Elijah vs. the State

The state has always been a lying, stealing, and killing machine. We know this is true of the Soviet Union under Stalin, Nazi Germany under Hitler, and Red China under Mao, but as I showed in “The Lying State” and “The Murdering State,” and as Jeff Knaebel recently laid out in great detail here, this is just as true of the U.S. government as it is of any other. The reason that many people don’t accept this fact is because they have the mindset that lying to, stealing from, and killing foreigners in their countries doesn’t really count. Christians seeking to justify their support for, or the participation of their friends and relatives in, the U.S. government’s latest military adventure often recite the mantra, “Obey the powers that be,” a loose paraphrase of Romans 13:1, as if that somehow means that Christians should blindly follow whatever the government says. But because the state is, as Murray Rothbard described it, a “bandit gang writ large,” Christians should always remember the reply of the apostles when they were told to stop speaking in the name of Jesus: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The Bible alone is the word of God, not congressional legislation or resolutions, Supreme Court decisions, the Code of Federal Regulations, or presidential executive orders. God trumps the state every time. The nature of the state can be clearly seen in a case of eminent domain gone awry found in the Old Testament story of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-29). Naboth of Jezreel had a vineyard by the palace of King Ahab. Ahab wanted Naboth’s land for a garden of herbs. He offered to give Naboth either a better vineyard or a cash payment. Naboth refused to sell on the grounds of ancestral law. When Ahab sulked because he couldn’t get Naboth to sell, his wife, Jezebel, concocted a scheme to obtain Naboth’s vineyard. She sent official government letters to the elders of Jezreel instructing them to proclaim a fast and have two false witnesses testify that Naboth blasphemed both God and the king. This resulted in Naboth and his family being stoned to death. After this, Ahab, at the instigation of his wife, “rose up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it” (1 Kings 21:16). Like most tyrants, Ahab did not directly involve himself with murder. The state can always find loyal subjects who, in the name of nationalism and under the guise of patriotism, are willing to kill for the state. The two false witnesses were merely to preserve the appearance of justice. The state always seeks to cloak itself with legitimacy. And just like murder, the state never lacks for those who are willing to defend its lies. To make it easier to take people’s property, the state now invokes eminent domain; that is, legalized theft. Naboth was killed under the façade of religion. Add a religious element to anything and gullible American Christians will come out in droves to support it. This is easy to do in the case of the war in Iraq. Because the United States is a “Christian nation,” and was attacked by terrorists who were Muslims, the war can be turned into a modern-day crusade against Islam since Iraq is a “Muslim nation.” The fact that Bush himself acknowledged that Iraq was not responsible for the September 11th attacks seems to have gone unnoticed by many American Evangelicals. Although most of these Christians may not term the war a crusade, the fact that the “enemy” is a darker-skinned heathen makes them indifferent to the death and destruction meted out by U.S. troops. There was one man in ancient Israel who certainly didn’t believe in reciting the “obey the powers that be mantra”: And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it. And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine. And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD. (1 Kings 21:17-20). Elijah didn’t make excuses for the evil deeds of the state. He considered lying, stealing, and killing to be evil — regardless of whether it was done by or for the state. Where are all the Elijahs today? I know they are out there. Not all Christians are defenders of King Ahab. Why are most pulpits in the land silent? They are not silent about all kinds of things that are not expressly stated in Scripture. Instead of denouncing U.S. foreign policy as evil and the latest U.S. military adventure as immoral, too many Christians defend both in the name of nationalism and patriotism. We need Christians today who have the spiritual discernment of Elijah. We need Christians with the backbone to say that George Bush, like King Ahab of old, has sold himself to work evil in the sight of the Lord.