The 'Higher Powers': Martial Law vs. Christian Responsibility

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It is one thing
to know something intellectually, and quite another to see it suddenly
happen before your eyes. I experienced such a moment in 2005, during
the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when I watched (via the Internet)
as police officers went door-to-door
in New Orleans
neighborhoods, forced law-abiding citizens into
the streets, cuffed them, and then searched their homes for firearms
before leaving them bewildered and helpless. There were no warrants
involved. No probable cause was mentioned. No charges of wrong-doing
were filed. Intimidation and brute force were the order of the day.
And as much as I wish I could believe otherwise, I'm afraid that
what we saw in New Orleans is merely a preview of coming attractions.

Since September
11, 2001, the federal government has been busily advancing preparations
for the day when it might impose martial law throughout the United
States, thus presenting us with the specter of the sort of thuggery
we witnessed in New Orleans being carried out all across this "land
of the free." A quasi-legal apparatus has already been put
into place for this, via such legislation as the PATRIOT
, the John
Warner Defense Authorization Act
, the Military
Commissions Act
, and the National
Security and Homeland Security Directive
. But legislation, although
important in creating the illusion of legitimacy, is only one of
the two boots with which the authoritarian state tramples freedom;
the other is propaganda, and it is even more essential than force
because it allows the state to conquer by stealth, and thus with
a minimum of effort.

The state that
employs only force to achieve its aims will rule only as long as
it can subdue the people; but if it can successfully use propaganda,
it can rule indefinitely because the people will subdue themselves.
Propaganda deludes the slave into seeing his servitude as sacrifice,
even as an honor. It transforms political prisoners into the enemies
of the people, turns massacres into purgings, makes partisanism
look like saintly perseverance, sells torture as retribution, portrays
dissent as sabotage, and masks aggression in the guise of crusading.
As Adolf Hitler observed in Mein Kampf, "By an able
and persistent use of propaganda heaven itself can be presented
to the people as if it were hell and, vice versa, the most miserable
kind of life can be presented as if it were paradise.”

And of all
the varied forms of propaganda, religious propaganda is by far the
most effective; for, it provides fallible men with the sanction
of heaven, which must not be resisted nor even questioned. Our government
is well aware of this and, from all indications, is ready to use
religious propaganda in order to help pacify the American population
in the event that martial law is declared.

For years,
rumors circulated to the effect that the U.S. government would use
members of the clergy in efforts to pacify Americans should martial
law ever be declared. Many scoffed at the idea, calling it so much
conspiracy theory nonsense. Then, in 2007, KSLA Channel 12 in Shreveport,
Louisiana, reported
that, following Hurricane Katrina, "clergy response teams"
were utilized to assist the government with public relations (click
here to
watch the video). According to the story, such teams will likely
be used in future emergency situations, with an emphasis on their
potential role in a martial law scenario. Here's a quote from the

Such clergy
response teams would walk a tight-rope during martial law between
the demands of the government on the one side, versus the wishes
of the public on the other. "In a lot of cases, these clergy
would already be known in the neighborhoods in which they're helping
to diffuse that situation," assured Sandy Davis. He serves
as the director of the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security
and Emergency Preparedness.

A member of
one such clergy response team, Dr. Durell Tuberville, was interviewed
by KSLA, and stated that Christians have a responsibility to obey
the government, no matter what. "The government's established
by the Lord," said Tuberville. "That's what we believe
in the Christian faith. That's what's stated in the scripture."

As a Christian
myself, I understand where people like Dr. Tuberville are coming
from. I remember my ninth-grade Government teacher telling our class
(Christian school, mind you) that Soviet citizens had no right to
defy their government because, no matter how oppressive the Soviet
State was, it was "ordained by God" (when asked about
whether the American patriots were right to rebel against England,
however, he equivocated). This reasoning is based on several passages
of scripture, but particularly on the following remarks made by
the Apostle Paul in Romans,
chapter 13
(as the KSLA news story pointed out):

Every person
is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there
is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established
by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has
opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive
condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not
a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to
have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise
from the same; for it is a minister of God to
you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does
not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an
avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore
it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath,
but also for conscience' sake.

With these
things in mind, I'd like to take some time to examine the issue
of how Christians should react to the prospect of martial law in

officials are not the highest "authorities" in America

The first thing
I would like to point out to people like Dr. Tuberville, who think
Christians should obey government officials no matter what because
they are "the higher powers," is that there is another,
yet higher power to which even such officials are beholden: the
Constitution of the United States.

This Constitution,
and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance
thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under
the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of
the land. Article
VI, Section 1

It is from
the Constitution that our elected officials, both federal and state,
derive their office and legitimate powers. Their powers are delegated,
not inherent; concrete, not elastic, and, as clearly set forth by
the 9th
and 10th Amendments
, they are limited to the specific
areas of authority that the Constitution either grants to the Union
or denies to the states. Further, our elected officials are "bound
by oath or affirmation" to support the Constitution and its
provisions, including the limitations placed upon their own powers:

The Senators
and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several
state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both
of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound
by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution… (Article
VI, Section 3).

Thus, in taking
up the powers and responsibilities of political office, our elected
officials are also agreeing to place themselves under the law. This
is one of the foundational ideas of the American political system:
the concept that everyone is under law and equal in its eyes.
For this reason, if government officials violate the Constitution,
their actions are illegal and void of authority, and they are no
better than common criminals. It is absolutely critical that Christians
understand this when they contemplate their relationship to the
government. Our elected officials are not the source of their own
power; rather, they are representatives who have been entrusted
with the authority of the American people as defined in the United
States Constitution. If they violate that trust, they are as much
criminals as the guy who robs your local 7-11 store; they just dress
better, make other people use the guns, and almost never go to jail.

Law is Unconstitutional and, therefore, Illegal

The Constitution
does not directly address martial law; however, it does contain
a provision that clearly makes martial law impossible. Consider
, Section IV:

The United
States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican
form of government, and shall protect each of them against
invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive
(when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.

government is civil, representative government; martial law is military
rule. Since the former is specifically guaranteed here, the latter
is necessarily precluded. This provision, which our government officials
are sworn to support as being part of the supreme law of the land,
makes martial law unconstitutional and thus illegal. The moment
that martial law is declared, the federal government will have stepped
outside of its sphere of lawful powers. In fact, in a very real
way it will have conducted a revolution, as it will have overthrown
the legitimate government of the Constitution by force of arms.

The President
is Commander in Chief, not Dictator in Chief

The "war
powers" of the President are a woefully misunderstood aspect
of constitutional law, thanks primarily to the success of Abraham
Lincoln's war and further developments under those who inherited
his theory of government. Said theory boils down to the idea that,
technically, anything the government does in order to "safe-guard"
the country (really its own power) is constitutional.

The Constitution
itself differs with that idea. It describes the "war powers"
of the President in Article
, Section II, where we read:

The President
shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United
States, and of the militia of the several states, when called
into the actual service of the United States.

That's it.
That is the sum total of all the Constitution has to say about the
war powers of the President. Everything else that has developed
since the adoption of the Constitution where such powers are concerned,
from "peace-keeping" missions to covert operations, is
extra-constitutional (and largely a perversion of the war powers
the Constitution grants to Congress in Article I). Indeed, the military
powers that presidents exercise today would have seemed kingly to
our country's founders. Under the American system, presidents were
to be limited chief executives, not self-empowering monarchs who
could overthrow the rights of the people or commit the country's
military to action for any reason whatsoever. The history of centuries
of blood-letting under the crowned heads of Europe had taught Americans
better than to trust such powers in the hands of one individual.
They forgot that lesson rather quickly once they were free to determine
their own affairs, but that initial understanding is enshrined in
the Constitution's language to this day, and the reasoning behind
it is still just as sound.

The Commander
in Chief clause, read as it is plainly written, gives the President
authority to act as a sort of commanding general of all U.S. armed
forces in their constitutional role of providing for the common
defense. It makes him a unifying military leader, capable of coordinating
the country's defenses in order to repel an aggressor; it does not
make him a dictator, nor does it authorize him to use the military
offensively or for law enforcement purposes. Note that the authority
granted in Article II, Section II is military, not civilian, and
that it does not release the President from his sworn duty to uphold
the Constitution, nor does it revoke the right of the states to
a republican form of government.

In response,
some will undoubtedly argue that we now face dangers that our country's
founders could not have envisioned, and, for that reason, certain
things must change. But the founders provided us with a means of
changing the Constitution in the face of new circumstances or new
wishes on the part of the people. We call this provision the "Amendment
Process" (see Article
). So why is it that our leaders are not using this legitimate,
constitutional tool, if indeed they believe that they require additional
powers in order to meet modern challenges, and if indeed their motives
are pure? Defenders of the Bush administration and its congressional
allies (particularly Christians seeking to invoke Romans 13) should
give serious thought to this question.

Consider that
nearly seven years have elapsed since the September 11, 2001 attacks,
and yet, in all that time, in spite of all the powers that Bush
and Congress have usurped, they have not once prepared or even suggested
a constitutional amendment to legitimize any of it. And the reason
for this? Quite simply, they don't believe they need to legitimize
their actions. They do not recognize any authority above themselves,
neither the Constitution of the United States nor the people who
elected them.

Beware Government
Agents quoting Scripture

The common
perception of propaganda is that it is the art of telling lies,
but in fact lies are only part of the picture. No, the true master
of propaganda is skilled not only in telling outright lies, but
also in employing distortion and half-truth.

For an example
of this, consider Romans 13 again. The standard snake oil sold by
the Dr. Tuberville's of the world (unwittingly or not), where this
passage is concerned, is that government is the "higher power"
and must be obeyed in all things. This is what you're likely to
hear when a clergy response team member shows up on your doorstep,
flanked by national guardsmen and demanding that you hand over your
firearms, supplies, and/or valuables, or that you accompany them
to Hotel Halliburton. Yet, as we have already seen, the Constitution,
not the government, is the highest "power" in the United
States of America, and those who act outside of it are criminals.

Note also that
the Apostle Paul was arguing that Christians should support the
"higher powers" because government is ordained by God
to be "an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices
evil." "Rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior,"
Paul tells us, "but for evil," after which he admonishes
us to be "in subjection not only because of wrath, but also
for conscience' sake." So what then of a government which,
instead of punishing evil, actually practices evil itself? Can Paul
have been suggesting that Christians should view the evil actions
of a lawless power as somehow bearing the approval of God? Can a
Christian either condone or submit to evil doings "for conscience'
sake"? Is it possible to do good by sanctioning, submitting
to, or participating in evil? As Paul himself was fond of saying,
"God forbid!"

When in

At this point,
some might argue that the Roman Empire was evil in many ways, and
that if Paul informed Christians that they needed to be in subjection
to such a regime, surely today's Christians have no excuse for resisting
the will of the U.S. government, constitutional questions aside.
And while I would agree that Rome was certainly a ruthless and brutal
government, there are three important things that should be kept
in view here:

1) Rome did
not rule under a supreme Constitution such as we have.

2) While Paul
instructed Christians to recognize Roman rule, he never once suggested
that they should sanction or participate in Roman brutality. Indeed,
the Bible contains a number of passages that instruct us to aid
the oppressed (not to aid in their oppression):

:10-12: "If you are slack [weak, feeble]
in the day of distress, your strength is limited. Deliver
those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering
to slaughter, Oh hold {them} back. If you say,
“See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider {it} who weighs
the hearts? And does He not know {it} who keeps your soul? And
will He not render to man according to his work?"

:16-17: "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow."

:12: "O house of David, thus says the LORD: u2018Administer
justice every morning; And deliver the {person} who has been robbed
from the power of {his} oppressor, that My wrath may not go forth
like fire and burn with none to extinguish {it,} because of the
evil of their deeds.'"

:2-3: "Thus says the LORD, u2018Do justice and righteousness,
and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of {his}
oppressor. Also do not mistreat {or} do violence to the stranger,
the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this

The above passages
make it clear that no one who claims to fear God should have anything
to do with oppressing the innocent; but, rather, they should actively
"reprove" those who do such things and "deliver"
those who are being victimized. Genesis
tells the story of how Abraham attacked and overcame a group
of kings who had taken his nephew, Lot, captive; and, in Job
, we're told that, among the good deeds Job was known for,
he "delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who
had no helper," and "broke the jaws of the wicked and
snatched the prey from his teeth." The Bible refers to both
Abraham and Job as "righteous" and "upright."
Further, in I
Timothy 5
:8, the Apostle Paul, who wrote Romans 13, remarks:
"But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially
for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse
than an unbeliever." Surely "providing" for one's
own involves protecting them from those who would do them harm.

3) Two recorded
instances from the Apostle Paul's own life demonstrate that a Christian
need not submit to injustice simply because it is perpetrated by
agents of the state. Both examples come to us from the book of Acts.

The first is
recorded in Acts
, where Roman authorities questioned Paul in relation to his
part in a riot that had just taken place in Jerusalem. Not satisfied
with his answers, the Roman "chief captain" ordered that
Paul be subjected to a bit of enhanced interrogation, 1st
Century style (they were going to scourge
him while questioning him further). Now, Paul was a Roman citizen,
and under Roman law it was illegal to scourge a citizen. Paul pointed
this out to his captors in Acts 22:23, and was spared the torture
in favor of a trial.

The second
example comes from Acts
. Paul, who was then under trial before Porcius Festus, the
Roman governor of Judea, saw that the governor was probably not
going to give him a fair trial, and so he invoked the supreme right
of a Roman citizen: he appealed to Caesar himself in hope of justice.
He did this respectfully, but resolutely.

Clearly, the
Apostle Paul had no problem with questioning authorities or appealing
to the law in his defense, and I see no biblical reason why modern
Christians are under obligation to act any differently. The Constitution
is our supreme law, our supreme authority; we have every right to
appeal to its provisions and to demand that those provisions be
respected and not overthrown.


In summary,
be aware of the fact that our government has already begun using
religious propaganda to get its way, and that it fully intends to
do so again. Beware those who would preach to you concerning how
you should obey them as authorities over you, if they refuse to
obey the authority over them. Beware those who talk about the law
if they themselves are law-breakers. Beware those who would speak
to you of "duty," if they themselves have broken their
oaths and violated the trusts of their offices. Contrary to the
propaganda you're likely to hear in the event of a martial law situation,
neither Romans 13, nor any other passage of scripture, can be twisted
to the effect of forcing Christians to buckle under to, participate
in, or otherwise sanction, illegal actions or outright atrocities
committed by the state.

You who are
members of the clergy: could you go door-to-door telling people
that God wants them to turn in their guns (or fuel, or food, or
gold) and to leave themselves bereft and helpless because the state
says so? You who are members of the military or law enforcement
agencies: could you force yourselves on, or actually fire on, otherwise
law-abiding American citizens who might only be trying to defend
themselves, their property and their families against those who
have decided to toss the law out like yesterday's garbage? Could
you justly take part in unjust actions? How many of history's wars
and other atrocities could have taken place had those ordered to
carry them out simply said "No."? Could Rome have enslaved
and tortured millions of people without the consent of its soldiers?
Could any of the tyrants of the past have plundered their citizens
had they been forced to wield the sword by themselves? Could a single
Southern farm have been burned had Northerners not consented to
Lincoln's rampage? Could Stalin or Mao have murdered tens of millions
of their own countrymen without the assistance of their "Peoples'"
armies? Make no mistake, if the United States government ever decides
to oppress its own people, for whatever reason, it will not be the
President or members of Congress, or the Joint Chiefs who go around
intimidating people, kicking in doors, muzzling protest, dividing
families, jailing and/or torturing dissenters or carrying off property.
It will be you. They will expect you to do these things for them.
The question is: can you live with it? And even more importantly:
can you answer to God for it?

Corinthians 5
:10 — "For we must all appear before
the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed
for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether
good or bad." (Note — I see no exceptions granted here
for those "acting under orders").

don't wait for the crisis to come before you act. The day martial
law is declared is not the time to begin doing something about it.
That time is now, today, before it happens. Start by familiarizing
yourself with passages of scripture such as those I've listed above;
and always consider what the Bible says for itself, not how others
would interpret it to their own advantage. Familiarize yourself
with the Constitution, with relevant legislation and presidential
executive orders, and with the history of martial law situations
and military occupations both here in the U.S. and in other countries.
Share what you learn with your friends and family. Consider joining
up with groups like Ron Paul's new Campaign
for Liberty
, where you can work for change alongside other concerned
Americans. Never forget that an intimate knowledge of truth is the
best defense against the lies, distortions and half-truths of the

5, 2008

Robert Hawes
[send him mail] is the author
of One
Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution
This article, along with his past writings, can be found on his
. He lives in South Carolina with his family, and is working
on a career as a freelance writer.

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