Sunday, March 06, 2005

For rulers hold no terror for those who do right


A Cranky sermon for a Sunday afternoon


BushCo and the "Religious Right," and the Ultra-Cons would have you believe that they are the ones on the side of good morals and greater understanding (and implementation) of Scripture. I find Romans 13 almost as interesting as Leviticus (the bible gives some pretty detailed household cleaning tips in there).

Romans 13 is more interesting from a purely political perspective as it's all about submission to governing authorities. If you were to believe the verbiage literally: authorities that exist do so by the grace of G-d, rebellion against authority is rebellion against what G-d's instituted, and ruler's are G-d's servants to do you good (unless you're bad) and that everyone should pay the taxes they owe. Based on this, and Romans 13:5 which insists it is necessary to submit to authories not only to avoid punishment but because of conscience. Does anyone else find the subtle humor of irony in this?

I guess, if you want to be technical, the rich who pay a smaller proportion of their overall earnings above a set amount and take advantage of every loophole created for them aren't really avoiding paying their fair share because the loopholes are created by the magnanimous authorities (who usually derive great benefit from the loopholes themselves).

I am confused by the bit about rebellion against authority. Romans 13 clearly states the rulers are in place as established by G-d; it doesn't say anything about the cruel, selfish, schmuck type rules being some sort of exception who've usurped authority without G-d's approval or anything. The entire extablishment of this country's independence from England was the big F-you to King George (that's be George III of Britain, not King George W). Wouldn't this be some sort of collective sin by our very religious Christian forefathers (description according to the theocracy now brigade)? If individuals are not to rebel against their governing authorities, how can other governing authorities (at least those who subscribe to the NT) be involved in the removal of the G-d authorized governing authorities in other countries - does G-d issue a memo or newsletter to all of them to alert the Ruler's Union who's gotten a pink slip?

How do the divinely delegated rulers know which scripture to take literally, which to take as advice and which they're free to ignore? Take at look at the current state of US Bankruptcy laws. Now I take being responsible for personal finances very seriously (maybe a little too seriously). My father went through a bankruptcy when his business failed when I was pretty young, but old enough to understand we were in some deep shit. We lived from hand-to-mouth and it certainly affected decisions my brother and I both made about our college education. On the bright side, my brother and I both have an exceptional work ethic and believe quite strongly in earning things and fiscal responsibility (mind you, if I were as responsible with my own money as I am with my company's, I could afford one of those McMansions close to my office).

I know people who think of credit cards as free money and who have accummulated an inordinate amount of debt through this philosphy; I have friends whose spending habits make me want to cringe, there is one couple in particular I fully expect to have to file for bankruptcy and, despite the fact I love them dearly, they deserve a thrashing for their irresponsibility. I fully support tightening of relgulations covering bankruptcy for irresponsible people like this.

This new bankruptcy overhaul bill, however, which I thought was supposed to actually penalize people like those who've been abusing the system (as it should), has some nasty bits included that I don't think G-d's special ruling Republcan servants are looking to do good for good people of conscience. For example, elderly people who, for the most part, are on fixed incomes with rising costs are not eligible for Federal homestead exemptions to allow them to keep their homes if they file for bankruptcy (the states that offer unlimited homestead exemptions allow those in multimillion dollar mansions to keep them even if selling them for a smaller estate would enable them to pay off their debt immediately). Additionally, amendments to protect those whose bankruptcy filing was due to exhorbinant medical costs, not irresponsible spending, were defeated pretty much down party lines as well. These amendments provided for the maintenance of at least $150,000 of the equity in their home (primary home only) and/or exemption from a new test in the legislation measuring income and assets of bankruptcy applicants (which determines if debts can be discharged) if medical bills exceed 25 percent of the person's income. This is a bit of a double whammy for the geriatric set who are much more likely to incur large medical bills due to underinsurance and significant co-morbidities leading to hospital admissions and/or home nursing care.

The pièce de résistance of the Republican (the "support our troops" party) defeated amendments is Dick Durbin's amendment devised to protect military personnel and their families from facing bankruptcy due to prolonged military deployments that can lead to dire financial circumstances. Said Durbin, of his proposed amendment,
"We have a situation today where many men and women in the military are making extraordinary sacrifices, and it's costing them -- not just in terms of time away from their families but in very real financial terms. It's unfair that they should come home to face this new harsh bankruptcy law."
I guess G-d disagrees.

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1 comment:

a said...

Enjoyed your post. Romans is likely written by Paul who is a master at speaking out of two sides of his face. One side to keep from alerting the authorities (to keep from being executed for as long as possible), and the other for teaching his community how to usurp the power of the authorities. He is all for overthrowing the power of the government - especially the wealthy.

Surely the literalists know this much about who writes what they read. But maybe not. Might threaten their literal translation to know too much.