Author: Oliver A.

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All Hat and No Cattle

All Hat and No Cattle

“On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.” – Thomas Jefferson


All talk and no action, all sizzle and no steak, all mouth and no trousers, all hat and no cattle; these idioms describe when someone’s actions don’t echo their claims. I often write on the ills of government and how ever-increasing laws infringe upon our natural rights to life, liberty, and property. But rather than focusing on state threats, this quill pivots to a matter of nuisance—a nuisance found within the ranks of the liberty movement.

I don’t presume to know the heart of every man, and the good Lord knows I’m incapable of attaining absolute consistency devoid of hypocrisy. But it strikes me that there are three main types within the liberty movement: 

  • Those who are all talk and no action. 
  • Those who act – then buckle under pressure. 
  • Those who hold fast to principles – even in the face of ruin.

Sounding off on the political state of affairs comes easy; we all partake in that. But for some, it represents a modus operandi. They complain like clashing cymbals and spit venom. They beat their chests like silver-backs as if that alone will bring change or relief. Calling social media platforms home, they build pseudointellectual fortresses from which to launch indiscriminate attacks on all who question them. And like the dark fishing spider, they devour their own, seeking short-term gains, no matter the cost.

This type does nothing to attract those new to the ideas of liberty. Their heavy footprints are mostly seen and felt within libertarianism’s perpetual infighting. I expect little from the individuals bent on lamentation – some of whom appear to be borderline neurotic, incapable of refining their ideas and presenting them in a manner that inspires.

“Discontent, blaming, complaining, self-pity cannot serve as a foundation for a good future, no matter how much effort you make.” – Eckhart Tolle

Our second type poses an even greater risk to lasting credibility. When writers, podcasters, and politicians in the movement achieve levels of success, they often acquire a follower base and attain notoriety. Here, we find our leaders and spokesmen, but beware of the grifters and charlatans. Some talk a great game but leave nothing but the curtains behind when the heat turns up. To them, liberty is an accouterment, a vibrant flag flown high only until it no longer brings any advantage. They are only concerned with themselves. 

Likening an invertebrate, their spineless retreat negatively impacts liberty’s advancement in two ways. First, they leave their followers disillusioned and frustrated – stalling overall momentum. Those who look up to them often put too much stock in their heroes’ opinions. When their bastions crumble, they often crumble along with them. Prudence would have us set our sights on principle over man and resist this tribal tendency.

Secondly, the abandonment of principles sends a clear message to opponents keeping a watchful eye over us: it’s a weak-willed movement. When a writer or podcaster publicly propagates one thing but privately does another, their lack of integrity does not go unnoticed. When politicians campaign on liberty only to throw those principles aside to maintain power, popping champagne bottles can be heard throughout the duopoly. In life, compromise is a reality, and nothing happens in a vacuum – but lines need to be drawn. 

Traveling off the beaten path is not easy. The prominent voices of today’s movement need to consider the costs of leading the charge. Leaders are held to a higher standard, and if they experience difficulty practicing what they preach, humility will be required to carry trust forward. No one should blame them if their heart is no longer in it. Increasing personal responsibility and reducing government is anything but fashionable, and speaking out against narratives brings down immense wrath. But there are two choices for those acting as beacons: withdraw from the spotlight and let another light the way, or press on accepting whatever consequences may come.

“When you see no present advantage, walk by faith and not by sight. Do God the honor to trust Him when it comes to matters of loss for the sake of principle.” ― Charles Spurgeon

As a committed Christian, perhaps I expect too much. I begin with the assumption that people should be willing to sacrifice for principles. Martyrdom comes in many forms and is not exclusive to Christianity. Like those I include in our third type, many individuals experience strong convictions and feel the weight of deep burdens. For them, backsliding from a belief because presenting it won’t come easy would be unthinkable. 

When a soldier stands his ground, ordered to hold the hill, the risk he faces is maiming or death. But the risks associated with the battlefield in question are of an entirely different nature. Reputations are destroyed, elections and livelihoods lost, ridicule ensues. Yet, many have tethered themselves to the ship – even when it’s taking on water. And whether or not elections are won, articles are read, and episodes are listened to, those faithful torchlights will carry on illuminating the message of individualism: a gospel of sorts. 

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every human being holds value, skill, and reasons for being here. My intention is not to spread malice or diminish individuals but rather to speak to the witnessing ability of our marginalized ranks. Our ideals, grounded in logic, tolerance, and freedom, are too important to hold back for not wanting to cause offense – and so I must be bold. To those who post and yell loudest and yet do nothing, contemplate your next steps. To those occupying seats of influence – examine yourselves and your loyalty to principle. If anyone finds themselves lacking the motivation or courage to saddle up and endure, consider hanging your hat elsewhere.

Towards integrity,

OA


The Young Ruler

The Young Ruler


By Ollie Adamson

You bowed once before,
Your cause came up empty,

You turn to us,
Expecting now that we should bend,

But not all are willing,
For some deem you unworthy of such honour,

It is true, one day, every knee shall bow,
But upward-looking eyes will not gaze at some boy,

They will see the almighty God,
The same God who looks down upon you,

You too will give an account,
For your life, and for your rule,

You invoke strong words,
And clench your velvet glove-covered iron fist,

But hear this and be forewarned,
Some are stirring,

Not desiring violence,
But merely to oppose the decree, “this is not optional.”


Capsized By Charity

Capsized By Charity

“Far too many equate compassion for the poor with support for government welfare programs. They are not the same thing.” Bradley Thomas (@EraseState)


Merely two months had passed since purchasing our new car, yet there we were, continually stalling and finally unable to start – sitting ducks in the middle of traffic. Exercising our one option, my wife and I called a tow truck and waited in joint bewilderment. A faulty sensor caused a particular tow truck driver’s path along with ours to converge that evening. We climbed into his truck and struck up a great conversation that continued until we reached the dealership to drop off the vehicle. Once there, the driver offered to drive us home, roughly a thirty-minute drive away. It beat waiting for a cab. As we continued conversing, the driver and I soon realized we had both overcome past addictions and began sharing how those victories had once more granted us abundant lives. Thirty minutes seemed like ten, and we were home. Thanking the driver, I took my wallet out of my coat pocket and asked him what we owed him. “Absolutely nothing,” he said. He added that the conversation had been an encouragement and was payment enough. Nothing? I was speechless. We exchanged some final words and said our goodbyes. As he drove away, my wife and I were left marveling at what had unfolded: genuine charity.

The Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius once said,

“Do not act as if you had ten thousand years to throw away. Death stands at your elbow. Be good for something while you live and it is in your power.”

Many of us learn the benefits of sharing our toys and helping others early on in life. But where do these moral or societal norms come from, and how does applying them benefit us? In this quill, I will present the following three reasons individuals ought to be charitable: its importance throughout biblical scripture, the positive effect it has towards achieving individual happiness and peaceful society, and finally, how un-coerced charity erodes our reliance on government safety nets, potentially reducing the government’s influence over us.

Faithful Obedience

Before we begin, it’s worth mentioning that although the forthcoming section speaks to Christianity, specifically, I recognize many other belief systems place a similar emphasis on the importance of charitable works. However, as a professing Christian, I have chosen to adhere to what I know best. To the particular reader who may be averse to religious arguments, I encourage you to skip this first section rather than abandoning this work altogether. Now let’s dig in.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 from the King James Version (KJV) reads,

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

Interestingly enough, the KJV is one of the few translations to convert this passage’s usage of the Greek word “agape” into “charity.” Most versions opt for the word “love” instead. Not to detract from the point at hand, but I find this helpful in demonstrating how closely associated the two concepts are.

The preceding passage addresses charity’s preferential position over individual spiritual fervor. Believers sometimes fall prey to the desire to impress others by voicing long-winded articulate prayers or trying to impart to others how closely they are to God. Please do not misinterpret me here; I am not saying articulated prayers, and a desire to grow closer to God is wrong. But the passage clearly states that if you demonstrate different types of spiritual gifts, claim to know God, but are not charitable, there’s a problem.

The website Britannica.com defines charity as,

“Charity, in Christian thought, the highest form of love, signifying the reciprocal love between God and man that is made manifest in unselfish love of one’s fellow men… In Christian theology and ethics, charity (a translation of the Greek word agapē, also meaning ‘love’) is most eloquently shown in the life, teachings, and death of Jesus Christ. St. Augustine summarized much of Christian thought about charity when he wrote: ‘Charity is a virtue which, when our affections are perfectly ordered, unites us to God, for by it we love him.'”

So what do the accounts of Jesus Christ, and the bible as a whole, teach us about charity?

Let’s look at mercy as it relates to charity. In the biblical story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8), the Pharisees confront Jesus, remind him Jewish law requires that she be stoned to death, and ask Him what should become of her. Amazingly, although he recognizes her sin and knows the law, Jesus replies, “…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Awestruck, the men withdraw from the scene, thus sparring the woman from a humiliating and almost certain death. Jesus then counsels the woman and addresses her wrongdoing before telling her to sin no more. He could have easily condemned her to ensure His continued good standing with the spiritual authorities of the day. Instead, he illuminated the reality of sin and pointed the light back onto them. The woman received a great measure of mercy.

Many people associate financial generosity with charity. A well-known biblical principle that supports this is the concept of tithing – giving a certain percentage of your income to advance the church’s work. Tithing is an Old Testament (OT) command that is re-affirmed again in the New Testament (NT). Modern believers sometimes disagree about whether or not the ten percent still applies under the NT. Nevertheless, most agree that faithful giving is an essential part of spiritual discipline and growth.

My wife and I currently operate a church out of our home. We have faithfully chosen to continue putting money aside even though we’re not associated with any organization or have any operating costs. The tithing discipline enables us to meet people’s needs when they arise and to support established charities. There are no shortages of opportunities to help, and the scriptures point many of them out to us. Scripture frequently addresses helping the orphan, the widow, and most often the poor. A thorough review of scripture should compel the believer to help those in need and warn them against turning a blind eye.

To the believing Christian, Jesus’ death on the cross represents the most remarkable demonstration of love the world has ever known. Jesus devoted his early years to the teachings of the OT scriptures. Later, as his teachings began to increasingly subvert the local authorities and Rome, he never backpedaled as pressure on him began to mount during his adult ministry. He could have recanted and saved His own skin; instead, He chose martyrdom. Jesus exemplified perfect love while enduring a slow, painful death on the cross in saying,

“…Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do…” (Luke 23:24)

The crucifixion account of Jesus and other accompanying scriptures has effectively spurred many Christians to make sacrifices to help elevate those around them.

Proverbs 25:21-22 describes the effects of being gracious and charitable on those who oppose us, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” Most people expect to be repaid evil for evil. When we repay good for evil, this unexpected reply often stings the offender: something unanticipated. The world knows too much vengeance and too little forgiveness.

Creating a Peaceful Society

Charity’s effects on individuals and communities often contribute to a more peaceful society. As we circle back to our tow truck driver, we recognize the impact a charitable disposition can have in transforming would be adverse events. What could have been a lost evening and a sleep-deprived night was completely upended and displaced by optimism and general hope for humanity. I recall resolving to seek out opportunities to be generous to people least expecting it. This desire is best explained by the 2000 American drama film “Pay It Forward.”

The well-known non-profit organization, Habitat for Humanity, defines “paying it forward” this way, “To pay it forward simply means to repay a kindness received with a good deed to someone else.” What would society look like if charitable acts were continually paid forward? Have you ever been in a drive-thru and discovered the vehicle ahead of you paid for you? I hope so – it definitely sheds new light on your day. And if you have, did you pay it forward by paying for the next person? Something to think about. Imagine the ripple effect of everyone paying it forward for one day. How would that impact the employees? Sure this scenario presents winners and losers in terms of its cost implications. Still, everyone would benefit from the kindness received and the feelings generated from passing on that kindness. Ok, maybe I’m seeing things through rose-coloured glasses, but a guy can dream. The drive-thru scenario is a simple illustration of how charitable actions contribute to positive attitudes and lead to beneficial outcomes.

On the topic of attitude, an evergreen article by Colleen Walsh of “The Harvard Gazette” states,

“Studies suggest that more money can lead to a significant bump in positive outlook when it brings people out of poverty, but when simply taking a person up a pay grade, there’s often only a minor change in attitude. And while the purchase of material possessions can offer a temporary lift, the effects of a new watch, car, or dress, studies show, are almost always short-lived.”

The article also references a Harvard Business School and University of British Columbia study stating the following correlation between the act of giving and levels of happiness,

“The findings showed that those who reported spending more on others, what the team called “prosocial” spending, also reported a greater level of happiness, while how much they spent on themselves had no impact on happiness.”

If happiness were capital, the preceding quote informs an individual’s expected return on investment when investing in others rather than themselves. Increasing levels of individual happiness can, in turn, have positive effects on the communities around them. Aside from helping with financial needs, people can also give of their time. A willingness to watch my neighbour’s children on short notice can significantly benefit them when something unexpected comes up. Knowing we are there for them can enlarge their sense of security and improve their overall mental and emotional state. Our neighbourly commitment to one another strengthens our mutual relationship. When our children have it out with one another (kids will be kids), both families have increased incentives to peacefully work things out.

Imagine this reality multiplied throughout an entire community: everyone would benefit. Neighbours would be better acquainted and have a vested interest in watching out for one another: making the community safer. In a more harmonious world, calling on law enforcement to lower the volume level of your neighbour’s music would be unthinkable. What might motivate your neighbour to comply with your request? The reciprocal nature of healthy relationships. Charitable neighbours make for better and more peaceful neighbourhoods.

For individuals living rurally, specific organizations exist, enabling charitable works and offering opportunities to get involved. “Voluntaryism In Action” exemplifies tangible voluntary initiatives aimed at strengthening communities. The organization’s mission statement reads,

“Voluntaryism in Action strives to empower and improve the lives of everyone across the globe through charitable, voluntary, and free market solutions.”

Their initiatives aim to improve community development, respond to urgent needs and disaster relief, contribute to education initiatives, and more. When life qualities are improved, we often witness less crime, leading to a more peaceful society. Whether done in person or from a distance, charity increases the prospect of peace. In an age where a growing number of people are becoming social isolates, reaching out to those around you can upend the individual tendency to withdraw. It may take time, but a little persistence can bring about remarkable results.

Continuing with the organization at hand, we find a compelling distinction within their vision statement, which reads,

“To be the premiere resource and venue for those who seek to help their fellow man through voluntary compassion rather than coerced altruism.”

Coerced altruism resulting from taxation and administered by the state lacks genuine charity’s upside and impedes its organic development. Government welfare is very effective, however, in creating individual and apathetic communities. In turn, this apathy strengthens the perception that the state is the only vessel capable of providing assistance to individuals in times of need.

Reducing State Influence

Turning our attention to altruism’s troubling relationship with the state, we once again borrow from our friends at Voluntaryism In Action,

“Rather than mutual agreements and voluntary exchange, we find our daily lives and actions being dictated by bureaucratic third parties. We find it not only immoral to centrally plan society, but dramatically inefficient. The system designates A to force B to pay for C, while A takes a portion for his own keeping. We find that this state-instituted welfare system not only leaves many disenfranchised due to disincentives, it further harms the individuals it intends to assist.”

State welfare should not be confused with charity. In his classic book “The Law,” famous French economist and philosopher Frédéric Bastiat wrote,

“You say, ‘There are men who have no money,’ and you apply to the law. But the law is not a self-supplied fountain, whence every stream may obtain supplies independently of society. Nothing can enter the public treasury, in favor of one citizen or one class, but what other citizens and other classes have been forced to send to it.” (pp. 20-21)

Government assistance is merely the re-distribution of resources obtained through forced taxation from one individual to another. Despite being disguised as philanthropy, the truth is the appropriation of funds that bankroll social safety nets is made possible by oppressing and plundering private citizens.

Coerced altruism also encounters problems of reduced effectiveness. I make no attempt to conceal that I’m a federal employee at the time of writing this. My livelihood depends on tax revenues, as do all public employees, including those overseeing government safety net programs. These salaries equate to high administration costs, diminishing the assistance provided to those who need it. Another drawback, often unnoticed, is what I like to call “divorced charity.” The term divorced speaks to the impersonal aspect of government hand-outs which can negatively impact individual psyches in numerous ways.

First, government bureaucracy forces applicants to navigate endless forms in hopes of qualifying and accessing benefits. This process can prove quite burdensome and can contribute to increased anxiety and feelings of disenfranchisement. I have seen this unfold in the lives of certain veterans struggling with PTSD while trying to navigate the system. True charity works to alleviate these sorts of experiences. If someone we knew expressed difficulties in paying their upcoming power bill, which of the following approaches would seem more charitable?

  • A – Ask them how much money they require and offer to do our best to help.
  • B – Ask them for recent bank statements and a monthly budget plan, offer them money, and request a receipt to ensure the money went towards paying the power bill.

Option A, and to be clear, I’m not concerned about enabling a few dishonest individuals along the way. My instincts usually don’t let me down. Moreover, as we’ve seen, charity’s benefits often apply as much to those giving as to those receiving. By nature, state “benevolence” is impersonal and often inefficient. But what effect does society’s reliance on state programs have on the government’s increasing size and mandate?

The famous economist and historian Murray N. Rothbard wrote the following in his classic work, “Anatomy of the State,”

“Once a State has been established, the problem of the ruling group or ‘caste’ is how to maintain their rule. While force is their modus operandi, their basic and long- run problem is ideological. For in order to continue in office, any government (not simply a ‘democratic’ government) must have the support of the majority of its subjects. This support, it must be noted, need not be active enthusiasm; it may well be passive resignation as if to an inevitable law of nature.” (p. 18)

When seeking the citizenry’s support, perhaps no scheme is more effective than dangling one’s livelihood before their eyes. As governments continue to expand, the population’s reliance on government safety nets has increased with it. There are now endless discussions around enshrining certain benefits as human rights. These expectations have resulted in some individuals making incentive-based decisions about whether it is even beneficial for them to find employment. Clearly, the gravy train has gone off the rails. Long gone are the days when the government operated as a collective group of individuals legitimized by protecting individual rights to life, liberty, and property. Today’s governments resemble huge cash cows, compelled to carry on funding all sorts of expensive programs and cooking up endless new positive right initiatives to maintain popular support. Every four years, many ballots are cast based on promises of increased financial incentives for the low and middle classes. As a consequence of central banking, most of these promises are funded without ever raising taxes, and few question the sustainability of such activities.

Consider the effects on voting behaviour if charity was solely an individual, community, or corporate pursuit. Back page topics would make their way into more serious discussions and contribute to superior policies – well, theoretically anyway. In the previous section, we visualized how communities, strengthened through neighbourly love, might impact society. Imagine how modified expectations might affect government size and the government’s claim to being our caretaker. For those yearning for freedom, from the classical liberal straight through to the anarchist, there’s consensus that the current size and scope of government is grotesque. Negating the government’s capacity regarding charity would take a small step towards undermining its authority, impacting future policies, and reducing its overall size.

In closing out this section, we would be wise to recognize government assistance for what it is – relief with conditions. The conditions being we accept the countless negative trade-offs, agree with the size and scope of government, and remember which hand has been feeding us through the next election cycle. Murray Rothbard put it simply in his book “Power and Market: Government and the Economy,”

“It is curious that people tend to regard government as a quasi-divine, selfless, Santa Claus organization. Government was constructed neither for ability nor for the exercise of loving care; government was built for the use of force and for necessarily demagogic appeals for votes. If individuals do not know their own interests in many cases, they are free to turn to private experts for guidance. It is absurd to say that they will be served better by a coercive, demagogic apparatus.”

In Closing

“The Golden Rule,” as it is best known, instructs us to treat others the way we want to be treated. I recently heard the following thought-provoking statement from Michael McCullough during an episode of Russ Roberts’ show “EconTalk,”

“We’ve tried on a couple of occasions to study the Golden Rule and it’s hard, to study in the laboratory.”

Interesting. It’s as though most people accept this rule as a natural law despite having no explanation as to how it works. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t really matter in the end. Perhaps what matters is that generosity benefits both parties, increases the prospect of peace, and reduces government legitimacy. Sounds pretty good to me.

Towards charity,

OA

Economics in 10 Tokens

Economics in 10 Tokens

A free eBooklet devoted to The Austrian School of economics

The Liberty Quill is pleased to offer “economics in 10 tokens” as a free resource for download. This eBooklet presents ten principles of Austrian economics using a tokenized approach. Please share the file found below as often as possible: that’s why it’s there.

Towards liberty.

A Witness to the Fractioning Church

A Witness to the Fractioning Church

“What ever disunites man from God, also disunites man from man.” – Edmund Burke

Walking down the dark tree-lined path, I could see the illuminated porch light and the silhouettes of my wife and three children as they approached the old country home. Before my family could reach the front door, it swung open, and our hosts greeted them with warm embraces. We entered their home, settled in to begin supper, and said grace. Five minutes into the beautiful meal, the conversation turned to the topic of church. I mentioned how grateful I was for our elders’ decision not to enforce the government’s mandates surrounding COVID-19: Choosing instead to empower individuals to determine what was best for them. I was, however, completely unaware that one of our hosts opposed our church’s position. Within minutes, we found ourselves navigating through our opposing views, all the while trying our best to remain gracious. But my apprehension grew tenfold once we were told our church should just simply “obey.”

Many are calling life within the COVID-19 environment unprecedented. The imposed restrictions have aroused new tensions within the population, and naturally, those feelings extend to the church. This quill will explore Christian views regarding the appropriate degree to which the church should practice civil obedience. There will be frequent references to the bible as it contains the teachings committed Christians refer to when shaping their worldview. I will present the better-known passages used to support the Christian requirement for total civil obedience and accompany them with brief counterpoints for reflection. Subsequently, I will present several verses which bring into question the inherent goodness of our governing authorities before concluding with a call for church unity.

The Case For Obedience

To our dear friend’s credit, the call to civil obedience is indeed consistent with several passages of scripture and it would be disingenuous for anyone familiar with the bible to claim the absence of such instructions. One of the best-known passages comes from the Apostle Paul in Romans 13. Only seven verses long, this passage has had a lasting impact on the church’s view of our governing authorities. Romans 13:1-7 ESV reads:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

As a stand-alone text, I admit this passage seems to provide clear and concise instructions pertaining to our discussion here. But therein lies the problem. These seven verses do not present a stand-alone text, though they are often treated as such. The books of the bible were not organized by chapter until roughly the 12th century. Let’s imagine no chapter break exists and refer back to Romans 12 to see what Paul has to say, leading up to chapter 13:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12.1-2)

And;

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Rom. 12.9-13)

Do these instructions complement the idea of total submission to worldly authorities or give us reason to consider the degree to which we should submit? It’s worthy of contemplation.

Another passage often employed when addressing this topic is found in 1 Peter 2. However, unlike Romans 13, 1 Peter 2 contains the calls to holiness and submission within the same chapter, providing a backdrop. The passage reads:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Pet. 2.9-17)

The requirement to be set apart from the world (v. 9-11) followed by instructions regarding submission to the authorities (v. 12-17) should stoke in us a curiosity to examine the relationship between them. Verse 12 explains why Christians should be upright participants in this world: To bear witness to the glory of God. If we begin reading at verse 13, we receive the commands without the knowledge of why we are instructed to do so. These reasons are important as they reveal God’s desire for our lives. As we know God, we can apply His character to the entirety of scripture, which further enriches our biblical studies.

The Case For Study

Another critical element to understanding scripture is identifying when there may be a requirement to apply historical or cultural context. To adopt a strictly literal interpretation of all scriptures is a mistake and considerable damage has been caused at the hands of misguided believers throughout history. At present, is the church carrying out Paul’s instructions found in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and forbidding women to speak in church? Mine certainly isn’t – context is important. Numerous studies exist which address Romans 13 and provide additional context and insights not found simply by reading the text. Additionally, both Paul and Peter’s writings fail to mention the degree of submission required when living under corrupt or immoral authorities, and both merely affirm that God has instituted those over us to punish evil and praise the good.

Arguably, governing authorities seldom function in accordance with God’s desire, which has prompted numerous believers to create additional resources on this topic for anyone who may be interested. The Libertarian Christian Institute, an organization I credit with having introduced me to libertarianism, has an entire resource page devoted to the study of Romans 13. AnarchoChristian, another website that greatly impacted my political reformation, also has numerous articles and podcasts related to this discussion.

The Case Against

Based on their overall reluctance to oppose government mandates, we can assume most modern churches lean on the preceding passages when forming their views on this topic. But do instructions and warnings regarding the authorities exist anywhere else in the remaining thirty-one thousand biblical scriptures? Of course they do. Let us look at a handful:

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146.3)


“Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression,”
(Isa. 10.1)


“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” (Ps. 2.2-4)


“So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.”
(1 Sam. 8.10-17)

The Christian faith claims that scripture is written by man but inspired by God. The preceding verses demonstrate God’s reservations about the governing authorities and his repeated warnings surrounding them. Is it possible when Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 call for Christian submission, it is generally when those authorities act in accordance with God’s will: to praise good and punish evil? My personal views on the matter must by now, be abundantly clear. I am growing increasingly skeptical of modern-day governments. They reject God and illegitimately reach into many areas of our lives. So, in light of everything we have seen, how do we reconcile the church’s differing views considering that both sides draw their conclusions from the same holy text? Simple – we must choose to focus on something of far greater importance: Church unity.

The Call to Unity

The Apostle Paul has this to say about unification:

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1.10-13)

Later, while under house arrest in Rome, Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians:

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” (Eph. 4.1-5)

The church must remain unified. Naturally, that doesn’t mean it will agree on everything, but it must not fail to remember that Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ. Opinions surrounding current COVID-19 mandates have nothing to do with eternal salvation. Disagreements over the required degrees of submission to authorities must not present a stumbling block. Forgiveness and grace should abound when we are unified and fully submitted to Christ. Our hope should be in our eternal home, not in the outcome of some struggle to create heaven here on earth. Politics do play a role. They have direct implications on our existence as well as our ability to share the gospel. But the political sphere is imperfect because flawed human beings wield the instruments of government power. The state does not offer real hope.

Let us now travel back to that memorable evening with our dear friends. Desiring not to let the conversation spoil our time of fellowship, my wife and I surrendered our pride and redirected our energies towards remaining gracious. In the end, we had to agree to disagree. Our hosts witnessed our initial displeasure with being told we should obey. However, they also saw our desire to move away from those negative feelings. We were able to lay our differences to rest and enjoyed what ended up being a lovely evening. The following morning at church, in true humility, our friend approached my wife to assure us they had meant no harm by their comment and hoped they were still in good standing. Of course they were. In closing – searching the scriptures to determine if Christians should obey mask mandates won’t bring conclusiveness, but it will reveal a far greater truth; That Jesus died for us, He rose again, and those who believe in Him will gain everlasting life. Surely the church can unite around that.

Towards eternity,

OA

Woe Canada

Woe Canada


By Ollie Adamson

How you have strayed,
Having been led away from what once justified you.

For your dominion was planted in knowledge and truth.
You knew my ways and sought my counsel.

But now, your rulers chase after the wind,
Which blows eastwardly one day, westward the next.

Arrogance is your stumbling block,
It prevents you from growing in wisdom.

For she is not found in man’s progressive intellect,
But rather through lessons learned, through understanding man’s nature.

Can you offer up salvation?
Can you save a man from himself?

You promise milk, and offer your breast,
But where does your milk come from?

For, unlike the new mother,
Your supply comes from those you nurse.

Consider the things which lead to a joyful heart,
They go far beyond matters of provision.

Work and leisure, failure and success,
The freedom to experience them, this is the fullness of life.

Humble yourselves before me,
And before your people.

Acknowledge your limitations,
And do away with grandiosity.

For you are your brother’s keeper,
Only as far as your brother desires it.

My people belong to me,
Yet you have shown contempt for them.

When one desires to travel a different route,
You rain down like thunder and threaten to wash them away.

My heart weighs the group, next the individual; I lay them on either side of the beam,
And my scales lie in perfect counterbalance.

Do not threaten my children,
And expect to find a seat on my moral high ground.

Though sickness and death stir up fear,
Allow my people to be healthy in spirit.

Release my image-bearers from your grip,
I have written down your name, and I will surely remember.