Sometimes to say yes to God is to say no to the state:
Can you be a devout Christian and also a rebel and a resistor at the same time? Can you defy the authorities and powers that be, yet still claim to be a godly believer? Well, the short answer is yes. One can love God and serve him faithfully while also at times resisting and defying rulers, governments and unjust laws.
Of course one must distinguish between engaging in various acts of resistance when they might be called for, and being someone with a rebellious spirit – someone who just always defies all forms of authority for any and all reasons. But that distinction I have already carefully discussed – see here: billmuehlenberg.com/2021/05/22/on-rebellion/
In that piece I offered a brief overview of how we might proceed here:
-Yes, rebellion against God and his laws is a bad thing.
-Yes, rebellion against the just laws and rulings of a justly constituted authority is a bad thing.
-No, rebellion against tyranny and unjust laws is not necessarily a bad thing.
Indeed, this is the 39th article in my ongoing series of pieces on resistance theory. This has to do with how believers look at things like disobedience to unjust laws and resistance to tyrannical regimes. And I have looked at quite a few biblical examples of this, including what we find in the book of Daniel.
In one article I looked at Daniel 3 and how Daniel’s friends defied King Nebuchadnezzar. I also looked at Daniel 6 and how Daniel defied an ungodly edict of the king. billmuehlenberg.com/2021/03/24/12-biblical-cases-of-civil-disobedience/
A recent article by Peter J. Leithart – “On Not Being Assimilated” – also discusses this biblical book and is worth quoting from. He begins:
The first six chapters of the Book of Daniel present a narrative theology of resistance. Daniel and his three friends—best known by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego—are Jews in Babylonian exile. Again and again, they run afoul of kings and courtiers. As they begin training for Babylonian civil service, the four reject the king’s choice of food and wine, yet end up “fatter” than all the others (Dan. 1). Nebuchadnezzar threatens to kill Daniel along with all the Babylonian sages who fail to interpret the king’s disturbing dream of a metal statue that is reduced to rubble (Dan. 2); Daniel saves the day by telling Nebuchadnezzar the statue represents a series of empires that will crumble when struck by the smooth stone of God’s kingdom. Later, Nebuchadnezzar throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow before an image (Dan. 3). On the night Babylon falls, Daniel reads an uncanny divine warning during King Belshazzar’s feast (Dan. 5), and he’s condemned to a lions’ den when he continues to pray to Yahweh in violation of the edict of the Persian King Darius (Dan. 6).
Daniel 3 is particularly apt for our times. Nebuchadnezzar erects a monumental golden image as the center of a new imperial cult. He gathers his court to the plain of Dura (reminiscent of Babel’s “plain of Shinar,” Gen. 11:2). Whenever music plays, the officials must prostrate themselves before the image, on pain of death. The list of instruments (tediously and comically repeated in Daniel 3:5, 7, 10, 15) includes Persian and Greek loan words, and the fourfold classification of musicians parallels the four-metal statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The orchestra is an empire in sound, harmonizing voices from every tribe and tongue. Nebuchadnezzar unites his dominions in song. From the king’s viewpoint, a fiery furnace is an appropriate punishment for refusing to worship: Dissenters will be forcibly melted in the crucible of Babylon. The message is clear: One way or another, you will be assimilated.
He goes on to say this:
Contemporary lessons abound. We too live in an empire that seeks to enforce consensus. When the rainbow flags start waving, everyone had better join in and mean it. You’d best sing along when everyone celebrates the latest trans breakthrough. Private dissent won’t be allowed to remain private; cultural Chaldeans scan the landscape for people who take a stand when they should be showing respect. Some resisters will find themselves face-to-face with kings. When that happens, Daniel 3 instructs us, let your “No” be “No,” and leave the consequences to God. http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2021/06/on-not-being-assimilated
I like the idea of refusing to be assimilated. And it is not just relevant for the culture wars. The entire statist over-reaction to Covid, with whole nations shut down, economies destroyed, businesses ruined, mental health problems and suicides skyrocketing, churches closed, and ordinary citizens arrested for no good reason, demonstrates how we also need to consider how we too might not assimilate.
Resisting authoritarianism is increasingly becoming our duty. Saying no to Big Brother Statism is now an aspect of faithful witness. We have had some brave pastors for example rebelling against the draconian state dictates, keeping their churches open.
Just as Moses resisted Pharaoh and insisted on the right of God’s people to worship, so too these courageous church leaders have defied the authorities. But too many Christians have simply assimilated. They have said a big yes to the Big State while effectively saying a big no to their own faith.
And there are very real consequences to all this. One area I have often written about in this regard is how the push by Big Business and the Big State for mandatory vaccines and vaxx passports is creating a two-tiered society with a new underclass. See here for example: billmuehlenberg.com/2021/06/09/forced-vaccines-health-fascism-and-medical-apartheid/
A new piece on this same topic has appeared which is worth drawing your attention to. Rachel Marsden also warns about this social chasm between those with rights and privileges (the vaxxed) and those without. She writes:
While the authorities keep saying that Covid-19 vaccination isn’t obligatory – at least, not yet – good luck trying to live a normal life without it. It’s clear the ostracization of those who haven’t had the jab is well underway. Last year, at this time, Covid-19 cases fell significantly without any substantial measures, as everything opened up for the summer and the powers-that-be in some countries allowed life to return to normal for a few months, all in the absence of vaccination.
This year, exactly the same phenomenon observed in 2020 is being attributed to mass inoculation. The narrative is that this is what’s saving us from Covid. And now the pressure’s on to force everyone into compliance, lest they want to live any semblance of normal life, beginning with summer travel.
She looks at these travel options and then continues:
So, hassle-free travel to these countries and others is almost fully dependent on vaccination, even though these same governments have so little faith in the jab itself that they still require vaccinated travelers to be tested unless they’re coming in from a place where Covid-19 is so rare as to be virtually non-existent. Makes you wonder what the point of vaccine-based travel restrictions are if they’re viewed as so shoddy they can’t be trusted to prevent spread.
These rules reflect what we’ve already been told: that the vaccine doesn’t prevent disease or transmission, but rather reduces the likelihood of severe illness in the relative few who may have been prone to it.
Nor is the vaccine seemingly enough to allow life to go back to pre-pandemic norms in some places, even as the annual virus season draws to an end and summer ramps up. While some countries’ swimming pools and gyms are back to relatively normal capacity and use, others are still making patrons sign up for limited time slots and swim up one lane and down another in order to maintain social distancing between length swimmers – presumably, so they don’t risk infecting someone while breathing during front crawl.
There’s absolutely no justification for forcing anyone to vaccinate – for travel or otherwise. This mantra being bandied about that everyone has to do their part and take the shot in order to protect others is just total nonsense. The proof is in the lack of confidence that governments themselves are showing this summer by demanding that even the fully vaccinated take Covid tests.
The jab protects one person: the jabbed. That’s it. And no one should be ostracized or inconvenienced as a result of making a different choice for whatever reason. This highly personal medical decision is being misrepresented as some kind of collective necessity and is marginalizing those wanting to make a choice that’s different from the one that governments are pushing. Since self-protection from serious forms of Covid-19 is in the hands of each individual, why exactly is the individual who chooses differently considered such a threat? http://www.rt.com/op-ed/526310-vaccine-two-tier-society/
Christians should care about things like fairness and justice. When clearly unfair and unjust policies like this occur, we should not be assimilating. We should be resisting. When even pagan filmmakers such as those who made Gattaca, The Island, and Elysium can warn about two-tiered systems in health care, Christians should be sounding the alarm as well.
We should be rebelling against this, not assimilating.