Disrespecting the President is Disrespecting the Commands of God

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro worked for the Kerry campaign in 2004, so he’s not just standing up for one of his own when he points out that “The Treatment of Bush Has Been a Disgrace.”

Shapiro begins by pointing out the petition in San Francisco earlier this year (that garnered 12,000 signatures) to rename a sewage plant after George W. Bush. This is but “one example of the classless disrespect many Americans have shown the president.”

Some further highlights:

(1) Mr. Bush tried to work with Democrats and Republicans and was shot down by both sides.

(2) No matter what Mr. Bush does, he is blamed for everything.

(3) Many of the problems Mr. Bush has faced either began long before he came to office or were beyond his control.

(4) His approval rating is spectacularly low, But Harry S. Truman’s was, too, though he is now highly regarded as people have come to understand the difficulty he faced while in office. The same will be true of Mr. Bush.

Shapiro’s conclusion:

The treatment President Bush has received from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have. The president is not to blame for all these problems. He never lost faith in America or her people, and has tried his hardest to continue leading our nation during a very difficult time.

Our failure to stand by the one person who continued to stand by us has not gone unnoticed by our enemies. It has shown to the world how disloyal we can be when our president needed loyalty — a shameful display of arrogance and weakness that will haunt this nation long after Mr. Bush has left the White House.

This seems to be a trend in our country now in many areas. People show unbelievable disrespect to their teachers, parents, civic leaders, the elderly, etc. I am only 38 but even I notice how things have changed in this regard. When books like The Power of Nice even need to be written, something is wrong (it’s a great book, by the way).

I was raised in the South, where respect and politeness is part of the social fabric, and I was taught to respect everyone: teachers because I was their student; civic leaders because they were magistrates in authority; pastors even when they weren’t my pastor and even when we didn’t agree with their theology because they were called of God; and older people just because. I was also taught to respect women, to protect children, and to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around me, no matter how much I think it should. In other words, I was taught to respect everyone until such a time as they revealed themselves unworthy of respect. Even then, I should show respect because of my own good character.

Even in Christian circles such disrespect as we see in the world is tolerated and even encouraged. As a pastor, I have received disrespect and mistreatment from my own church members at times that rivals that shown by unbelievers (in fact, I have worked with gross sinners who would not have treated me, pastor or not, the way some Christians have treated me).

This is not the way believers are to live. One thread that is woven throughout the fabric of Scripture is the teaching of respect and submission to authority and respect for peers. The fifth commandment calls upon us to Honor our fathers and mothers. The Westminster Larger Catechism (namely Q. 123-133) rightly points out that

“By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.” (A. 124)

The honor that is owed them is

“all due reverence in heart, word, and behavior; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections; fidelity to, defense, and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may be an honor to them and to their government.” (A. 127)

The sins committed against them that violate this commandment are

“all neglect of the duties required toward them; envying at, contempt of, and rebellion against their persons and places, in their lawful counsels, commands, and corrections; cursing, mocking, and all such refractory and scandalous carriage, as proves a shame and dishonor to them and their government.” (A. 128)

When we disagree with the authorities, it is right to take issue with their governance within the boundaries set by God and society, but we still must be careful not to be disrespectful in so doing.

Questions 129 and 130 deal with the duties and sins of superiors. While that is not the point under discussion here, it is important to remember that one person’s sin against you neither necessitates nor excuses your own misbehavior, even if it is response to their sin.

As far as our peers are concerned, we are to “regard the dignity and worth of each other, in giving honor to go one before another; and to rejoice in each others’ gifts and advancement, as their own” and to avoid “the neglect of the duties required, the undervaluing of the worth, envying the gifts, grieving at the advancement or prosperity one of another; and usurping preeminence one over another.” (A. 131 and 132)

The Scripture proofs connect this commandment to the Second Great Commandment which is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This means that as Christians, we are to treat each other with love and respect, to demonstrate love and respect even to those outside the faith, and especially to those in authority since those in authority are ordained of God (Rom. 13:1) and to resist them is to resist God (Rom. 13:2).

And, yes, this true even if you don’t like George W. Bush or Barack Obama.


About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
This entry was posted in Fifth Commandment, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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