Blogger Matt Walsh published a post yesterday entitled, “I don’t respect the president or his office, and neither should you.” Matt’s premise—as the title makes abundantly clear—is that we should not feel obligated to “respect the office” of the President. Actually, he goes a step further by affirmatively arguing we should not respect it.
I won’t recap the whole post—if you want to read it for yourself, I imagine he would appreciate your visit. But here are a few highlights (lowlights?) that caught my eye:
- He points to the “hypocrisy of Obama’s Minions,” who failed to respect former President Bush.
- He admits he understands “what it means to honor and respect your parents just because they’re your parents,” but claims “I don’t even know what ‘respecting the office’ means in the context of our constitutional republic.”
- He concedes that, because of the “dignity of a human being,” we should not “hurl racial slurs and dishonest ad hominem insults at the president.”
- He cites Romans 13 in passing for its instruction to submit to governing authority but argues this does not “require us to lie before the Powers that Be like dogs.” He goes on to state that “In this nation, we prostrate ourselves to no one, other than the Lord.”
I expected Matt to conclude that respect for the office of the
president must be earned, rather than freely given. But instead, Matt concluded:
“If anything, the office should be hated. Hated until some respectable person is elected by respectable voters to convert the monstrosity back to the limited, yet important, post that our Founders established.” ... “The politicians don’t need your respect, and they haven’t earned it.”
Matt Walsh is wrong.
First, I want to briefly address his argument that “they did it first.” This is a response we all learned when we were approximately three years old. Our sibling stole our toy, so we stole in back. Or he hit me so I hit him back. By the time you reach the age of eight, you should have been taught the general concept that you are responsible for your actions, regardless of what someone else does. With this principle in mind, the proper analysis should not begin and end with what individuals in the other political party are doing, or not doing. It should begin and end with what we are supposed to do. And, as it turns out, what we are supposed to do is respect those who God has placed in authority over us.
Since Matt cited scripture, let’s turn to the Bible. First, it is worth noting that the Romans passage Matt referenced also states that the authorities have been instituted by God and “whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed.” Romans 13:2. Moreover, and more to the point,1 Peter 2 instructs us to “honor the king” and to “[s]ubmit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” 1 Peter 2:13-17. Incidentally, this instruction comes just after the exhortation to “[k]eep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” (1 Peter 2:12), and right before the exhortation to “be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” (1 Peter 2:18)
2 Timothy 2:24-26 states that “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
Some historical context is helpful. Lest you assume otherwise, at this point in history, the individuals in power weren’t exactly right-wing God-fearing gentlemen. At the time Romans was written, Nero was the emperor. In case you don’t remember, Nero’s the guy who captured Christians and burned them in his garden at night in place of lamps. Not exactly a respecter of life (not to mention liberty and the pursuit of happiness). Similarly, 1 Peter was written to churches in Asia Minor that were suffering religious persecution. It was in this context that the Bible instructed us to “honor” the leadership that “God has appointed.”
Also, just an aside, no one needs to be commanded to honor and respect someone whom is easy to honor and respect. The imperative is necessary when what is being commanded is difficult.
Matt goes on to suggest that showing respect for the office is somehow incompatible with an earnest defense of the sanctity of life. He states:
We’ve reached a point where a wide swath of the country finds itself more concerned with respect for a political office than for life itself.
He also argues, inexplicably, that showing respect for the office threatens our ability to scrutinize or express disagreement with the decisions of the President:
But I’m afraid that, in application, [respecting the office] makes it difficult for us to hold for our politicians that one feeling that the preservation of Liberty surely requires: skepticism.
Hogwash. Respect for authority does not require blind allegiance to that authority. Daniel did not defile himself by eating the Babylonian’s food, nor did he obey the decree to pray only to King Darius, but he showed honor to King Nebuchadnezzar and to King Darius. In the latter case, it was the morning after King Darius had (regretfully) ordered him thrown into the lion’s den.
Likewise, showing respect for authority does not require you to forfeit legal remedies or to refrain from expressing disagreement with policies. Paul did not hesitate to utilize the benefits of his Roman citizenship.
Our system of government affords opportunities not only to express our views (including disagreement with decisions of the administration), but also to cast our votes for those who seek to hold positions of authority. As illustrated above, the scriptural command does not require us to relinquish those rights. But it does provide guidance in how we are to express our views, and in how we are to view the leadership God has established. And if the minimum standard is to refrain from racial slurs and deceitful insults, then the bar is set far too low. Moreover, if you need to rely on personal insults to make your argument or express your disapproval, then your argument is either poorly conceived or, at the very least, poorly articulated.