This article was originally published by John W. Whitehead at the Rutherford Institute.
The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”—Martin Luther King Jr. (A Knock at Midnight, June 11, 1967)
In every age, we find ourselves wrestling with the question of how Jesus Christ—the itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist who died challenging the police state of his time, namely, the Roman Empire—would respond to the moral questions of our day.
For instance, would Jesus advocate, as so many evangelical Christian leaders have done in recent years, for congregants to “submit to your leaders and those in authority,” which in the American police state translates to complying, conforming, submitting, obeying orders, deferring to authority and generally doing whatever a government official tells you to do?
What would Jesus do?
Study the life and teachings of Jesus, and you may be surprised at how relevant he is to our modern age.
A radical nonconformist who challenged authority at every turn, Jesus spent his adult life speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo of his day, pushing back against the abuses of the Roman Empire, and providing a blueprint for standing up to tyranny that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him.
Those living through this present age of government lockdowns, immunity passports, militarized police, SWAT team raids, police shootings of unarmed citizens, roadside strip searches, invasive surveillance and the like might feel as if these events are unprecedented. However, the characteristics of a police state and its reasons for being are no different today than they were in Jesus’ lifetime: control, power and money.
Much like the American Empire today, the Roman Empire of Jesus’ day was characterized by secrecy, surveillance, a widespread police presence, a citizenry treated like suspects with little recourse against the police state, perpetual wars, a military empire, martial law, and political retribution against those who dared to challenge the power of the state.
A police state extends far beyond the actions of law enforcement. In fact, a police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”
Indeed, the police state in which Jesus lived (and died) and its striking similarities to modern-day America are beyond troubling.
Secrecy, surveillance and rule by the elite. As the chasm between the wealthy and poor grew wider in the Roman Empire, the ruling class and the wealthy class became synonymous, while the lower classes, increasingly deprived of their political freedoms, grew disinterested in the government and easily distracted by “bread and circuses.” Much like America today, with its lack of government transparency, overt domestic surveillance, and rule by the rich, the inner workings of the Roman Empire were shrouded in secrecy, while its leaders were constantly on the watch for any potential threats to its power. The resulting state-wide surveillance was primarily carried out by the military, which acted as investigators, enforcers, torturers, policemen, executioners and jailers. Today that role is fulfilled by the NSA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the increasingly militarized police forces across the country.
Widespread police presence. The Roman Empire used its military forces to maintain the “peace,” thereby establishing a police state that reached into all aspects of a citizen’s life. In this way, these military officers, used to address a broad range of routine problems and conflicts, enforced the will of the state. Today SWAT teams, comprised of local police and federal agents, are employed to carry out routine search warrants for minor crimes such as marijuana possession and credit card fraud.
Citizenry with little recourse against the police state. As the Roman Empire expanded, personal freedom and independence nearly vanished, as did any real sense of local governance and national consciousness. Similarly, in America today, citizens largely feel powerless, voiceless and unrepresented in the face of a power-hungry federal government. As states and localities are brought under direct control by federal agencies and regulations, a sense of learned helplessness grips the nation.
Perpetual wars and a military empire. Much like America today with its practice of policing the world, war and an over-arching militarist ethos provided the framework for the Roman Empire, which extended from the Italian peninsula to all over Southern, Western, and Eastern Europe, extending into North Africa and Western Asia as well. In addition to significant foreign threats, wars were waged against inchoate, unstructured and socially inferior foes.
Martial law. Eventually, Rome established a permanent military dictatorship that left the citizens at the mercy of an unreachable and oppressive totalitarian regime. In the absence of resources to establish civic police forces, the Romans relied increasingly on the military to intervene in all matters of conflict or upheaval in provinces, from small-scale scuffles to large-scale revolts. Not unlike police forces today, with their martial law training drills on American soil, militarized weapons and “shoot first, ask questions later” mindset, the Roman soldier had “the exercise of lethal force at his fingertips” with the potential of wreaking havoc on normal citizens’ lives.
A nation of suspects. Just as the American Empire looks upon its citizens as suspects to be tracked, surveilled and controlled, the Roman Empire looked upon all potential insubordinates, from the common thief to a full-fledged insurrectionist, as threats to its power. The insurrectionist was seen as directly challenging the Emperor. A “bandit,” or revolutionist, was seen as capable of overturning the empire, was always considered guilty and deserving of the most savage penalties, including capital punishment. Bandits were usually punished publicly and cruelly as a means of deterring others from challenging the power of the state. Jesus’ execution was one such public punishment.
Acts of civil disobedience by insurrectionists. Starting with his act of civil disobedience at the Jewish temple, the site of the administrative headquarters of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council, Jesus branded himself a political revolutionary. When Jesus “with the help of his disciples, blocks the entrance to the courtyard” and forbids “anyone carrying goods for sale or trade from entering the Temple,” he committed a blatantly criminal and seditious act, an act “that undoubtedly precipitated his arrest and execution.” Because the commercial events were sponsored by the religious hierarchy, which in turn was operated by consent of the Roman government, Jesus’ attack on the money chargers and traders can be seen as an attack on Rome itself, an unmistakable declaration of political and social independence from the Roman oppression.
Military-style arrests in the dead of night. Jesus’ arrest account testifies to the fact that the Romans perceived Him as a revolutionary. Eerily similar to today’s SWAT team raids, Jesus was arrested in the middle of the night, in secret, by a large, heavily armed fleet of soldiers. Rather than merely asking for Jesus when they came to arrest him, his pursuers collaborated beforehand with Judas. Acting as a government informant, Judas concocted a kiss as a secret identification marker, hinting that a level of deception and trickery must be used to obtain this seemingly “dangerous revolutionist’s” cooperation.
Torture and capital punishment. In Jesus’ day, religious preachers, self-proclaimed prophets and nonviolent protesters were not summarily arrested and executed. Indeed, the high priests and Roman governors normally allowed a protest, particularly a small-scale one, to run its course. However, government authorities were quick to dispose of leaders and movements that appeared to threaten the Roman Empire. The charges leveled against Jesus—that he was a threat to the stability of the nation, opposed paying Roman taxes and claimed to be the rightful King—were purely political, not religious. To the Romans, any one of these charges was enough to merit death by crucifixion, which was usually reserved for slaves, non-Romans, radicals, revolutionaries and the worst criminals.
Jesus was presented to Pontius Pilate “as a disturber of the political peace,” a leader of a rebellion, a political threat, and most gravely—a claimant to kingship, a “king of the revolutionary type.” After Jesus is formally condemned by Pilate, he is sentenced to death by crucifixion, “the Roman means of executing criminals convicted of high treason.” The purpose of crucifixion was not so much to kill the criminal, as it was an immensely public statement intended to visually warn all those who would challenge the power of the Roman Empire. Hence, it was reserved solely for the most extreme political crimes: treason, rebellion, sedition, and banditry. After being ruthlessly whipped and mocked, Jesus was nailed to a cross.
As Professor Mark Lewis Taylor observed:
The cross within Roman politics and culture was a marker of shame, of being a criminal. If you were put to the cross, you were marked as shameful, as criminal, but especially as subversive. And there were thousands of people put to the cross. The cross was actually positioned at many crossroads, and, as New Testament scholar Paula Fredricksen has reminded us, it served as kind of a public service announcement that said, “Act like this person did, and this is how you will end up.”
Jesus—the revolutionary, the political dissident, and the nonviolent activist—lived and died in a police state. Any reflection on Jesus’ life and death within a police state must take into account several factors: Jesus spoke out strongly against such things as empires, controlling people, state violence and power politics. Jesus challenged the political and religious belief systems of his day. And worldly powers feared Jesus, not because he challenged them for control of thrones or government but because he undercut their claims of supremacy, and he dared to speak truth to power in a time when doing so could—and often did—cost a person his life.
Unfortunately, the radical Jesus, the political dissident who took aim at injustice and oppression, has been largely forgotten today, replaced by a congenial, smiling Jesus trotted out for religious holidays but otherwise rendered mute when it comes to matters of war, power and politics.
Yet for those who truly study the life and teachings of Jesus, the resounding theme is one of outright resistance to war, materialism and empire.
Ultimately, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is the contradiction that must be resolved if the radical Jesus—the one who stood up to the Roman Empire and was crucified as a warning to others not to challenge the powers-that-be—is to be an example for our modern age.
After all, there is so much suffering and injustice in the world, and so much good that can be done by those who truly aspire to follow Jesus Christ’s example.
We must decide whether we will follow the path of least resistance—willing to turn a blind eye to what Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as the “evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination, to the moral degeneracy of religious bigotry and the corroding effects of narrow sectarianism, to economic conditions that deprive men of work and food, and to the insanities of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence”—or whether we will be transformed nonconformists “dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.”
As King explained in a powerful sermon delivered in 1954, “This command not to conform comes … [from] Jesus Christ, the world’s most dedicated nonconformist, whose ethical nonconformity still challenges the conscience of mankind.”
We need to recapture the gospel glow of the early Christians, who were nonconformists in the truest sense of the word and refused to shape their witness according to the mundane patterns of the world. Willingly they sacrificed fame, fortune, and life itself in behalf of a cause they knew to be right. Quantitatively small, they were qualitatively giants. Their powerful gospel put an end to such barbaric evils as infanticide and bloody gladiatorial contests. Finally, they captured the Roman Empire for Jesus Christ… The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood. The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and religious freedom have always been nonconformists. In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist!
…Honesty impels me to admit that transformed nonconformity, which is always costly and never altogether comfortable, may mean walking through the valley of the shadow of suffering, losing a job, or having a six-year-old daughter ask, “Daddy, why do you have to go to jail so much?” But we are gravely mistaken to think that Christianity protects us from the pain and agony of mortal existence. Christianity has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear. To be a Christian, one must take up his cross, with all of its difficulties and agonizing and tragedy-packed content, and carry it until that very cross leaves its marks upon us and redeems us to that more excellent way that comes only through suffering.
In these days of worldwide confusion, there is a dire need for men and women who will courageously do battle for truth. We must make a choice. Will we continue to march to the drumbeat of conformity and respectability, or will we, listening to the beat of a more distant drum, move to its echoing sounds? Will we march only to the music of time, or will we, risking criticism and abuse, march to the soul saving music of eternity?
This country is systemically evil…and lets ask why is evil abounding…the answer might surprise you…read on if you dare…
Unless this country returns to fearing the Lord God…you ain’t gonna see what we deem as normal…
Proverbs 16:4 The Lord hath made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
“The church is the moral compass of society.”
John Adams stated while he was our President, “The church is the moral compass of society.” But in order to remain a true and faithful compass, the church must remain separate and independent of the influences of that society, particularly its civil government. It must be a “free-church.” Should the church become subordinate, or in any way controlled or co-opted by the civil government (a “State-Church” system), it can no longer effectively serve as that society’s moral compass. Unless it is respected, no one will listen to what it has to say.
Now this does not mean we as a Christian are to not be involved in politics, otherwise we should not be voting or should there be a Christian who holds a political office…this means we are not be influenced by the ways of the world, yet we are to influence the world by being salt and light…
The church had the protection of the First Amendment and yet around 1954 LBJ offered the church free tax exemption, which they had by the first amendment…yet the majority of pastors jumped on board and in doing so they tied there hands and must adhere to what their new master, the state and IRS has deemed appropriate. They can no longer speak out openly against the evil of the day or endorse a God fearing political candidate, before 1954 the church was deeply involved in politics after 1954 and signing up for handcuffs they now risk losing the their assets….”In Caesars Grip” is a book to start with, Peter Kershaw goes in depth with the ins and outs of what it means to be a 501c3 non profit….there is much more, but i will leave you with this so it may stir you and seek the truth of the non profit churches and how the modern day pharisee has placed a muzzle on themselves. do your research and then ask the so called pastor to explain why they needed the protection of the state over the protection of God and watch him try to explain it away….or watch them get HIGHLY upset for you asking question….most pastors today are self appointed hirelings and are only in it for the love of money. Also today the puppets in the pulpit will twist Romans 13 for their agenda…another good area of digging is the FEMA clergy (pastors) And people wonder why God is angry with the world and bringing down His mighty hammer of wrath as the blacksmith pounds the hot iron on the anvil….the children of God have went the way of Balaam…and serve Baal and money.
Deadly Silent….99.9% of churches today are 501c3 churches and they do not serve God….God is removing the lamp stands from more and more dead hypocrite churches, He is calling us back to what we should have never left….the intimate love of Christ that is centered with a home church….and I don’t mean taking the building to the home…I mean good ole worship of the Lord that is lead by the Holy Spirit and not the the head of one man standing in the pulpit….I encourage each and every one of my brothers and sisters to read the book “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola….it will set you on a path of where 99% of our current day worship services come from…they are all rooted in the days of the early pagans and their rituals….also read “In Caesars Grip” by Peter Kershaw to see how the puppets of the day that are in the pulpit have muzzled themselves and can no longer call out the evil of the world…all in the name of filthy lucre. Brethren, we have brought the anger of the Lord upon us, we have no one to blame but ourselves….
So Christians want to blame the blm, the homosexuals, the political parties and just about damn near everyone else, but oh don’t lay it at the door step of the church…
But yet, I say the blame, lays squarely at the door of the church….the church over the last 60 plus years has become deadly silent in a sinful nation. They no longer speak out and call a sin a sin…yet that would mean they would have to acknowledge the sin in their own buildings…and who is to blame here, I say its the puppet pastor and his flock of goonies, the yes men elders he plants in his synagogue of Satan.
When is the last time you heard a sermon on sin, hell or God’s wrath? 99.9% of the services today are a mini rock concert with little three point sermon tossed in….your puppet pastor, the modern day pharisee is feeding your flesh and tickling your ear.
The church today no longer does her job as what she was called to be by the Lord, the salt and light, the salt is tasteless and the light is dim as a one wick candle….yet they blame the heathen world and shake their fist at God.
Until the bride of Christ repents and returns to doing what she is called to do, the Lord will continue to bring down the hammer of His indignation upon His bride as a blacksmith brings down the hammer on the glowing iron on the hardened anvil.
Buckle up boys and girls….Now let me share with you what God directed me to…
Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of hosts,
“Because you have spoken this word,
Behold, I am making My words in your mouth fire
And this people wood, and it will consume them.
6 “You who have forsaken Me,” declares the Lord,
“You keep going backward.
So I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you;
I am tired of relenting!
7 “I will winnow them with a winnowing fork
At the gates of the land;
I will bereave them of children, I will destroy My people;
They did not repent of their ways.
For those who know God, will say this is the Old Testament. Yet I encourage you to turn to Hebrews 10:26-31…John 3:18…John 3:36…just a few in the New Testament…and oh there is so many more I could direct you too…as for the Old Testament, I will direct you to Psalm 9:17…where it speaks of all Nations who forget God…scripture is very plain and direct.
Today you have been warned!!!
6 If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble?
If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?
7 Surely the Lord God does nothing Unless He reveals
His secret counsel To His servants the prophets.
Judgment Must Come
1 Then the Lord said to me, “Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not be with this people; send them away from My presence and let them go! 2 And it shall be that when they say to you, ‘Where should we go?’ then you are to tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord:
“Those destined for death, to death;
And those destined for the sword, to the sword;
And those destined for famine, to famine;
And those destined for captivity, to captivity.”’
16 “As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you.
11 So the Lord said to me, “Do not pray for the welfare of this people.
To all my Christian Brethren…read the verse below to see what is in store for the US.
Deuteronomy 28:43 The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low.
Due to our iniquities against the Lord God, He has turned us over to evil and wicked men. Repent of your sinful worldly ways and the Lord God may relent on His anger that He is now pouring out upon us.
You got that right about the churches. It’s all about the money. Not about peace, love, or anything that matters. Churches are evil.
The United States of America & the Roman Empire comparison in this article is brilliant. America’s Founders stated that a MORAL & INFORMED population were required to perpetuate the dream of self governance. Does anyone believe we have that situation today?
Please inform snowflakes & others of the instructional opportunities at Hillsdale College.
In the Bible it says, man shall be ruled by the law of God, not by the will of other men. So why are the rest of us putting up with power hungry psychopaths? Look whats happening in the world today. It’s chaos.
The Beast As Saint The Truth About “Martin Luther King”
In spite of MLK’s saying that “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state”, I felt that I could live a clean and fulfilled life, under chapter and verse as formal law.
King was a Communist agitator, with no such intentions.
Or, which Christian can’t follow the Bible?
The real Church of The Lord Jesus Christ has a heavenly calling,it is in,but not of this world. The Lord Jesus told His disciples that they were not of this world(kosmos)even as He was not of this world. The real saints of God and Christ have no business involving themselves with this corrupt world system,secular or religious. We are here to show forth Christ,to present Christ to anyone who is thirsting for reality in this dark world.The world in its present state is under the judgment of God. The judgment has been pronounced but not yet executed,The corrupt humanly organized system of Christendom is not the Church of Jesus Christ. It is a corrupt evil religious system, it is Mystery Babylon The Mother Of Harlots and Abominations. It is the false church awaiting the false christ,Antichrist. The great tribulation is just around the corner,ask the Lord Jesus to save you,confess your sins and believe in your heart that God the Father sent His Son to take your sins upon Him and receive the judgment and wrath of God in your stead, and that He raised Him out from among the dead. And finishing His work of redemption He sat down at the right hand of God. Soon to return.And that His blood will wash away all of your sins, and God will fully forgive you and give you the Life that is really Life,that eternal Life that is in Jesus Christ. God loves sinners,He has a tsunami of grace and love for you. The blood of Jesus will cleanse away every sin.
Humanity has made a mockery out of God. Even me, when I ask the same questions over again. Why does God keep allowing all this evil? I’m ignorant! But then, humanity is evil and doing these things to ourselves. Thank God for death. Can you imagine if humans lived forever and kept doing all these horrible things to each other and the earth? It would be worse then hell on earth.