Can Someone School Me on Romans 13?

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Robert Jeffress, a follower of the Lamb of God¹ and a loving shepherd of His flock—and one of Donald Trump’s favorite pastors—is apparently pretty stoked at the idea of launching hellfire on North Korea:

When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.

The book of Romans, huh? It turns out that Jeffress is talking about Romans 13:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God….Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.

I always learn something interesting when I ask about Bible passages, so let’s ask about this one. Its meaning seems pretty obvious: Paul is talking about obeying the civil authority under which you live. I, for example, am required to obey the laws of the city of Irvine, the state of California, and the United States of America. But I don’t have to obey the laws of, say, Brazil, because I don’t live there and they aren’t my “governing authority.”

Jeffress, however, is suggesting that this passage is not just about the power of a governing authority over those it governs, but also over anyone it thinks is evil. I’m sure this is ridiculous, but it often turns out there’s some arcane but longstanding theological debate behind this kind of thing. So school me. Is there an interesting story to tell here? Or is Jeffress just a lone crackpot?

¹And you know he’s for real because he’s called Islam “evil,” Catholicism “satanic,” and Mormonism “a cult.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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