Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More thoughts on the State and Force

Huw Raphael commented to my post on June 9th on the State and Force" I like where you're going here, especially: I want to say that the
state's divinely ordained use of the sword (to use Biblical and
traditional theological language) does not speak to its proper use,
especially if the state ignores or refuses to recognize from where it
receives this power.


I'd like to see that fleshed out even
more because, of course, Paul was talking about a pagan state that had
no way of knowing, no way of realizing where the divine mandate came
from. Might there not be an infinite loop created by a Christian state
(as we like to pretend the US is) that refuses to acknowledge the
source?"
I am not sure about the infinite loop (not actually sure what Huw is getting at there.) but in terms of Paul's referent being a pagan state and the possibility of a Christian State, raises the issue of context and application. On a certain level I think Romans 13 could be read as an articulation of a proper authority under judgment by God. Isn't it somewhat ironic for Paul to talk about the state wielding the sword on the lawless when the state sword was used against him and ultimately lead to his death, not to mention the rest of the martyrs of the church.
In anycase I think I was suggesting that it seems that in arguments around these issues I have not found much reflection that takes seriously martyrdom and the defiance of the State that it implies. After all is not the martyr a the victim of the use of the sword, and in the eyes of a non-Christian state is it not excising the "evil doer" from its midst?
I think my comment quoted above was in part brushing up against the reality that the State tends (even a purportedly Christian or Christian friendly State) to define the "evil doer" on its own terms. That is an enemy of the State is naturally according to the State an "evil doer". However, this tendency of the State to define what is evil is itself a denial of its derived authority. The tendency of the state is in fact to deny the very reality Paul asserts for the State. State sovereignty is always already derived, and thus it can only properly function when it functions as something other than the standard. The state is steward not sovereign. All authority it has is derived from that which is other than itself. However,The state sees its self preservation and survival as ultimate good, thus the sacrosanct "national security", but the Biblical account of the State sees God as the creator and master of the State, who created it not for itself, but for the lessening of the effect of the reality of evil in the world. The state is not a good in and of itself but only when it sees its existence as coming from that which is not itself. I do not know of any state that has truly and fully ever given up its own sovereignty and thus ability to define good and evil in terms of itself.

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