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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.”