The SC choir chaplain brought up a passage in 1 Peter at the beginning of this week regarding submission to authority. It led to interesting conversation, and I'd like to reiterate part of that conversation here.
1) It is important to remember that the early churches who passed around these letters had a very practical use for them. The early church could have easily been stomped out had the early Christians been too anti-government. True, the church was persecuted. True, the church did get into trouble with the government. However, remember that the persecution happened for short bursts of time (historically speaking) and only in isolated areas. It was by no means universal persecution. Additionally, when you look at other early Christian documents, you see more injunctions to work with the rulers.
And why not? The early church needed all the support it could get, while not compromising, of course. If they were all outspoken government radicals, they would not have lasted long.
2) With that in mind, I'd like to state that I unequivocally support every man, woman, and child's right to not only speak out against the government, but to practice what Thoreau called Civil Disobedience.
Someone in class mentioned that it's okay to disagree with the government, as long as you don't disrespect the government. Not only is this modifying the passage to your own liking, it's near meaningless. What does it mean to "disagree with respect"? Is calling the president foolish disrespectful? Is calling the president a liar disrespectful? Is calling the president a crook, or a murderer, or immoral disrespectful? Because I know many world leaders who deserve to be called these things. In some cases, I firmly believe that the leader must be taken out of his or her leadership position, violently if necessary (e.g. Hussein).
The definition of respect is shaky, and Christians exploit this shakiness by using the 1 Peter passage to condemn certain protesters while at the same time justifying their own protests. Many Christians would have no problem calling Obama a baby-killer (I've heard it done here at SC) because of his abortion policies. On the same token, I've heard the same people bitch and moan whenever someone calls G.W. Bush a moron because all of a sudden that's violating the 1 Peter passage.
Now, let's put 1 and 2 together. Let's all agree that in our country, we can disagree with our leadership - make fun of, call names, label, whatever - just so we're all on the same playing field. Let's also agree that when a leader is exploiting the people, starving and killing and robbing, etc., that country's people has a right to overthrow the government.
Lastly, set's put some restrictions on our actions. Here are some things that I think we can all agree are unethical:
Slander: As defined by the free dictionary as "A false and malicious statement or report about someone." Keyword: False. No making up things about our presidents. No premature judging. Get your facts straight before exercising your freedom of speech, for crying out loud. It will do the whole country good.
Needless Violence: Violence may have its place, but very rarely. I'm talking Hussein-level baddies. Blatant exploitation and violence against the people on the part of the leader.
If you can think of any other exceptions, please tell me in the comments.