“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent, fair application of law is in itself a good and moral thing and that protects the weak; it protects the lawful. Our policies that can result in short-term separation of families are not unusual or unjustified.” As quoted by Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States
The Attorney General of the United States this last week used Paul’s Letter to the Romans to defend current Trump Administration policies dealing with the separation of families under arrest/detention and accused of unlawful entry into the United States.
A short pause
To digress a moment, Mr. Trump says the problem is not his Administration but the Democrats. No, Mr. Trump, the Democrats are not the problem. There is nothing in current American laws which mandates the separation of families in these immigration cases. The problem is policy, not laws.
Also, I will take a short moment to remind us all that the Republican Party controls both Houses of Congress and can quickly pass, if it so desired, a single sentence law something like: In no case shall families with children be separated while being held in detention and undergoing legal proceedings regarding illegal immigration into the United States.
This would only require a simple majority vote of both Houses and a speedy signature by the American (Republican) President. In fact, I believe that such a vote would carry 100% “For” votes by both the House and Senate. Things could then proceed without this moral posturing by both sides of the immigration debate.
Paul and Rome
Political conditions in the 1st Century of the Common or Christian Era.
Paul, or Saul, was a child of his times (as are we all of our own). He was a Roman Citizen. The Roman Empire was the largest and strongest of the social/political entities existing in the Western world two millennia ago.
The Empire covered a geographic area comparable to the contiguous forty-eight United States and had a population of somewhere around a hundred million people.
Of these hundred million people somewhere between forty and sixty million of them were slaves — yes, slaves. They had no political rights and could be bought, sold, abandoned or manumitted at any time.
Those who were big and strong worked their lives away in the fields of the latifundia. Comely children, boys and girls, were sold to brothels or to wealthy men and women for their personal use and as house servants.
I will remind you that the Roman Republic was never in our modern sense a republic. That is, it was not a representative democracy. It was a plutocratic/oligarchic dictatorship — of, by and for the rich. In those instances where the Equestrian or Senatorial classes needed to placate the lower classes, the plebes, they did so through “bread and circuses” and the buying of their votes.
Those of the lower classes who were elevated to protect the “rights” of those lower classes became, for practical purposes, members of the upper order.
The Roman Empire was an Empire. It was built and maintained through the use of military force. Millions of people, soldiers and civilians, men, women and children, were killed in its wars. The defeated were sold into slavery. Many were dispossessed of their lands, according to the political, military or economic needs of their conquerors. Might made right; terror was a weapon.
In defense of order
Paul, a Roman citizen, at one time persecuted/prosecuted those who followed the teachings of the followers of Jesus. He enforced the rule of law as he saw it — the law of the Caesars and Caesar’s appointed governors.
After the “miracle” restoration of his eyesight and “conversion,” Paul also began following the teachings of Jesus’ followers. And, through his writings urged people to follow the “rule of law.”
For practical purposes, at least to my mind, he said that people should obey a corrupt military dictatorship because that was the government given to them by God — WHY?
Why? Because Paul thought that the government of the Caesars was the legitimate government ordained by the gods — or God, depending on your point of view.
Possibly, after all he was a child of his times.
Or, possibly, he was just a realist.
There was no way that a group of poor, unarmed civilians and slaves was going to overthrow the might of the Roman Empire. To attempt to do so would lead to slaughter. While the Roman armies of the times suffered setbacks and defeats, they were sufficient to the policing of the Empire and protecting of its external borders. Augustus/Octavian had reduced the army’s size (and hit on the budget), but during the Pax Romana (Roman Peace — 27 BCE to CE 180) nothing stood against it.
As I see it, child of the times as I am — “Question authority!” — one can look on Romans 13 in one of two ways:
One: Paul truly believed that the government of the Caesars was instituted by the will of God and that people should obey all of its laws and strictures. This despite, to our modern minds, its corruption, immorality, lack of concern for much (most) of its population and dependence on coercion and slavery.
Two: Paul, knowing full well the power of the Caesars and that those to whom he was preaching were powerless, wanted to protect them and he, therefore, told them to be quiet, keep their heads down and obey the law. This in the same tone where Jesus, according to the Bible, told people to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s and unto God what was God’s.
I wonder — was Jesus a child of His time and truly believe that the military dictatorship of the Caesars was the rightful government decreed by God or was He just being practical?
Which brings me back to AGOTUS Jeff Sessions. Does he believe that Paul in his letter to the Romans 13 really means that people should obey the laws because the government was put there by God (even being a corrupt military dictatorship). And, that that applies to us? Today?
I believe that any American government official who believes, like Jeff Sessions, that we all must obey the government because God put it there should be fired. He, or she, does not belong.
We created the United States because we believed that the current — of that time — government was destructive of our needs, wants and rights. People, not God, created government(s) and it is their right to change them.
We cannot use a quote from a first century Roman citizen to justify the, in my humble opinion, immoral actions of our twenty-first government.
Whether you consider Mr. Trump to be the Savior, Anti-Christ or just The Mule in regards to American government in the highly toxic political climate of 21st century America, it is immoral, or so I believe in this day and age, to separate children and parents by the hundreds and thousands. And, separating a nursing baby from its mother?
Assuming the actual existence of the God Jeff Sessions says he believes in, I would like to be a fly on the wall when God questions him at his last judgement: “A baby, Jeff, a baby? How can you justify taking a nursing baby away from its mother by saying I OK’d it? I, God, am to blame?”
Romans 13:1-7 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
13 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
Romans 13 has a long history with regard to revolution and oppression.
Both sides, Loyalists and Patriots, used it to defend their positions during the American Revolutionary period.
Martin Luther used it to defend his position in putting down violent peasant uprisings in the 1520s.
Pro-slavery forces used it to defend the fugitive slave acts in 18th and 19th century America.
Adolph Hitler used it to defend his repression of opponents in the 1930s Germany.
Go to your favorite Search Engine and type in: Romans 13 and whoever or whatever you wish to research. Some of the articles and sites are well-researched and written. And others, I have found, are just pure junk. Decide for yourself.
“They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
– Reverend Martin Niemoller, Lutheran Pastor arrested by the Gestapo in 1937
“They came first for the illegal immigrants,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an illegal immigrant. . . .”
“There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”
Ivanka Trump — Out of context but food for thought.