Tuesday, March 15

On MLK and Civil Disobedience

We are studying Martin Luther King Jr. in one of my classes, and the issue of civil disobedience came up. The following is a post I made on the subject.

There are several reasons why I can not go along with the civil disobedience that King advocated.

First, Romans 13 seems quite clear in declaring that we are to obey those whom God has placed in authority over us. God has placed our government officials and the laws that they make over us and we are commanded to obey them. Disobeying these laws is disobedience to Him.

Second, I don’t see why we should limit our disobedience only to such hot button issues like civil rights or abortion. If I believe that the minimum wage laws are wrong, if I believe that there should not be Social Security, if I believe that the gov’t should not be involved in education, should I stand up and disobey the law to protest against these actions as well? Should I go to a school and stand in the door like George Wallace did and say “Separation of schools from state now, separation of schools from state tomorrow, separation of school and state forever!”???? ;)

I’m just trying to take MLK’s logic to its ultimate end. Each of the positions above I could defend as not “squaring with the moral law of God” so why shouldn’t I be participating in civil disobedience over them as well? Where is the line? Are there some laws that we find wrong that we should participate in civil disobedience over and others that we should not?

Now granted we are commanded in Scripture to “obey God rather than man” if we are commanded to do something that goes against God’s command. If the law of the land said I could not read the Bible, I would disobey. If the law of the land said I had to kill a person, I would disobey. If the law of the land said you had to have an abortion, you should disobey. But I believe there must be a clear line between government commands that FORCE you to disobey God’s law and laws that ALLOW people under its control to disobey God’s law.

In King’s biblical examples, he got this distinction terribly mixed up. He cited Shadrach Meshach and Abednego’s disobedince as an example yet Shad, Mesh, and Abed did not disobey the king because he ALLOWED the worship of idols in his country, they disobeyed because they were FORCED to do so. Can you see the difference?

The same is true with the early Christians. They did not disobey Nero and have unlawful civil protests because he was killing innocent people. No, they disobeyed when Nero asked them to give up their faith.

I don’t want to ignore our responsibility as Christians to work to change laws in our government that do not line up with Scripture. But in our work toward that end, we must always be law-abiding citizens.