Wednesday, February 6, 2013

We Must Obey God Rather Than Men

I have often argued that the Church must refrain from seeking to influence government through the political process.  Perhaps I should make myself a little clearer.

Too often, in the U.S. particular Christian movements have become aligned with political parties.  The Religious Right cozies up to the Republican Party.  The Religious Left closely associates itself with the Democrats.  I've had pastors and other Christians repeatedly point out how one party is closer to following Christ than the other.  It is what it is, but I, frankly am quite uncomfortable with such coziness. 

When one throws one's support fully behind a political movement, it becomes very hard to criticize that movement or things the movement chooses to do.  It is better, in my estimation, to be politically neutral when it comes to support of one political party versus another so that one has the freedom to call a spade a spade and confront injustice wherever it may arise.

Case in point.  Several years ago, I went off on the government's installation of full body scanners in airports.  I argued then, as I argue now, this is an invasion of privacy and lessens the dignity of human beings by allowing someone to essentially view them naked without any probable cause or without their consent.  Such things began in 2007 under the Bush Administration--a Republican administration, and I was under no compulsion to support this measure just because of party affiliation.

Today, I raise my voice (or, at least my blog) in opposition to something that came out yesterday in the news.  The current administration released a memo outlining why it believes it is legal, moral, and right for them to kill American citizens with drone strikes without due process.  I read a very good expose on the memo in The Guardian--a British newspaper of all things!

Essentially, the President and his inner circle become judge, jury, and executioner without presenting evidence to anyone but themselves.  They have already used this power to kill three Americans including a 16 year old boy

I have only heard one other clergy other than myself condemn this memo.  Not a single other has raised any sort of opposition to it, and I can't help but wonder if it is because so many of my fellow clergy, at least in the ELCA supported President Obama and the Democrats with zeal and gusto in the last two elections?

The idea that an American citizen can be killed without due process is very disturbing.  The idea that the justification for the killing is an assumed relationship to Al Qaida or another like organization even if the person is not actively involved in combat but MAY, mind you, MAY be planning attacks against America, is disturbing.  There is an awful lot of leeway in such commentary.  Leeway the Guardian article articulates very, very well.

Now, I do not believe our U.S. government is Christian by any stretch of the imagination.  It hasn't been for quite some time even if the basis of our laws in the U.S. are founded upon Christian principles.  To go after the U.S. government for not acting in a Christian fashion is ludicrous.  But my Christian faith will not allow me to let this slide by without some sort of commentary. 

We know that absolute power corrupts.  We also know that absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The ultimate power this side of heaven is to decide whether or not to take someone's life.  This memo grants such absolute power to a small group of people who are heavily guarded and who answer to no one. 

Is anyone else disturbed by this?  Is anyone else disturbed by this seizure of power? 

I'm calling this one as I see it: It's wrong.  Period.  I can't support it even a little bit.  Not that I can do much, but I will join my voice with any other who seeks to put restrictions on this power including taking it away.

Government has a job to do, and it's authority comes from God.  But when government abuses its authority and does things which are contrary to God's will, we in the Church have an obligation to say, "No."  Or as St. Peter once put it, "We must obey God rather than any human authority."  (Acts 5:29)


Anonymous said...

The 'memo' is a result of what happens when American freedom crashes head first into American security. At some point Americans are going to have to decide which one is more important to we as a people. Until then, policy changes like this will continue. If George Bush would have proposed such a measure prior to 911, the entire country, particularly the media would have gone stark raving nuts. Today, not so much. Sadly, most Americans have decidedly come to grips with the fact that many of our liberties must be sacrificed for our own protection. So when told that an airliner carrying a dirty bomb is heading toward NYC while being flown by an American citizen who's an Al-Qaeda sympathizer, every single one of those Americans would respond by saying...'Shoot it down before it gets there...due process de damned.' Which is why very few are reacting to the memo i.e. we don't really have a choice now do we.

Kevin Haug said...

Thank you for commenting, and I agree with just about everything in your post save one thing:

If an American citizen who was an Al-Qaeda sympathizer, were in the act of flying an airplane loaded with fuel into a building, the responsible thing would be to shoot it down without due process. This is the same reason police officers can shoot someone who is threatening another person or a swat team can raid a bunker, kill a kidnapper, and rescue a child.

What is very bothersome about the memo is the thought an American citizen can be killed for planning something even though there may or may not be evidence of said planning.

I personally choose freedom over safety and would rather allow people to be responsible for their own safety without encroaching upon freedom.

Anonymous said...

How can someone be responsible for their own safety when a majority of the time your safety is out of your control? Go sell that to families of the 911 victims or the families of the Murrah Federal Building bombing in OK. City. Not to mention the mother of a child killed by a drunk driver. All responsible people who perished when their safety was totally out of their control. Which leads me to the point of my previous comment that you missed. In present day, we have to sacrifice many of our freedoms to protect the innocent, especially our children. 19 children under the age of 6 were killed by Timothy McVeigh, along with 149 others.
Every time you get in a car, a plane, ride your bike or walk the street, you put your life in the hand of others. As for the memo, it's not the first and will not be the last. Presidents throughout history have expanded their powers to do things many of us don't or can't agree with. The ethical justification for using atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are debated to this day. The truth is, we have people living amongst us who want to kill us. They enjoy the opportunities that America provides yet they hate America and her people at the same time. Many of them are doctors and engineers who work along side us by day and plot against us by night. And because of that, we get scanned at every ball game, remove our shoes and surrender our handbags at airport check points, etc. All because our freedom is out of our control. It's the cost of freedoms to protect our ultimate freedom to live in America. And if my gov't feels the potential need to take out someone who MAY or MAY NOT be a threat to our security, imminent or not...then we have to do what is needed. Our security officials have to get it right 100% of the time...evil only has to get it right once. Security is not absolute nor is it perfect. Mistakes are made. School officials at Sandy Hook made the mistake of thinking a front door security system would protect their children. My guess is they're rethinking that today. This isn't our grandfather's world anymore. Yet to hear some of the crazies talk regarding the 'memo', we'll be sending drones to take out grandmas in nursing homes any day now.

Kevin Haug said...

Thank you again for responding.

I agree with you that a lot of the time our safety is out of our control. We are left at the whims of other people and at the whims of nature. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere are we 100% safe. You acknoweldge this.

And I agree with you that there are people living among us who want to kill us. But is it justified to become like them and willing to kill without proof since they may or may not be planning something? Is it justifyable to kill someone because they may be associated with a perceived terrorist group even though that person has done nothing illegal? Do you kill someone because you suspect them of wanting to harm you or your family? This is a very, very dangerous precedent.

In my opinion, safety has become our God in the U.S., and I do not believe that the ultimate freedom is to live in our country. People flocked to our nation because they had freedom within it--freedom to live and move and breathe without someone hovering over them, searching through their shoes and other items without probable cause, etc. That is why our founding father's produced the Bill of Rights. I do not believe that freedom is run amok. I believe that we are not willing to pay the price for that freedom any longer. Instead, we clamor for safety, security, to be free from pain and suffering.

Somewhere there is a balance to freedom and security, but one cannot have both totally. I believe the pendulum is swinging much too far toward the safety side.

Anonymous said...

'I believe that we are not willing to pay the price for that freedom any longer.' Really? Man are you out of touch. You have never served your country in the armed services, have you? That's an easy guess on my part. You know why? No veteran would ever make a foolish statement like that who has ever served our country. Maybe you need to take a trip to Walter Reed to see our own who have sacrificed everything for you and your family. Arms missing, legs missing....many have neither left. While you're up in the area, maybe you should take a walk thru Arlington National Cemetery. Wake up, Son. It's cowards like you who sat at home when many others your own age sacrificed all they had to give that speaks volumes as to why we are in the shape we are in today. The country cow manure has gone to your brain. Texas Monthly is right. You're perfect proof that we cannnot fix stupid.

Kevin Haug said...

Name calling isn't exactly a way to get anywhere, and in the spirit of Matthew 18, I am calling you on it. You have called me a coward and stupid without provocation or reason or allowing me to even explain what I meant by my comment. This is sinful behavior on your part toward me. Please repent lest this rest on your head.

When I said "we are not willing to pay the price," I meant it referring to our society. It had nothing to do with our military personnel. I have the highest respect for those men and women who serve including many men and women who are in my congregation. A couple in particular might take you behind the woodshed for your comments on this blog.

I never served in the military because I listened to my grandfather who served in WWII and saw more than he cared to see. He steered his children and grandchildren away from service because he didn't want them having the PTS and other such things that soldiers who served in combat experience. If I didn't serve it's because I trusted my grandfather's judgment.

Now, onto my comment: I stand by it. Our military men and women are willing to lay their lives on the line, but tell me what happened with each military death. Did politicians and others consider those deaths a sacrifice for freedom or did they use those deaths as a political tool to bash one another? Did support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan maintain a high level, or did people grow weary of it even though we were engaging terrorists in both places? Are people willing to take risks and combat terrorists themselves, even within our borders, or do they want someone else to take care of the problem?

I think if you are honest with yourself and answer these questions honestly, you will see that our society had and has little stomach for truly doing what it takes to pay the price for freedom. Imagine the cry now if people had to deal with the death toll of a D-Day invasion. Imagine their outcry and the politicizing those deaths. It's really sad in my estimation that such things are used to gain political points instead of honoring those who gave their lives.