Before you read any further, let me warn you that I am a person who likes to read a lot, and asks questions a lot. Chances are, your church leader will discourage you from reading this.
To be honest, I don’t have a clear answer to the question asked above (I already gave away the answer since I know you don’t enjoy waiting). I’m no prophet. But if you’re someone who’s just as confused as I am, and that you’re looking for answers, then I’m inviting you to be one with me in asking the right question.
Submit to Authorities?
Two years ago, I was arguing a lot with my many Christian friends regarding our now-president’s policies, as well as why they were campaigning for President Duterte. I remember their very names, as well as the reasons they presented. And if there’s one thing common in their arguments, it’s that it is commanded in the New Testament to submit to the authorities, because it is God who appointed them, and that submitting to them means submitting to God.
Let me tell you that it’s been misused, according to what I’ve read. But since I am not a Bible scholar, I’ll use another method: history and common sense.
Back in the 20th century, the Germans were ruled by a certain man we know too well for his extremism: Adolf Hitler. Many people believe that he was responsible for the death of many Jews. However, I don’t. He’s not. The ones who gave him the power are. And let me tell you that it is not God.
Prior to Hitler’s rise to power, Germany was a democratic country. Yes, they were poor, but they were free.
Hitler was very vocal about his extremist views, and many people laughed them off, thinking that nobody would take him seriously. They were wrong.
The German morale was very low at that time because they lost during the World War I, and they had to pay for the reparations of those countries that they lost to. They were poor, they were lowly, they were hungry. They demanded change.
Had the people not given Hitler power, and had they stuck to their principles and had they not condoned the abuses that the Jews in their country were experiencing prior to World War II, then the Holocaust should not have happened.
You should understand that God loves Israel and that they’re God’s spoiled people. You should also understand that in a democracy, you are the authority and not your president. As his title suggests, he only presides over our country’s affairs. He is not a king. He is not an emperor. He merely borrows power from us through the law.
That is why our Preamble begins with “We, the sovereign Filipino people,” and that we implore the aid of God. God doesn’t even rule the Philippines – – we do.
Did God appoint Duterte? At face value, the answer is an obvious NO. 16 million Filipinos appointed Duterte, and a good number of them are well-meaning Christians.
Bonhoeffer and Daniel
You must be asking what we should do at this time, especially that President Duterte has recently mocked God, calling him “stupid.”
To be honest, you don’t need to do much. Christians involving in politics is bad business. I let it pass when he mocked God once. But twice is too much.
So what should Christians do? For that, I turn to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
You probably heard of him being quoted by your church leaders, but Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during the time Hitler was in power. He rebelled against Nazi rule and spoke out against its injustices.
Bonhoeffer served as a double agent, spying against his own country. But more than that, his real priority was rescuing Jews, and that caused him to be imprisoned.
In 1945, he was hanged for his anti-Nazi principles and his attempts to rescue Jews. If it hasn’t sunk in yet, Bonhoeffer literally went against his leader just to do what he believed to be right. His fealty belonged to his King, not to any leader, either in the religious or the political sector.
“To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to make something of oneself (a sinner, a penitent, or a saint) on the basis of some method or other, but to be a man—not a type of man, but the man that Christ creates in us,” said Bonhoeffer. “It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.”
Too bad, because many of us Christians would far rather live in comfort.
Also, the Bible has stellar examples of people who defied their kings’ orders just so they may obey God’s. I ask that you read the stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
In all fairness, we never really asked God about his take on the matter. But if Jesus were here, with a bleeding face and his palms pierced with nails and his back rotting in dirt and lacerations, can you really stomach President Duterte’s mockery of your God? Can you just sit silent and continue ‘submitting to your leaders’ when they too can be flawed? Aren’t we supposed to stand up to injustice, in light of Jesus’ willingness to be ridiculed and torn and kicked and spat at?
Can’t you at least stand up for him just this one time and call out our president for his untoward behavior? Can’t you muster enough courage to tell this to your cell leader or your pastor who’s stubbornly defending Duterte’s blatant mockery of God?
I know God permits for things to happen, regardless of whether he likes it or not. Not because he doesn’t care about us, but because he values our free will. But as Christians, we know that we can find something good from all of these. Maybe all these are happening so that we’d finally learn our lesson and bend our knees in grieving for the bad things that are happening in our world today.
Maybe there is indeed more to Christianity than going to church and raising hands in worshipping God. Maybe, just like Bonhoeffer, being a Christian would also mean clenching our fists in protest and bruising our knees in repentance and intercession.
And perhaps, it is not really a question of whether God appointed Duterte or not. What we should ask instead is, “Whatever does God want us to learn, and do?”