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Can Christians protest the government biblically?3 min read

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As a conservative with federalist tendencies, I tend to appreciate and applaud the sentiment of those engaging in “tea parties,” especially on yesterday on “tax day.” However as a Christian, my political philosophy must come under the teachings of Scripture. Are the protests biblical?

I’m especially inclined to defend them when I see the unfair and inaccurate labels and slurs being thrown at many individuals who are simply fed up with paying too much in taxes. Despite that, those tendencies cannot rule the way I view philosophical choices.

So many passages in Scripture speak about submitting yourselves to earthly authorities, going to the point of saying they were established by God. Lest you think our current leadership is somehow disqualified from that standard, Paul wrote to the churches when they were under the persecution of Nero. Christians were being covered in tar, hung up on posts in his garden and lit on fire. That’s a bit more being than overtaxed.

I’m not saying that the tea parties and protests against the government are automatically anti-scriptural, but I am saying that many right-leaning Christians should remember these verses and really think about them before they engage in any protest. Our theology should always trump our politics. Jesus is much bigger and more important than an elephant or a donkey.

We should also remember that the “people” are not infallible. Conservatives have no problems with understanding the evil tendencies of governments, but sometimes we forget that the populace is not always right. They (we) are sinful, just like the people who run the government.

Those on the Christian Left need to remember the reverse. The government may be ordained by God, but they often act in ways that are not godlike (and are often godless). Our government, in its founding, understood this dilemma and dichotomy – the need to limit the power of both the private and public spheres. That principle is drawn from the idea that humanity is both created in the image of God and yet fallen from that state with a sinful nature.

So with an understanding of both the people and the government having the propensity to sin, how and when should a Christian rebel or protest the God-ordained government? One thing that we should always remember is that neither Jesus or the first century church actively protested the blatantly evil government. They recognized that the change that society needed was not going to come through governmental means. It would come through the Gospel.

Preeminent theologian, John Calvin, who believed in a strong relationship between church and state, saw three areas where the Christian could rebel against the government:

  1. Divine intervention
  2. Tyrannical rule blatantly opposed to the Gospel
  3. Conflicts of obedience between Christ and the state.

It would be hard for me to justify rebelling against the current government when considered the examples of those in the first century and the bar suggested by Calvin and others.

However, the question becomes is protesting tantamount to rebelling? I’m not sure I have that answer. I would think it would lie somewhere in the realm of Christian freedom – if you feel the need to do and feel no conviction against it, then it is acceptable. However, any action against the government should not be taken lightly when we take the examples from Church History and Scripture into account.