5) Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but because of conscience. (6) For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 
(7) Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due."

Throughout history, it is first and foremost this authoritarian pamphlet in St. Paul's letters to the Romans that justified the organized Christian religion to try to align with any regime regardless of how stupid, cruel or inhumane. But don't get fooled by the term 'organized religion'. The basis for this unconditional authoritarian thinking is written down explicitly in the "holy text" and holds for the ordinary believer as well. It cannot just be interpreted away, especially if you think of the apostles being "inspired by the holy spirit" and therefore speaking the truth, and their Messiah's somewhat indifferent answer to the question if you ought to pay taxes to the oppressive occupier of your country: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." It is thus open to every fundamentalist to take these verses literally as moral justification for convincing the people to slavishly obey any political power of the day, for this power is appointed by God. Independent of the ways various rulers come to power - let it be democratic elections or coups d'etats, Christians may not resist but ought to pay taxes and revenues, show respect and honor, and try to receive approval from the authorities (and btw, this also holds for the present US president, Mr. Obama: do everything to receive his approval, folks!).

Throughout history they tried to align, even with the most detestable rulers, and as soon as circumstances allowed, Christians tried to get in power themselves. Those rare cases when some local branches of a Christian church opposed injust governments, were brutally rebuked by higher church officials. For example, Liberation Theology during the nineteen sixties and seventies in South-America was not supported by the Vatican but finally wiped off the table by today's Pope Ratzinger in his critique "Libertatis nuntius", 1984, where he denounced proponents of the fight against (US-backed) dictatorships and the terror of land-owners as Marxists (a  typical straw man argument and killer phrase). It is eye-opening to read the document, probably the best theological justification for Romans 13:1-7 on the market: the basic argument against Liberation Theology consists in the distinction between the Messiah's promise of liberation from "original sin" on the one hand, and the liberation from "servitude of an earthly and temporal kind" on the other hand. Consequently, the enslaved and tortured should first try to convert the rulers to obey Christian laws, then the rest (just and humane government) would follow automatically. Ratzinger didn't even mention the killed priests, he just joined the people who ordered these assassinations by defaming the priests as Marxists. (E.g. Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador had been killed on 24 March 1980 while celebrating Mass, and he could have hardly been viewed as Marxist.)

On the other hand, St. Paul's verses have frequently motivated regimes to align with Christian churches, and still they are doing. In the USA, every presidential candidate must seek support of Christian organisations in order to be electable, and in Putin's Russia the growing influence of the Orthodox Church is frightening. Russian political commentators often justify this move by the old Machiavellian view of religion: stupid but useful for rulers. Romans 13:1-7 provides the basis for such a mindset. During the Tsarist Era, the Russian Orthodox church enjoyed its privileges granted by the Russian aristocratic rulers. This ended abruptly after the rise of the Bolsheviks and Stalin. But as soon as Stalin was under attack by Nazi Germany, the dictator invited the Orthodox back to bed and table and the priests accepted immediately. The involvement of the Vatican with Hitler's regime is widely known. The Roman Catholic church was one of those who helped Hitler to come into power. In fact, the Reichskonkordat (1933) was one of Hitler's first success stories, "ensuring that the catholics from now on will unreservedly support the Nazi state". Hardly anybody knows that this treaty of shame is still in force today! According to Romans 13:1-7 the authority of Hitler and Stalin was from God and God established their terror regimes (and all the others). They were not a terror for good conduct, but to bad. If you have done good, you have received their approval. Don't you know that Hitler, Stalin, Cesar, Mao, Franco, Pinochet, Idi Amin, Ceausescu, ... they were all good for you? Because they were servants of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoers ... Well, if this is not highly dangerous nonsense, what else is?


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