Televangelist Paula White sent a clear message to all Christians during a recent interview with right-wing Pastor Jim Bakker. Speaking of President Trump, she said:
“And they even say about our president: ‘Well, he’s not presidential.’ Thank goodness, thank goodness, thank goodness! And I mean that with all due respect because, in other words, he’s not a polished politician. In other words, he’s authentically — whether people like him or not — has been raised up by God because God says that He raises up and places all people in places of authority. It is God that raises up a king, it is God that sets one down and so when you fight against the plan of God, you’re fighting against the hand of God.”
Christians, this is not the time to listen to Paula White.
World renowned theologian John Stott wrote about the “authority of the state” and civil disobedience in chapter 12 of his book The Cross of Christ. Essentially, Stott agrees with Romans chapter 13 (and, dare I say, Paula White) that all authority comes from God. But Stott also acknowledges that there is a complexity to Romans’ treatment of authority that bears significance for concepts of civil disobedience.
In Romans 3 and 4 it says that those given authority are given that authority to do the justice work of God. However, this criterion for God-given authority is often overlooked. We’re used to defining authority simply by degree of influence. It seems we’ve lost the basic ability to discern when an authority figure is actually doing the justice work of God, acting as a servant for our good, “holding terror” for those who do wrong.
Therefore, when governmental authority doesn’t do the justice work of God, John Stott argues that we must hold them accountable.
“So, what should Christians do if the state misuses its God-given authority, perverts its God-given ministry and begins to promote evil and punish good? What if it ceases to be God’s minister and becomes the devil’s, persecutes the church instead of protecting it, and exercises a malevolent authority derived not from God but from the dragon (Rev. 13)? What then? We reply that Christians should still respect an evil state, much as children should respect bad parents, but meek submission is not required of them. The apostle gives no encouragement to totalitarian rule. We have a duty to criticize and protest, agitate and demonstrate, and even (in extreme situations) resist to the point of law-breaking disobedience. Civil disobedience is, in fact, a biblical concept honoured particularly by Daniel and his friends in the Old Testament and by the apostles Peter and John in the New. The principle is clear. Since the state’s authority has been given it by God, we must submit right up to the point where to obey the state would be to disobey God. At that point, if the state commands what God forbids, or forbids what God commands, we disobey the state in order to obey God. ”
Take, for example, Moses’s stand against Pharaoh. Or what about the Prophets and their constant admonishment of delinquent authority in the Old Testament? Those are just a couple of examples of God’s people holding authority accountable for a failure to love mercy, do Justice and walk humbly before God (Micah 6:8).
Indeed, Romans 13:2 warns us that if we rebel against any authority, the judgment of God will be upon us. But there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, walking in His example, upholding the Truth of His Spirit.
I look forward to the day when I can confidently approach Christ’s throne and say, “Lord, I did not support my president’s policies because he sanctioned terror for those who do right and failed to punish those who do wrong (Romans 13:3). He called evil “good” and put light for darkness (Isaiah 5:20). He turned his back on the afflicted, he neglected to crush the oppressors of our day (Psalm 72:4). Yes, I did everything I could to obey You rather than men; to nonviolently encourage Trump to do justice or to replace him with someone who would.”
I don’t fear declaring these things before Jesus Christ on the Day of Judgment and I don’t think any Christian should.
What You Can Do
- The best way to resist Trump is to pray for a change in his character and leadership behavior. Join me in doing just that by frequently reading Psalm 72 out loud as an earnest prayer.
- If you’re a thinker by nature and you’d like to read more about how to conceptualize nonviolent resistance behavior, here’s a helpful article published by the New York Times.
- If you’re in a more practical state of mind and you’d like to actively join the Trump resistance, The Guardian has published a great piece on accessible means of civil disobedience.