Friday, September 20, 2013

Ye Shall Be as Gods

Come, come, Mr. Cohen,
You can’t blame the government for all your problems!
Auschwitz isn’t the Ritz, but
You’ve gotta admit that
It could be a lot worse!
I’ve lost a lot of friends over the last few years; the issue seems to be that I’m always turning the conversation to government evil. “We live in a fallen world,” I’m told. “Nobody’s perfect. Not even you.” (I’d say especially not me, but maybe they’re being polite.) I’ve noticed that it seems to be rare for other people’s conversations that deal with hardship to avoid coming around to complaints about government misdeeds, but then I get in trouble for suggesting that the government they are complaining about is the source of the problem.
It’s as though the problem with the world is sin, but somehow the government doesn’t sin—the sin is always somewhere else, not in the government. If the trouble with the world—if the reason the world is fallen—is sin, is there reason to believe that government and sin are closely related?
The promise with which Satan tempted our first parents was, “Ye shall be as gods [KJV; most versions as God].” In other words, “You won’t have to play by the rules God has set for ordinary people.” The biggest lie is that we can be more than just a creature and stand above the rest of humanity; the biggest sin is believing it and acting on it. (As the old joke goes, “Everyone wants to be an exception. Except me.”) I see this as the root of my own sins, and it seems to be the root of others’ sins: I do things that hurt others because for some reason I think I have the right to. But I’m not alone in this: would a man rape his date, or embezzle from his employer, or, as happened in Washington this week, open fire on a group of strangers if he didn’t think he somehow had a right to do it?
To believe in government is to believe that some people have the right to take others’ property, to tell those others what they must do, what they may do, and what they may not do, and even to kill those who do not submit.
Is there nothing in your view of human nature that tells you that people who have extraordinary rights and privileges will take advantage of them? that if everyone believes that it is right for some to take the property and liberty of others that they will do so? If you tell everyone that government is legitimate, and you give the government the power to carry out its dictates, then isn’t it “doin’ what comes naturally” for those who have thus become as gods to use that power for their own advantage at the expense of their neighbors? Is it unreasonable to assume that the more power such “gods” have, the more they will affect their neighbors’ lives, the more damage they will do, and the more likely it is that almost any given evil can be traced to them?
Though there has never been as much food per person on the planet as there is now, thousands of people will starve to death today. The same number will starve tomorrow and the next day. Most will go from a horrendous earthly existence to unspeakable eternal torment. Why is this? Is it unreasonable to suggest that we look first at the “gods” who control the earth’s people and resources? Could it be that the more the oppressed associate the church of Jesus Christ with those “gods,” the less they will be inclined to listen to the Good News?
I would suggest that if we are to let our lights shine so that people will see our good deeds and glorify our Father in Heaven (and thus escape eternal torment, and hopefully the horrors of starvation), we need to debunk the legitimacy of the “gods” and turn our allegiance only to the true God.
We can begin by looking in the Bible at the men God specifically appoints as rulers: Pharaoh, Saul son of Kish, David (specifically his “godly” treatment of Uriah the Hittite), Nebuchadnezzar, and the Beast of Revelation. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that.”
“God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s support.” Maybe the reason the wealthiest, most theologically educated and equipped-with-Bibles-and-other-resources group of Christians the world has ever seen—American evangelicals—has lost the war for the culture of its society is that it has used Romans 13 as a warrant for partaking of Satan’s fruit.