Law, Immigrants and Romans 13

America’s Attorney General apparently said Americans should do what the government tells us to. That’s ‘dog bites man’ news. It’s what government officials do. ‘Man bites dog’ news would be an official telling us to go out and break laws.

This time around, the Attorney General was reminding us that our national government is protecting us from immigrants by taking kids from their families. And that Christian Americans should cooperate because Romans 13 says so. According to him:

Not all Americans think breaking up families is a good idea. Even if they are foreigners:

‘God Agrees With Me?’

The good news, for me, is that America isn’t the ‘Christian nation’ of my youth.

I suspect the Attorney General’s appeal to ‘Biblical’ authority won’t generate much support. Apart from some of America’s fuddy duddy fringe.

That hasn’t always been the case.

William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech was effective rhetoric in 1896. His audience loved it so much they carried him around on their shoulders after the speech.

The response wasn’t universal. Judge, a satire magazine, showed the great orator standing on hallowed authority. Literally.

Time passed, the bimetallism crisis faded and politicos found new hot buttons to push.

Claiming that ‘God agrees with me’ isn’t new. Folks on all sides of America’s Civil War and Europe’s turf wars did it. (June 1, 2018; September 10, 2017; August 4, 2017)

My youthful memories include ‘good Christian Americans’ acting as if they thought Jesus is an American. And having meltdowns over newfangled ideas. Decades later, I still think they were wrong. But I may understand why they were so upset.

It was the Sixties. Devotion to old customs and beliefs was fading. Their world was crumbling around them. (May 12, 2018; December 31, 2017; July 4, 2017)

Legitimate Authority

Some changes haven’t turned out as well as I hoped. But I see many as long-overdue reforms.

That doesn’t make defenders of the status quo — or ‘those crazy kids’ — villains or heroes in the melodrama sense. Just folks who thought they were doing the right thing. (May 12, 2018; April 11, 2018)

Back to 21st century America and the Bible: Romans 13 talks about authority, among other things:

“Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God.”
(Romans 13:1)

I could stop reading there, say that every ruler’s wishes are “established by God” — and that everyone who doesn’t agree with me is a Satanic agent. I won’t. It’s not that simple.

Like it or not, human societies need authority. Legitimate authority. As a citizen, my responsibilities include respecting legitimate authority. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1897, 22382243)

Legitimate authority rests on principles established by God. The principles aren’t made up by whoever says they’re in charge. And they don’t change to suit current policies. (Matthew 20:2526; Catechism, 18971951, 19541960, 22352237)

Obeying legitimate authority isn’t blind obedience. “I was only following orders” isn’t a valid excuse. (Catechism, 2313)

“Family” is important, too. So is doing our part as parents and children. (Catechism, 22012233)

That doesn’t mean everyone should look and act like the fictional Cleavers. I’ve talked about family, Ephesians, diapers and all that before. (December 31, 2017; May 14, 2017)


Defending folks is part of a government’s job, or should be. (Catechism, 22632267)

That doesn’t mean keeping immigrants out. Nations with room and resources should accept folks who are “in search of the security and the means of livelihood” they can’t find back home. (Catechism, 2241)

I’d be worried if folks stopped trying to settle in America. Particularly folks who come as families. Having a substantial fraction of “low types” as ancestors affects my views. America would be different without the Irish. But I’m not convinced that it’d be better. (April 2, 2017; November 29, 2016)

I don’t know what rationale the Department of Homeland Security has for breaking up some families who try coming to America. I’d like to think there’s a motive that includes concern for people.

Maybe it’s defending our nation’s youth from un-American influences. Or raising the foreign kids to be obedient little Americans. Or seeing foreigners with kids as a real and present danger to national security.

Whatever the motives, what’s happening seems less than wise. Bear in mind that I’m not a ‘regular American’ by some standards. My ancestry is decidedly un-English.

Even worse, I’m a Catholic. One who takes responsibility seriously. But who doesn’t think the United States Attorney General established the world’s unchanging principles.

And that’s another topic:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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5 Responses to Law, Immigrants and Romans 13

  1. This makes me think of the sovereignty issues my country has with China today, along with the colonization history of the Philippines. Still, I frankly find them all revisiting encounters with the violence-or-violence baseline we usually cling to when facing social issues. Makes me question our typical sense of national heroes and public enemies, too. There’s progress in how we’re valuing more ordinary people, but we still have issues like celebrity worship. And I honestly find my country’s Saints, Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Saint Pedro Calungsod, more worthwhile to draw inspiration from than our designated national heroes as I think about social issues. They’re also made even more interesting with how they lived as missionaries and died as martyrs in the era of Spanish-colonized Philippines, working for an institution that the academia I hang around with now considers colonial and therefore more harmful than beneficial. I consider that disdain understandable, as there was corruption that came along with colonization, but I still consider it cynical, as us humans’ imperfections don’t make dear perfect God Almighty imperfect. And speaking of perfection, that’s something undeniably unbreakable, no?

    • Good points all around.

      Excessive enthusiasm for celebrities seems endemic to all cultures – expressed differently, but arguably recognizable. I suspect it may be something basic in human nature: and basically good, but misfiring in our current state.

      Very much agreed, about Saints. National heroes aren’t necessarily good role models, although I admit a fondness and admiration for folks like America’s Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Carnegie.

      Carnegie is a case in point for my attitude toward immigrants, and one of the reasons I don’t mind folks being able to earn great wealth. He’s probably best remembered for his libraries, and that’s another topic.

      Saints are heroes of another sort – and a remarkably diverse lot. I don’t have a list of favorites, but if I did it would include folks like Sts. Albertus Magnus, Francis de Sales and Teresa of Calcutta.

      And agreed about perfection and our current status. I’m quite sure there are unchanging perfections: parts of reality we can’t change.

      I suspect the frustration many of us feel with our rough patches and smudged spots comes from our not having quite forgotten that we can be – not “perfect” the way God is, but better. And, eventually, with God’s help, ‘perfectly’ human. For that, we’ll have to be very patient indeed. And that’s another topic.

  2. Peggy Haslar says:

    Wondering whether (and hoping that) we’re in the midst of a “crisis” that could produce a crack-up of the left vs. right monopoly on the issues. At any rate, what you said in your last line. Something to be thankful for.

    • More than the proverbial “day late…” – – – Little as I like media’s overuse of the word “crisis,” I think you’re right.

      I see strong similarities between today’s America and my country during the 1960s. It’s not a comfortable time, which is good news in a way.

      My guess, for what it’s worth, that the ‘status quo vs change is good’ dichotomy won’t go away. It strikes me as one of those continua that’s deeply rooted in human nature.

      We are, however, in one of those eras when at least some folks are willing – maybe eager – to hear someone making sense, instead of chanting the same old slogans. That, I think, is an opportunity for folks who aren’t diehard traditionalists or gung-ho neophiles (if that’s not a word yet, it should be) to get heard.

      Getting heard is one thing, Getting believed is another. And convincing enough folks to start making sense – – – – – is still very much a work in progress. But I think we are progressing. Slowly.

Thanks for taking time to comment!