“You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul.”
It seems to be a forgone conclusion that American society, within a short period of time, will face a complete breakdown of its consumer culture. Some think there is a strong likelihood it will be worse than that suffered by those whom historians call the “Depression survivors” and include a social restructuring or even social chaos.
Certainly, the likelihood of this occurring is enhanced by the indication that China either will not or cannot continue to finance America’s debt. Added to our concerns is the world financial market’s growing lack of confidence in the American economy which portends the ultimate collapse of the U.S. dollar.
The warnings have been numerous and the reasoning sound; so where do we go from here?
Undoubtedly the anxieties among those who are watching these events unfold are becoming manifest in their resistance to any further state usurpations and their focus on personal survival. Ah yes, we are now contemplating, individually and collectively, the very acts that every modern, massive, centralized government since William the Conqueror has sought to suppress by law.
What is often forgotten amongst the melee of “how to” articles, is the consideration of two basic questions. First: Is there a moral justification for resistance against an increasingly pernicious centralized government? Second: If the moral justification for resistance does exist can that struggle take the form of secession?
Each of these questions is answered in the negative by the power elite. Donald Livingston gives us meticulous historical reasons why the state is so adamant in its objections.
“In time, a modern state came to be seen as an association to protect the rights of individuals, and this added a stronger presumption against secession, because any right of a people to secede could only be the aggregate right of a set of individuals. But if one set could secede, any other set or subset-down to one individual – could secede. An acknowledged right of secession would mean the unraveling of the modern state.”
The soft, vulnerable underbelly of the modern state being so easily exposed explains in part why the state and its supporters have had to resort to deception shrouded in religious dogma and patriotic gibberish to justify their existence. It is simply their hope of keeping the dogs of freedom at bay.
By way of illustration we need only to return to 1860 when the Southern people where hotly debating the issue of secession.
In his book, Tupelo, John Hill Aughey relates a sermon he preached, during that year, against Southern secession while at the Poplar Creek Presbyterian church of Choctaw County, Mississippi.
The nationalistic tenor of Aughey’s sermon is immediately apparent from the Scripture on which he had chosen to base his sermon, which just happened to be Romans 13:1. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
Mr. Aughey begins his sermon with a feeble attempt to juxtapose the Southern talk of secession, due in large part to the May 1860 Morrill Tariff, which would raise the average tariff from about 15% to 37%, with Israel’s “idolatry” and rebellion against Judah after the death of King Solomon.
The pastor then goes on to declare: “if we, as the ten tribes, resist the ordinance of God, (meaning, of course, the accepted dogma of Romans 13:1) we will perish. At this time many are advocating the course of the ten tribes. Secession is a word of frequent occurrence. It is openly advocated by many. Nullification and rebellion, secession and treason, are convertible terms, and no good citizen will mention them with approval.”
Furthermore Aughey accents his nationalism with these words: “Where do we obtain the right of secession? Clearly not from the word of God, which enjoins obedience to all that are in authority, to whom we must be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’s sake.”
As if on cue pastor Aughey calls on his congregation to find the right of state secession in the Constitution of the United States and continues his remarks with this remarkable statement.
“Henry Clay, the great statesman, Daniel Webster, the expounder of the constitution, General Jackson, George Washington, and a mighty host, whose names would fill a volume, regarded secession as treason.” (Emphasis mine)
It is unquestionably true that those named would regard secession as treason. However, the good pastor conveniently neglected to mention that each, save one, owed their fortunes to those who had committed acts of secession (treason), which during the late 18th century were justified by economic and social conditions far less odious than those being faced by the Southern States in 1860.
Aughey’s sermon goes on for several more pages. However, the point is that while the sermon is expressed in 19th century words, it contains 21st century progressive sentiments. Sentiments that now espouse blind obedience to an even more abusive Federal government.
Pastor Aughey’s problem continues when he calls upon Romans 13:1 to stand as an injunction against secession.
However, the passages in the Bible as well as secular history, which are contrary to Pastor Aughey’s moral contention, are almost legion. Starting with Genesis 10 and the tower of Babel, the Psalms declaring God’s enmity with rulers and the state, Samuel’s proclaiming those who wish to rule are no better than “weeds” (Judges 9:7–15), Jesus’ own actions concerning state authority, the acts of the Apostles in disobeying Roman authority, and the Christian community through the first three centuries all tell a different story.
The problem resides in the awareness, or lack of it, concerning the history and etymology of the word “powers.”
In a work entitled “The Higher Right to Choose” Brother Gregory Williams makes an incisive observation concerning the word “powers” used in Romans 13:1.
“The word is exousia and it is from two Greek words. Ex means ‘of’ or ‘from’, while ousia is ‘what one has, i.e. property, possessions, estate…’”
Even a cursory check of a Greek dictionary reveals that “exousia” has as its primary meaning: “noun feminine; power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases.”
Furthermore that is exactly how those notable thinkers of antiquity, Plato and Aristotle used the word “exousia.” The Greek Glossary of Aristotelian Terms affirms that “exousia” means “a right.”
Aristotle not only uses exousia as a right but further qualifies the word when he says: “The right (exousia) to do anything one wishes leaves [the political community] defenseless…”
However, Brother Gregory Williams has another shoe to drop when he writes:
“In Bryn Mawr’s Classical Review we see, ‘Brancacci notices that the term used by Enomaos to refer to human freedom is not the typical Cynic one (eleutheria), but exousia, which expresses the new concept of freedom in opposition to the already defunct and unhelpful eleutheria’.”
“It seems clear that Paul is telling us that we should be subject to the liberty and right to choose endowed by God. Paul understood the perfect law of liberty, to oppose liberty is to oppose the will of God for men.”
This is an ugly breach in the state’s longstanding bastion of Biblical legitimacy and government’s opposition to individual freedoms. For the world of classical antiquity would have read Romans 13:1 as; “Let every soul be subject to the higher liberty. For there is no liberty except from God, and the liberties that exist are appointed by God.”
So why did such an eminent scholar, who was fluent in Greek, as St. Jerome, when writing the Vulgate, use the Latin word “potestatibus;” (power, rule, force; strength, ability; chance, or opportunity) instead of the Latin “licentia” (freedom, liberty, license, leave, authorization) in Romans 13?
Jerome certainly knew that the Greek “exousia” meant liberty and freedom since in 1 Corinthians 8:9; he properly renders “exousia” as “licentia.”
The answer resides in the times (360 to 420 AD) in which Jerome lived and translated the New Testament from Greek into Latin.
Gibbon’s reminds us that:
“Constantine and his successors could not easily persuade themselves that they had forfeited, by their conversion, any branch of the Imperial prerogatives, or that they were incapable of giving laws to a religion which they had protected and embraced. The emperors still continued to exercise a supreme jurisdiction over the A.D. 312–438 ecclesiastical order; and the sixteenth book of the Theodosian code represents, under a variety of titles, the authority which they assumed in the government of the Catholic Church.”
On Friday, February 28, 380 AD and five years before Jerome begins his work on Epistles of St. Paul the Emperors Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius Augustuses issued an edict which commanded the people of Constantinople and the Roman Empire to embrace the name of Catholic Christians. Then added to those who didn’t, “whom We adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of Our own initiative, which We shall assume in accordance with the divine judgment.”
From then on what the Church would consider heresy was not only a sin against God but now a crime against the State and was severely punished.
Jerome was working under the demands of “political correctness” which prevailed at that time. Anything which he wrote or believed which countermanded the authority of the Emperors was analogous to one standing before the president of the United States, today, brandishing a weapon and slinging 19th century racial slurs.
We have a revealing sense of how dangerous writing the truth could be during this era from Procopius: “You see, it was not possible, during the life of certain persons, to write the truth of what they did, as a historian should. If I had, their hordes of spies would have found out about it, and they would have put me to a most horrible death. I could not even trust my nearest relatives. That is why I was compelled to hide the real explanation of many matters glossed over in my previous books.”
One could now legitimately ask, why then did the King James Bible of 1611 retain the word power(s) in Romans 13?
The answer is in the rules that were set down to guide the translators, one of which was: “When a Word hath divers Significations, that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the most of the Ancient Fathers, being agreeable to the Propriety of the Place, and the Analogy of the Faith.”
This is a most curious rule since the translators rejected St. Paul’s, who by the way was the most Ancient father, use of the word “exousia” in favor of Jerome’s “potestatibus.” One can only guess what part the marriage between the Church of England and the English state with its Divine Right of Kings dogma played in that decision. However, I doubt either were far from the minds of those learned 17th century translators.
It is my contention that since the state has a long history of using physical threats, not the least of which have included the threat of death in the suppression of civil liberties; there is no reason to assume the state’s innocence in the marginalization of St. Paul’s thoughts in Romans 13.
The state’s chronic dishonesty accompanied by pervasive intrusions into all aspects of our lives has rendered, as Professor Block says, “no real important distinction… between the state and any run of the mill ‘private’ criminal gang. The only difference is better public relations on the part of the former; Both are organized criminal gangs; one has public legitimacy, the other does not.” (Emphases are Professor Block’s)
The question of secession then becomes a moot point, for only cohorts in the ongoing criminal actions would refuse to extricate themselves from that which seeks to destroy the calling of mankind to liberty.
Equally essential is the realization that any act from an individual or collective of individuals in favor of the right to do anything one wishes as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others, is by definition an act of secession and will be labeled sedition by the hoodlums in power.
However, regardless of the consequences, the highest calling of man remains freedom, which reaches back beyond Plato and Aristotle and is embodied in the Greek word “exousia.” Sadly, all of history points to it being a costly struggle and with the current political and economic climate it looks to be again.
So let’s at least start by putting away these childish semantic games that have been the hallmark of state supported abuses and begin the fight from the moral high ground. The alternative is historically disastrous and morally unacceptable.
June 8, 2009
Tim Case is a 30-year student of the ancient histories who agrees with the first-century stoic Epictetus on this one point: “Only the educated are free.”
Copyright 2009 by Lew Rockwell