Romans 13 supports pacifism!

Ted Grimsrud—May 1, 2011

Several years ago I began a project where I would study the writings of Christians who reject pacifism in order to learn from and respond to them. After spending some time on this, the project moved to the back burner—hopefully to be fired up again before long.

Probably the main thing I learned from the reading I did do was that at the center for almost everyone was an understanding that the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 13 provide about all Christians need in order to realize that it is not God’s will for Christians to be pacifists.

One place where I encountered this use of Romans 13 to support violence surprised me. The staunchly right-wing Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia is well-known to be a deeply traditional Roman Catholic—though that religious affiliation does not seem to hinder Scalia taking strong positions in opposition to current Catholic theology and Papal pronouncements on an issue such as the death penalty. Scalia published a short article justifying his affirmation of the death penalty in the neo-conservative journal First Things. Here, the traditionalist Catholic cites as the core of his position not natural law but the Bible—specifically Romans 13. I didn’t expect that.

So, a Christian pacifist has a problem. How do we respond to these ways of using Romans 13 as a proof text undermining one of our core convictions? We may, appropriately assert that we base our views on a higher authority than Paul: Jesus. But we may also show that Romans 13 actually supports pacifism. Here’s how. Continue reading “Romans 13 supports pacifism!”