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No, Romans 13 Does Not Apply To COVID

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Published on: June 30, 2020

In the United States, we don’t have one government. We quite specifically have checks and balances between branches (examples include the checks and balances laid out in US Constitution, or through the seizure of judicial power that took place with Marbury v. Madison in 1803), checks and balances between state and federal (as stipulated in the Tenth Amendment), checks and balances between local and federal (through the existence of sheriffs, or with the existence of home rule communities), checks and balances between individuals and federal (as indicated by concepts such as jury unanimity or jury nullification, voting, civic participation, lobbying, civil disobedience, the right to redress of grievances in the First Amendment, the Second Amendment’s implicit threat from an armed citizenry, or even Thomas Jefferson’s November 13, 1787 letter to William Stephens Smith (https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/jefffed.html#105) in which he praises the tax protest commonly known as Shay’s Rebellion), and numerous other checks and balances.

For all of its messiness, that befuddling bureaucracy of conflict appears to be part of how our government was intended to operate.

A president would like you to believe that he is in charge, a congressman would like you to believe that his body is in charge, the courts the same, the governor the same, and yet others may say a cabal, a special interest group, or the deep state runs the whole operation. In reality, no one is in charge.

Governmental factions were intentionally established by the founding fathers to constantly battle against each other in a separation of powers. This is defense of freedoms by self-entangling bureaucracy. It is a reason that the utilitarian libertarian shibboleth of “efficiency” may reduce freedom. Unfortunately, that bureaucracy spends a lot of time cooperating to the detriment of the free man rather than fighting each other in the interest of greater liberty. This proves 233 years of critics accurate that the US Constitution has been used as an instrument of tyranny.

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An Excellent Analysis Of Romans 13 That Misses A Step As It Relates To Covid

As summarized by Bionic Mosquito in “A Reasoned Approach To Romans 13,” (https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/06/bionic-mosquito/a-reasoned-approach-to-romans-13/), RMB in “The Church and State in Romans 13,” (https://thecrosssectionrmb.blogspot.com/2020/06/the-church-and-state-in-romans-13.html) wonderfully covered the theological justification for obedience to government authority in Romans 13, adding to the many other wonderful writings from this spring that dismiss the compliant bootlicker reading of Romans 13. With the utmost respect to RMB and his excellent essay, an important detail has been overlooked.

My disagreement is not in his theological or philosophical treatment of the subject, but in the realm of civics. It is a disagreement in the process of what is proposed, because RMB skipped a step in his analysis, that renders Romans 13 unapplicable to the Covid response to date in the United States: he does not take into account the practical difficulty in achieving clarity around what edicts are official under this system that intentionally obfuscates the concept of authority. Only after that concept is achieved, can the excellent RMB reading of Romans 13 be applied.

In addition to some 25 other biblical references, RMB focuses on Romans 13:1-4, demonstrating

  1. We cannot read Romans 13 to reference the modern invention of the contemporary nation state. Authority means more than that.
  2. The Bible does not call for us to respect all government edicts.
  3. The rules implemented by authority must be legitimate.

Elusive Authority Renders Romans 13 Irrelevant

The amorphous “authority,” in the United States, include the above factions established as various checks and balances.

There is no single government in the United States and there is no single voice for the country. There are 1.) settled matters of consensus, 2.) contested matters of consensus, and 3.) matters on which no consensus exists.

This system of elusive authority renders Romans 13 irrelevant, until a settled consensus can be nailed down on a particular topic.

For all its flaws, the US Constitution, by design, makes that consensus hard to nail down. It makes the defining of authority nearly impossible.

RMB address this by asking what constitutes moral authority — that which is inline with the US Constitution, but he does not go far enough. To be in line with the Constitution is so amorphous a concept, even from a strict reading. RMB handles that with two other amorphous concepts — individual conscience and natural law — both useful despite their amorphous nature. There is no need to even push this issue though until a determination has been made about what Caesar is really saying.

Romans 13 Is A Text On Moral Obligations, Not A Guide To Civic Participation

Romans 13 says nothing about whether you may ask for an audience with Caesar to discuss an edict and to inform him of his edict’s unintended consequences. It says nothing about what to do if the courts don’t agree with the executive. It says nothing about what to do if the legislature doesn’t agree with the governor. It’s says nothing about what to do if the public health technocrat doesn’t agree with the ruling governor.

We do not have a Caesar in the year 2020 or any other clear unitary figure. We have a political class, many competing layers of government, and a population that has cooperative streaks and disobedient streaks, with varying claims to authority. Before shuttering their churches, the pastors did not even do the most basic work to make sure that the right hand of Caesar agreed with the left hand of Caesar.

I’m not suggesting rebellion, this is a far cry from that, to even think that some cowardly church leaders would do anything of the sort is preposterous — they did not even bother to bow to the almighty Caesar and ask for permission to make sure that all the parts of great Caesar’s government, source of temporal truth and authority were in agreement. They did not seek meetings with the governor. They did not seek meetings with the president. They did not seek meetings with judges (also known as lawsuits). They did not seek for all of these parties to get on the same page with each other. The duty of a responsible citizen in the United States is to exert some pressure on the system to bring about communication across these parts. The many parts of our adversarial system will barely communicate without some provoking.

RMB’s reading is suitable for an edict from a unitary king or a statement rooted in governmental consensus, but we have neither in the case of Covid-19.

Churches Didn’t Behave Pro-Actively Enough To Trigger Romans 13, They Merely Treated Press Releases As Gospel

Churches refused to provide the very minor level of resistance to figure out what the government was even officially saying. It simply accepted the press release of some relatively minor pettifogger with a government sinecure and elevated that to the official word of the United States of America or the official word of their state or their county, and then using the lens of Romans 13 effectively elevated that press release to the official word of God. Louis XIV said “I am the state.” Many local pastor said “The unsigned county press release is the state.”

When their country needed them to aid the government by applying some minor pressure, American clergy largely refused. They pretended that abrogating their civic duty, was the same as performing their civic duty. Even a bootlicking reading of Romans 13 calls on them to fulfill, this civic duty, for without it, there is often no way to know what authority is instructing you to do. Unfortunately for those who seek to be both a good citizen and a compliant human, the American system does not provide well for this. It requires pressure, often from the actions of individual citizens, to achieve consensus among the disparate branches. To be a compliant human is to fail as a good citizen.

Romans 13 is not instruction to sit on the sidelines. Romans 13 does not instruct a pastor to blindly follow the unsigned press release. A pastor, a church council, and the elders of a faith community are entrusted with protecting the church for their short time on this earth and passing on its teaching to the next generations.

After they have performed their civic duty of getting agreement from government, then they may do what RMB suggests, because until then, there is no official government edict to follow. Taking a press release from a minor pettifogger with a government sinecure, made into a false idol, and given far more loyalty than such a document could possibly deserve, is an error of many who so easily fall into the trap of seeing democracy as a god, to reference Hans Herman Hoppe.

The Romans 13 Test Was Not Triggered By Covid Response

To use the judicial parlance of our day, the test of Romans 13 is not even triggered until an authoritative government edict is determined. That determination takes some resistance to arrive at.

The pastor seeking to be obedient to the the governmental authority of our day must do the basic work of bringing the authorities in line with one another. The lazy compliance we have seen from some ecclesiastical bodies does not fulfill even their own reading of Romans 13, for it ignores the nature of American government.

I am grateful to RBM for providing an alternate reading of Romans 13.

Additional Concern: Interloping Misnomer

I have an additional point of contention on commentary from RMB: he is too generous about the public health industry.

To his strong benefit, RMB, criticizes the lockdown of a healthy population, but he also unfortunately justifies the role of government funded public health in this endeavor, writing:

“To be clear, there is no problem with the government educating people about pandemics. Government health organizations provide important services by presenting guidelines about how to minimize your exposure to the virus. The truth about disease outbreaks is impossible to understand without someone studying its every aspect and communicating it to the public. Even with basic education, people need someone with expertise and experience giving recommendations of action.”

Defund Public Health?

The public health field is a largely coopted field that has little do with health. The tyranical control this industry has held over the lives of individuals and families at the local level has gone largely unnoticed for decades by all aside from those who are most dearly affected by them. After a century of practice locally, in the public health field’s very first example of having both a voice and police power on the national stage — in the spring 2020 Covid-19 shutdown — it has utterly failed the public.

This outcome could have been predicted, by merely observing their past successes and failures at lower levels of government, for the field is dominated by Marxists dedicated to further Marxist influences and interventions in the economy and society. Its members constantly fail the public in their stated goals.

This function of government should be defunded immediately (https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/06/allan-stevo/public-health-is-another-term-for-marxism/) and public health officials involved in encouraging or participating in a lockdown should be removed from their positions and replaced with no one(https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/06/allan-stevo/the-resistance-thrives-8-succeses-against-corona-communism/) immediately, both for their role in advancing radical Marxism in the United States (https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/06/allan-stevo/public-health-is-another-term-for-marxism/) and their total lack of concern with analyzing available data (https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/06/allan-stevo/they-dont-care-about-the-data-and-they-never-have/).

This should be the unvarnished opinion of anyone seeking greater liberty in the United States and the world, for it has unquestionably been American influence that has so pushed these lockdowns globally.

Marxists brought economic ruin when put in charge. That’s one lesson of spring 2020 that shouldn’t have needed relearning.

Public Health At Odds With Health

The “public” in public health is a mere weasel word, much like the prefix “neo-“ in neo-conservative. It severely alters the original word, practically turning the newly formed term into an antonym of the original.

Doug Casey reflects this view well that activities done in the name of “public health” are fundamentally at odds with actual health in a piece entitled “How Fake Science Is Used As Propaganda.” (https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/06/doug-casey/doug-casey-on-how-fake-science-is-used-as-propaganda/ )

“Another important thing about COVID is that they call it a ‘health crisis.’

“That’s untrue for several reasons. First, health is something that you take care of yourself. It’s personal, not public. As wonderful and as advanced as medicine has become, it’s of little use for maintaining your health.

“You maintain your health through proper diet, exercise, and good habits. Medicine is about repairing damage if you have a serious injury or illness. It overlaps, obviously, but is essentially very different from health care.

“Anyway, COVID has been dressed up as an excuse to not just destroy the economy, but in many ways, destroy society itself. Similar to global warming, Keynesianism, Marxism, and other forms of scientism.”

To Be Clear, Public Health Is A Huge Problem

Contrary to RMB’s statement “To be clear, there is no problem with the government educating people about pandemics,” there is every problem with this most extreme element in government (https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/06/allan-stevo/public-health-is-another-term-for-marxism/ waging a fear campaign intended to shut down the economy in the name of public health, with little concern for the actual data behind this decision (https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/06/allan-stevo/they-dont-care-about-the-data-and-they-never-have/), data that has repeatedly shown the lockdowns to be among the very worst possible approaches to handling Covid-19.

This data was available and abundant prior to March 2020, and voices pointing to this data were widely silenced by government, tech firms, media, academia, and professional journals (https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/06/allan-stevo/they-dont-care-about-the-data-and-they-never-have/). Just as some people have no interested in an honest reading of the data, they have no interest in an honest reading of Romans 13. They offer selective data interpretation and selective scriptural interpretation as cynical platitudes to the sincere inquisitor. These efforts did not take place in good faith, and no attempt to paint them as good faith efforts should be presented.

This is not conspiratorial paranoia about the Marxist takeover of society, this is evident from reading the radical nature of the mainstream journals and thought leaders of the public health field (https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/06/allan-stevo/public-health-is-another-term-for-marxism/). I believe RMB’s sentiments on this topic do not reflect the same careful and thorough research of the matter that he dedicated to the theology and natural law philosophy of the topic.

To recap:

1.) Press releases don’t trigger Romans 13.

2.) Public health must be defunded.

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