Christians have the right to revolt when authority fails, but making this decision requires prudence, according to Assistant Professor of Philosophy Blake McAllister.
“There is no avoidance of making difficult judgments on when violence is called for, and when it’s not. None of this entails that violence is always or even usually justified,” McAllister said. “As a matter of fact, I think it’s precisely the opposite: Jesus’ words place a great burden on us to accept peaceably all manner of persecution, for God’s sake.”
Alethia Apologetics sponsored a discussion on the Christian right to revolution on Feb. 15, with comments from Hillsdale professors McAllister, Distinguished Associate Professor of History Darryl Hart, and Assistant Professor of Religion Don Westblade.
“Revolution doesn’t necessarily require that we take guns into the Capitol building,” Westblade said. “There may be some more polite ways, there may be some more subversive ways, there may be some more non-violent ways in which we can carry off the same goals of our revolution in aiming to love one another, rather than to use this revolution as an opportunity for the flesh.”
Christians shouldn’t miss opportunities to serve others and defend those who cannot defend themselves, but this duty shouldn’t result in civil unrest, McAllister said.
Senior Gracen Aldaya, president of Alethia, said the topic of the Christian right to revolution seemed especially relevant this semester, in light of Black Lives Matter protests last summer and the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“What does a revolution look like — whether that’s a political revolution, or a revolution based on ideologies, or just standing your ground in your faith like the Christians did in the Roman Empire?” Aldaya said. “What is our duty as a Christian and what does that look like with governmental submission?”
In ordinary circumstances, Christians must respect and obey legitimately elected authorities. But if a government abuses its power or — as in the case of Nazi Germany — commits injustices against its people, then Christians may have a right to revolt, McAllister said.
Hart also spoke on the idea of injustice, emphasizing the biblical call for Christians to suffer and accept persecution for the glory of God.
“Let’s not be shy about saying the Roman Empire was a lot worse than the American government,” Hart said. “Christians are the subject of a human institution, and this was the institution that killed Jesus. That was a fairly unjust execution.”
Instead of going to extremes of violent protesting, Hart said citizens should first fight injustice by calling their elected representatives.
Westblade said there are times when Christians have the right to resist the rules of human authorities because God, a much higher authority, has given them different rules. However, even if revolt is justified, Christians must do it for the glory of God, not their own gain.
“There are some times in which we are tempted to revolt, because we have opportunities for the flesh in view, instead of the aims of God in view,” Westblade said.
Christians must serve one another, even in difficult situations. If revolution is necessary, it must be done out of love for others, Westblade added.
Senior Riley Arlinghaus said she hadn’t associated love with revolutions before, but found the idea to be very impactful. As a politics major, Arlinghaus said she was specifically interested in the justification for the American Revolution.
“It’s a hard question to answer and to put yourself in the mindset, without hindsight, of ‘What was the American Revolution trying to accomplish and to what degree did it honor God?’” Arlinghaus said.
Arlinghaus said she appreciated that each professor discussed the topic through the lens of scripture, but also brought their own field of expertise into the conversation.
“When it is one or the other, we follow God, rather than government,” McAllister said. “Consider the call throughout scripture to seek justice, and in particular, care for the most vulnerable and marginalized in society.”