Ruling By Divine Mandate?
September 23, 2007
In a recent conversation with a close friend I was stunned by his insistence that God chooses our presidents for us. Apparently God is guiding the nation's voters - or at least the Electoral College. My friend finds the constant criticisms of the president, including my own, troubling and inappropriate - for we're to honor our leaders and support them.
His beliefs, which I don't think are unique, have a long history - they're rooted in a tradition of “divine right monarchy.” This ideology of earlier years held that because God is sovereign and God chooses the ruler, from family to nation, we who are ruled should not resist that person's judgments. We should, instead, trust in the ruler's judgment - for surely they know more than do we about the affairs of state.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1 NRSV).
That was my answer to my friend's statement - we the people choose the president of the United States - sometimes we make good choices and at other times not so good choices, as history has demonstrated. Because the people make the choice, the president - this president and every president - is therefore accountable to the people of this country. This point needs to be made at a time when the religious rhetoric in the public sphere is becoming increasingly sharp.
If I understand Paul in his context, I can hear him remind us that God desires order not chaos. But if there is any divine mandate to be considered it is our calling as people to exercise good judgment in choosing our leaders, and then having chosen them we should pray for them but also show due diligence by holding them accountable to the highest standards.
September 23, 2007