When Politicians Quote Romans 13

There’s been a ton of ink spilled over the last several centuries about Romans 13 – it was used by slaveowners, it was trotted out a few times during the Reagan years, and it was recently onstage again, this time quoted by Jeff Sessions in support of the administration’s immigration…”policy.”

I’m not going to go into long and boring exegesis on the verse (tho there are a few links below that you might find helpful)1, I only want to point out that this is the same sort of cherry-picking (“read this part, ignore that part”) that people sometimes do (both liberal and conservative) when they want to use the Bible to justify their stand on some issue or other. Whether you want to condemn homosexuals, or support government programs to feed the hungry, or blame all the evils of the world on women (“Eve, why’d you do it?!”), or complain about “these kids and their tattoos”, you can find a verse to support your position.

The best preachers/ministers/rabbis/priests I’ve heard and the best Biblical scholars I’ve read all came back to the same point: you have to read the WHOLE THING – warts and all2 –  and then reflect on any passage in light of that reading.

The whole point of the New Testament is that the admonition to “Love God” and “Love one another” is the lens through which everything else must be interpreted. Serious people can have legitimate disagreement about what policies best reflect this and how to implement those policies (I’m sympathetic to the argument that Jesus was not a social reformer), but to stand in front of people and justify your actions – or your administration’s actions – by simply saying “God says you should blindly obey your leaders” is the kind of behavior that has been turning people away from organized religion since at least the late 80s.


1. A few recent discussions of this verse can be found in the Atlantic, in the Huffington Post (in 2017 when Pastor Robert Jeffress quoted it as giving Donald Trump the right to nuke North Korea if he sees fit), and elsewhere.
2. By “warts”, I mean things like Lot’s daughter getting him drunk and then…you know…sleeping with him, David’s little adventure with Bathsheba, Jesus admitting that he hides the meaning of some of his parables so people won’t understand them and be converted [Mark 4:10-12]


Daily Thought for Feb 2, 2015

About Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

A while back, UTNE Reader ran an article about Abdul Ghaffar Khan titled “The Islamic Gandhi”. When you read about him, it seems like he should be a household name, in the same way as Gandhi (who he knew) and Mother Teresa. Of course, being Muslim, he is not. Which is not meant to be a political comment on my part, but a simple recognition that most of the people I know do not know a lot of Muslims. So, to do a little bit of good-news spreading, I’m adding some quotes and some links to information about him.


It is my inmost conviction that Islam is amal, yakeen, muhabat – selfless service, faith, and love.

Only a dead nation remembers its heroes when they die. Real nations respect them when they are alive.

Who was Badshah Khan?

From the Progressive:

YouTube Video of a 10 minute biography produced by the Gandhi Memorial Fund:

A link to the movie “The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, a Torch for Peace”, produced in T.C. McLuhan, released in 2008




Cleveland Clinic Day 6

Saturday and we’re still here.

Lisa’s been stepped down off of all of her medications. Talking with the doctors and the ward nurses, it isn’t uncommon for this to happen. A child is brought to the ward, hooked up to all of the equipment and … the waiting begins. She’s had a couple of dizzy spells, some hand trembling, and some stomach activity reminscent of the very early seizures but nothing useful that could be captured on the EEG.

The most nerve-wracking thing about this is that she has a tendency to go into status very quickly so we were hoping to capture the information we needed while she still had some drugs in her system. Lowering her doses feels a little like playing Russian Roulette.

The other problem is that sitting around with no symptoms gets your hopes up. “Wow, maybe she’s been miraculously cured while we weren’t looking.” But this doesn’t really happen, not after this many years.

So, the waiting continues. Lisa’s now been through a Mork and Mindy marathon, a Bob Newhart Show marathon, is caught up on all of her homework, and has watched nearly all of the DVDs she brought, including all 3 Spiderman movies. We should have packed more movies. It’s like the Gilligan’s Island folks – they thought they were going on a 3 hour tour…