As I promised in my most recent post here on Black Trinitarian Theology, I would like to briefly explain my recent political conversion. In case you did not know, I am well read in Liberationist, Womanist, and Black theologies. It was less than two years ago that I was able with a professor at Brite to attend GoingGlobal: Interfaith Journeys on the Road to Liberation, An International Conference at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. During one particular session, one of the lecturers asked all the members of the audience to stand up if they were Marxist/and/or Socialist. There was only one person “maverick” enough to remain sitting, and that was me. In spite of all of the Marxist criticism of society I learned in high school and college, something inside of me just cannot see anything good about government coerced economic redistribution. During my undergrad days, it would seem like I would get into an argument with the small group of libertarians on campus from time to time. I had considered myself a third way, pro-life Democrat until recently, after seeing pro-life Democrat Senator Bob Casey Jr. throw his support behind then Senator Barack Obama last spring and then now hearing that supposedly moderate Bill Clinton supported the (un)Fairness Doctrine. My undergraduate days were filled with attempts to save the world, like participating in TCU Peace Action or Frogs for Fair trade. I do not regret these stances; I still believe in fair trade (free and fair) and I still oppose the concept of war. Yet, never had I given consideration to the non-interventionist case against warmongering, as the Founding Fathers preferred. I was able to listen to the audiobook of Congressman Dr. Ron Paul’s The Revolution. Although I disagree with Paul on a couple of other issues, my foundational stances (anti-abortion, anti-death penalty, anti-war) were much like his views.
Most importantly, however, I kept coming back to the stories of the Judges of the Hebrew Bible. Judges 9 has become my favorite parable in the Bible because it refers to the futility of a human monarch rule over a free nation. After the death of Moses and prior to the reign of King Saul, Israel was governed by a kritocracy, or simply, the rule of judges. Time and again in the book of Judges, bad things happen to Israel because every person does what they want due to the fact that there is no king (17:6; 21:25). Now some scholars choose to interpret these passages as implying the necessity of monarchy. However, I disagree and would argue that the author is making a theological point where YHWH, King of the universe continues to be displaced by the Israelites who prefer to live in idolatry. That would mean that I no longer have to view the anointing of King Saul as a positive event (as I once did as a Bible thumping third-grader), but rather as something that Samuel, and therefore the LORD, regrets doing (1st Samuel 10:17-19). Samuel, although ordaining Saul as Israel’s first monarch, is making some rather serious charges against Israel, the crime of apostasy. The Babylonian exile, in my understanding, is a punishment that is incurred because Israel’s constant rejection of the one true Sovereign of creation (see Ezekiel 1-2).
The message of the divine drama found in the book of Judges is unambiguous: government is necessary (hence the role of the judges) but only God has the divine right to exist as king. Many people on both sides of the aisle compare the president to Caesar; even though we may not like whoever is president of the country now, passages in Romans 12 & 13, along with 1st Peter 2:17 require that faithful Christ followers passively submit to all government authorities. I plan in an upcoming post to refute that argument by making a clear distinction between ancient Rome and 18 century early North America (after the American Revolution. For now, all I can say is that I am more committed to less intervention by any of the three branches of the federal government in favor of the Old Testament vision of universal self-governance where EVERY person will sit under her/his own fig tree and no one will be afraid, for the LORD would have spoken (Micah 4:4).