Dr. David R. Brockman, a religious studies scholar and adjunct lecturer at TCU (Texas Christian University), has a good take in the always good (and yes, ever-liberal) Texas Observer about how political conservatives twist Paul’s words in Romans 13 to justify what I would describe as their government sins.
“When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome, he probably had no idea that one small section of it, Romans 13:1-5, would become the go-to biblical passage for right-wing politicians in the distant land of Texas in 2000 years or so.
“But in recent months, conservative politicians have dusted off this passage for a mind-boggling range of purposes: fending off criticism, complaining about undocumented immigrants, even attacking the current Texas House speaker, Joe Straus. And some of these uses — or perhaps misuses — might surprise the apostle himself.”
Brockman goes on to detail examples of the awful stuff that conservatives in Texas government have done, twisting Romans 13 as justification. Paul opens the chapter by saying:
“Let everyone be subject to governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
(I suppose that means that the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, along with those of Reagan and the Bushes–were “established by God.” But of course, conservatives don’t interpret it quite that way. Especially Tea Party officeholders, who hate governing authorities except when they are the governing authorities. But I digress.)
I invite you to read Brockman’s Observer piece, “How Texas Politicians Bungle the Bible,” by clicking here.
I mean, when did you ever hear a politician in Texas quote Romans 12:16-17:
“Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.”
Associate with the lowly? Don’t repay evil? Those are words that no Tea Party Republican is likely to quote, much less to live by.
When did you ever hear a conservative Texas officeholder quote a scripture that some Christians see as argument enough against the death penalty:
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 13 has to be read as an extension of Romans 12.
Lord deliver us from those who use the Bible as a political whip.
*David R. Brockman, Ph.D., a religious studies scholar and Christian theologian, is an adjunct lecturer in religion at Texas Christian University. He is the author of Dialectical Democracy through Christian Thought: Individualism, Relationalism, and American Politics.