by Esther Pavao
I was at Colonial Williamsburg last week with my family, and I asked my mom,
"Do you think, if you lived in Colonial times, you would have been a Loyalist or a Patriot?"
"A patriot," she responded without hesitation. We had just completed a tour of the Governor's mansion and were wandering in the gardens.
"I wouldn't mind being the governor of the colony if I could live in this house," I'd said, only half jokingly.
"Yeah, but then you would have been a Tory," my sister pointed out.
"I probably would have been anyway," I said thoughtfully. "If you think about it, when the war started, the 'patriots' were actually 'rebels' and 'traitors.'" Which led me to ask my mom and all my siblings, "Patriot or Loyalist?"
I had never considered it before, but as the day wore on, the thought wouldn't leave me. I have studied our founding fathers and the American Revolution for years, but never considered which side of the war I would have been on.
I sat down and considered. If President Obama, the current leader of our nation, sent our men into a war, and we won, but were severely in debt, wouldn't we consider it within his right to raise funds to pay off the war? Our nation's deficit is upwards of $18 trillion. I, for one, would be okay paying a little more in taxes to reduce some of that debt. I'm sure our whole nation be upset over his raising the debt ceiling even further than it is now to pay for a war, but would we try to separate our nation from Washington D.C.?
Some people might, but would I join them? Wouldn't I consider those people radicals, rebels, and even traitors? If import/export companies began smuggling their products into the country to avoid these taxes, wouldn't they be breaking the law? No matter how upset they were with our leader, would I condone their breaking the law? Would I condone them destroying a million dollars worth of merchandise? No matter how understanding I am of the tension in Missouri, I don't condone the violence and vandalism taking place in the name of Michael Brown.
And aside from my own feelings on the matter, many of the men who established this revolution were Christians. Or rather, they attended church regularly, read their bibles to their families, and tried to live their lives in an upstanding, moral way.
What would Jesus' disciples (who have been granted the spiritual authority of Jesus) have to say about the American Revolution?
That seems pretty clear to me, in regards to both respecting the authority of the King, the ruler of the colonies, and even mentions paying his taxes. Or, how about this?
Note here, that he specifically mentions harsh masters, not just kind ones. He calls their suffering unjust. For non-Christians, this means nothing. But for George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, there ought to have been pause before joining a Revolution that completely contradicted the religion they were part of.
And there's this:
Okay, praying for your authority figures isn't crazy. Nor is there anything to suggest that our Founding Fathers didn't pray for King George III before starting a full-fledged rebellion. I know for a fact they wrote several petitions for his attention before the war ever began. It was, in part, his lack of response that led to their actions.
There's more to it, you might think. It wasn't about the taxes; it was about an oppressive government.
That's fair. What about the oppression?
And, go back and look at the verse about harsh masters again.
That's all very well, you might think, but these verses aren't historically relevant. They were written hundreds of years before the Revolutionary War was even conceived of, and to completely different people.
That is also a fair argument, but if you hear me out, I think you'll agree that these commands are not only applicable to our Christian founding fathers, but that their circumstances were far less harsh than their Christian forbearers.
The letters I've quoted above were all written between 57 and 68 AD. The beginning of Christian persecution can be traced to the summer of 64 AD, where the culmination of tension between the Christians, the Jews, and the Pagans broke loose after a weeklong fire decimated parts of Rome. The Roman people blamed then-emperor Nero (see below).
Like all major historical events, there were many factors to consider, but, at the risk of dangerously generalizing whole religious groups, two major contributing factors are these: one, the Jews were threatened by this new religious offshoot, and two, the pagans were worried that the disrespect towards their gods would bring divine wrath upon them all.
This tension and mistrust towards the Christians made them an easy scapegoat for Nero. He arrested several leading Christians, and tortured them until they gave up the names of their compatriots.
Other people happily carried on this persecution. Paul, the writer of most of these New Testament letters, took part in persecuting Christians before his own conversion. Afterwards, he was present at the crucifixion of Peter, was later imprisoned for active participation in the Christian faith, and stoned and left for dead. These were regular occurrences, as well as mobs and other acts of violence.
Ephesus (where the Timothy letters were sent and the home of the Ephesians) had a history of oppression and even having their taxes raised to obscene levels. Still, Paul tells the Ephesians "pay your taxes and respect your leaders."
The persecution of the Early Church, in my opinion, far outweighs the inconveniences of the early Americans. Which leads me to conclude that the commands left for the early Christians are equally applicable to any Christian undergoing oppression.
There are a lot of excuses people use for overlooking or discounting certain biblical commands. I won't address all of them now, but the one I expect people would use to discredit the case I'm making is that the commands I'm referencing are made by the apostles, not Jesus, so they don't count.
I won't spend a lot of time on this one, except for this quote from one of the earliest pastors of a Christian church:
(For more on Apostolic authority, see Christian-history.org by historian Paul Pavao, where there are more thorough references and research.)
What about Hitler? He was in a position of authority, and supporting him isn't even an option. Here's my take on that. As Christians, we are not subject to the laws of this world. We are to obey the laws of our King and Master. When the laws of this world contradict the laws we have been given to obey, it is our Christian duty to disregard the laws of the land in favor of the laws of our King. Take, for example, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3), who defied King Nebuchadnezzar's command to worship a false idol and were sentenced to death. God saved their lives, but they were willing to make their stand even if He did not.
The commands of King George III, while inconvenient, and even unfair, were not contrary to the laws of Heaven. He was not demanding the colonists break their religious vows nor do anything immoral or illegal.
So, given all of this, here is my conclusion: there is no reason that the Christian colonists should have taken part in the American Revolution. They not only took part in open rebellion against their King, but against their God.
The American Revolution, based on smuggling, refusal to pay taxes, and destruction of property, while ultimately successful, was not a Christian endeavor.
Don't get me wrong. I would never call America a Christian nation. Not all of the founding fathers were Christian, and thus not all were under obligation to obey the Bible. But if I had lived in the 18th century, I believe that I would have had to be a Loyalist, or be a total hypocrite in regards to my faith.
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