Thursday, August 14, 2008

When is it okay to revolt?


You say you’ve surprised at my advocacy of violent revolution as an acceptable practice. But as an American don’t you believe that our revolution against the British was acceptable? Our founding fathers were very conscious of the danger of tyranny and included several safeguards against one developing in this country. In reading the lore about the Second Amendment, we find that we are to retain our arms so that among other possibilities, we can overthrow a tyrant should one manage to gain control of our country. Even when our revolution occurred there was resistance. Not everyone was for it, but we, those of us who didn’t remain loyal, had tried over a long period of time to gain fair treatment and finally as a last resort opted for independence through revolution. When an oppressor leaves an oppressed people no recourse then he shouldn’t be surprised at a revolution.

As to the blacks, their war was the Civil War. Their freedom was assured by law. But in the South powerful forces resisted the law of the land. The North fought to free the slaves (not the North’s only reason for fighting the war but definitely one of the reasons) during the civil war and was willing to force the South to obey the law once sufficient attention was drawn to the plight of the blacks.

I don’t think revolution should be anyone’s first choice, but our forefathers refused to buckle under to a tyrant and we fought two challenges to Liberal-Democracy in the 20th century, Fascism and Communism, because we believe that no one should have to endure a tyrant. I wouldn’t say I resonate with the Liberation Theologists, but I’m not willing to tell the Latin Americans that they don’t need to revolt against the Latifundio, just because we are all done with our revolutions.

You give an example of armed resistance in America, but armed resistance isn’t necessary in any Liberal-Democracy. The nature of this form of society and government is that you can vote your wishes into law. What sort of injustice do you imagine would (in the mind of any large group) require armed resistance? There have been some red-necked militiamen who believed some conspiracy theories and were ready to apply their 2nd amendment rights and depose our present government, but these guys were small in number and nuttier than fruit cakes.

Liberal-Democracies don’t go to war with each other and they discourage tyrants from assuming power.

Tyrannies oppress, but Liberal Democracies are not tyrannies. The inequities that people experience in Liberal-Democracies quickly become party platforms during election years and politicians promise (and sometime deliver) recompense. Citizens, most citizens, believe they can receive just treatment in a Liberal Democracy. I don’t think we need Revolutions in the West.

Could a Hitler arise in some nation and declare elections at an end? The last time that happened was in Algeria when the Islamists made that declaration – after which there was a revolution that lasted eight years. Tyranny was defeated there as well.

No, Jesus wasn’t a practicing Zealot. He came with a different mission, but Zealots were welcome and at least one, but probably more than one of his disciples was a Zealot.

We see Jesus in only certain social situations. Where can we find in the Gospels the proper Christian behavior when Christians are not a suppressed minority but the rulers of a state? I don’t believe we should take Jesus suppressed-minority situation as normative – it certainly doesn’t fit a situation in which Christians predominate. Also, I don’t think we should take that criterion as normative in Liberal-Democracies even if we Christians don’t predominate. We are faced with different social situations than First-Century Christians were and shouldn’t apply every first century principle inflexibly.

As an example, consider the commandment, “Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.” How do you comply with that commandment in a Liberal Democracy when we are Caesar? We limit our presidents to no more than two terms and none of them introduce anything very surprising during their administrations. They are concerned about carrying out as many of our wishes as possible so that they or their anointed will be elected the next time.

We indeed are the equivalent of Caesar because we participate in the administration of our nation. We have a voting interest in what happens in our Liberal Democracy. As Caesar needed to go to war occasionally, so do we. As Caesar we need to be responsible for the safety of our nation; such a situation was not a primary concern of First Century Christians, but Caesar would never have considered declaring himself a pacifist, and few of us modern day Liberal-Democrat-equivalents of Caesar would either.

Lawrence Helm

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