Alabamans Went with Augustine

Or so argues William Jason Wallace:

Christianity is not very helpful for negotiating political differences. In AD 410, when the Rome fell to Alaric and the Goths, traditional Romans believed instinctively Christians were responsible for weakening the empire and causing the calamity of decline and invasion. Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, determined to respond to this claim in his enormous work The City of God. After a careful deconstruction of Rome’s history and beliefs, Augustine turned his attention to theology and the meaning of history in light of Christianity. His stunning conclusion is that although Christians and pagans share separate eternal destinies, and understand human purpose and ends differently, they nevertheless desire the same peace and justice that good politics provides. Christians, he argues, can pursue the common good with non-Christians while rejecting the notion that politics is the highest human pursuit. Liberals and conservatives, especially in Alabama, are guilty of claiming ownership of the Christian message. Augustine implores that while the aims of Christianity and the aims of politics are infrequently congruous, they both should be respected. Alabama, in this election, was with the ancient bishop.

That’s even biblical — put no trust in princes (or Democrats or Republicans).

17 thoughts on “Alabamans Went with Augustine

  1. Those who hold the office of prince are God’s agents of wrath.

    Marilynne Robinson–Two terrible scandals mar Luther’s life. One was his response to the Peasants’ War, in which he urged extreme violence against the rebels. The other was his writing against the Jews, whom he assailed in very similar, very violent terms. There is no excuse to be made for this, but a reason for it might have been that the existence of communities considered heretical was tenuous. Whole villages of Waldensians had been slaughtered. Wittenberg, where Luther lived most of his life, was protected by important German princes, but to tip it in the slightest degree toward association with any disfavored population would be to put it at risk.

    The Peace of Augsburg, signed in 1555, which for a while established a truce between Catholics and Lutherans within the Holy Roman Empire, did not acknowledge other Protestant groups, who had little or nothing in the way of princely protection and who remained liable to prosecution as heretics by both Catholics and Lutherans. Luther was no longer alive, but his readiness to dissociate himself from vulnerable groups seems to have survived him.


  2. There’s way too much ‘not yet’ in your Christendom.

    DGH—I for one, as a Protestant and a conservative of some kind, think the secular nation-state deserves a little more appreciation. Its powers are so vast that it can turn a religiously motivated killer into a mere state actor. Of course, if you’re one of those Christians who prefer the Anabaptist option of pacifism, the nation-state is not such a good thing. But I’ll gladly settle for Islam as the most violent religion and the U.S. as the most militarized nation.

    Leithart—Veyne rightly notes that Constantine tolerated paganism and took no official action against Jews….Veyne spends a good bit of time rebutting the claim that Constantine’s adoption of Christianity was a shrewd ideological maneuver designed to provide religious glue for a fracturing empire. He argues that the Emperor’s personal religious devotion was largely irrelevant to the population at large….. Ideology would have been redundant in any case, given that “nothing is more common than obedience of entire peoples” to established order.


  3. Put not your trust in a GOP nominee who ran well behind Mitt Romney when they were on the ballot at the same time in 2012. Also don’t put your trust in an appointed Senator tarred by a gubernatorial resignation/pardon scandal. All politics is local. A retired state and federal elected official told me after the primary and before the runoff between Moore and Strange that Alabama was a GOP trainwreck waiting to happen.


  4. Haven’t looked at the official totals, but a friend said Saban got 22,000 write in votes. Another friend said they all came from Auburn fans.


  5. Southern politics used to be a laugh a minute. See A. J. Liebling’s ” The Earl of Louisiana ” All homogenised now.


  6. Here is an opportunity to pray for Doug Jones, to be salt and light. It is important to maintain and support biblical principles in civil society, and, indeed, we cannot put our trust in princes, but we can certainly be respectful and prayerful towards and for them.


  7. @ Mark:

    John the Baptist tells soldiers to repent. Yet he does not tell them to quit.

    Cornelius the centurion is said to be God-fearing and devout.

    How can this be? If pacifism is absolutely enjoined upon sll, a Christian soldier would be as unthinkable as a Christian prostitute or Christian idol-maker.


  8. Jean Lassere—You could justify anything by such reasoning in these cases. Jesus did not reproach Pilate for his presence in Palestine so He sanctioned the Roman occupation, and all military occupations generally; implicitly He must then condemn all defensive wars against a foreign invasion. He did not reproach the Herodians for their servile collaboration with the Romans, so he sanctioned all collaborations, including the Vichy’s . He did not reproach the Pharisees for their hostility to the Romans; so He also sanctioned patriotic the invader. He did not reproach His disciple Simon for having offered violent resistance to the Romans, so He must have sanctioned all resistance movements. He did not ask Zacchaeus to give up his job as head of the publicans; so He approved of the Roman occupation, its system of collecting taxes, and implicitly a powerful nation’s right to colonise and exploit a weaker. He did not rebuke Pilate for having massacred the Galileans in the middle of their sacrifices (Luke 13:3)

    The writer of Hebrews praises the faith of Rahab without mentioning her being a prostitute, therefore we need to consult John Murray if we want to know why it was sin for the midwives to lie and why polygamy was sin for Abraham.

    Luke 3: 10 “What then should we do?” the crowds were asking him. 11 John replied to them, “The one who has two shirts MUST SHARE with someone who has none, and the one who has food MUST do the same.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 John told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.” 14 Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?” He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force…”

    Jeff, as long as you argue from silence, do you ever know if there is a difference the soldiers John the Baptist talked to and Cornelius? Was any of them born in a covenant household? Do you know for sure what was not said, but not what was said?

    Acts 16: 7 When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison open, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul called out in a loud voice, “Don’t harm yourself, because all of us are here!” 29 Then the jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he escorted them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the message of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house.

    Does this text prove to us that it’s not necessary to talk about Christ’s death when we give the message of Christ’s Lordship? Does this text prove to us that it’s not essential to share the gospel with a household if you share the gospel with the head of the household? Does this text prove to us that it’s not necessary to teach the gospel to the people of a nation if its magistrate permits the baptism of that nation?

    Tertullian—-But now the question is whether a believer can become a soldier and whether a soldier can be admitted into the faith, even if he is a member only of the rank and file who are not required to take part in sacrifices or capital punishments. There can be no compatibility between the divine and the human sacrament (military oath), the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot serve two masters-God and Caesar. Moses, to be sure, carried a rod; Aaron wore a military belt, and John (the Baptist) is girt with leather (i.e., like a soldier); and, if you really want to play around with the subject, Joshua the son of Nun led an army and the people waged war. But how will a Christian man go to war? Indeed how will he serve even in peacetime without a sword which the Lord has taken away? For even if soldiers came to John and received advice on how to act, and even if a centurion became a believer, the Lord, in subsequently disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier, No uniform is lawful among us. (Treatise on Idolatry 19; Ante-Nicene Fathers 3:73)

    Since ‘the efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered”, why not administer water to people after they believe the gospel? If the efficacy of God using water is not God giving faith in the gospel, why would water be needed before a person believes the gospel?

    Swords do not cut ears off. People do. And this proves that, even if you should not cut certain ears off, you should definitely always carry a sword. Be careful not to imitate Jesus, because Jesus had an unique mission, and was not a Christian, with a duty to kill for justice and support those who use violent force for the common good.

    Jesus cannot be our example, even though Jesus is human because Jesus is God . To act like Jesus did in that one unique case would be for us a ‘theology of glory”, because since the cross things have changed for us, and now the theology of the cross demands that we also take our turn when killing is needed.

    Now we have the duty to serve both kingdoms (which is what soldiers who were both Roman and Christian did when they killed Jesus). If being an unjust steward of another man’s taxes is an inherently immoral thing to do, there is no way that Jesus would ever use that metaphor in a parable. The important thing to remember here is that the regulative principle of Scripture does not apply to the secular kingdom. As long as something is natural and common among our neighbors… I told you not to associate with immoral people. But this does not mean to leave creation, because having a job (like an office to kill) was already good before there was ever curse or redemption from curse.

    I Peter 2 when He was reviled,
    He did not revile in return;
    when He was suffering,
    He did not threaten
    but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.
    He Himself bore our sins
    in His body on the tree,


  9. Menand–Nixon didn’t carry the Deep South in the 1968 general election. George Wallace did. Wallace was elected governor of Alabama in 1962, a time when the official logo of the Alabama Democratic Party was a rooster with a banner above it reading “White Supremacy.” The next summer, he achieved national recognition when he resisted the attempt to enroll the first black students at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa—the “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.” (The confrontation was staged, to allow Wallace to make his point in exchange for letting the students enroll. Those students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, were quietly admitted through another door.)

    A year later, Wallace ran in the Democratic primaries, and surprised many people by winning a third of the vote in Wisconsin and more than forty per cent in Maryland. In 1968, he ran as an independent, hoping to win enough electoral votes to deny any candidate a majority, giving himself leverage in choosing the next President. Wallace came to Massachusetts several times in the summer of 1968 on drives for signatures to get on the ballot. I heard him on one of those trips. The crowd was small and mostly hostile. What amazed me was that Wallace gave the stump speech he delivered everywhere, which consisted almost entirely of taunts, insults, and threats. He did not reason with his opponents.

    ” As President”, Wallace said, he would seek indictments for “any college professor who talks about hoping the Vietcong win the war.” He liked to invite hecklers to come up to the stage after his speech. “I’ll autograph your sandals,” he’d say. He told reporters, “I’d let the police run this country for a couple of years. I’m not talking about a police state, but sometimes it takes a police state to run some people.” Voters did not need to be told who “some people” were.
    After a rally at Madison Square Garden, people told reporters that they admired him because “he says what he thinks.”

    One of the reporters who covered Wallace, Douglas Kiker, tried to explain the phenomenon. “It was as if Wallace .
    had been awakened by a white, blinding vision: they all hate black people…They’re all afraid, all of them. Great God! That’s it! They’re all Southern! ”


  10. @ McMark: If you don’t know, then just say “I don’t know.”

    I don’t know, either.

    I see that Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when reviled. I see that Paul tells us that God has appointed the magistrate to bear the sword.

    The way I put that together is that there is a difference between personal offense, which requires turning the other cheek, and protection of others, which does not.

    You disagree. That’s fine, and I respect that, but I still wonder why JtB *did* tell the soldiers to repent of their extortion, but not of their usury. Notice that in this scenario, unlike the scenarios mentioned by Lassere, John’s purpose at that moment was to point out sin in order to bring about repentance. Here, silence is significant.

    And I still wonder how a centurion could be godly and be a centurion at the same time. I don’t know how to reconcile that with a passivist reading of “thou shalt not kill.”

    Do you?


  11. I see you confuse or substitute “passivist” for pacifist. Does that mean that you think that “leaving the wrath to God” or “not threatening but entrusting ourselves to the One who judges justly.” is “not doing anything”.?

    I understand that you think receiving faith apart from actions is what Paul told the jailer to do so that the jailer’s family would be saved from guilt before God. But how in the world could it be good news for anybody to be told that God has ordained Satan and the Assyrians to do evil to overcome evil, but without giving a command that changes the meaning of evil in some situations (if you are not protecting your self but other sinners being sinned against by other sinners).

    Acts 2:21 Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, handed over according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

    Romans 12: leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

    I Thessalonians 1: 3 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles in order that they be saved—so as to always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last


  12. McMark:

    I understand that you think receiving faith apart from actions is what Paul told the jailer to do so that the jailer’s family would be saved from guilt before God.

    No, I actually don’t.


  13. McMark: But how in the world could it be good news for anybody to be told that God has ordained Satan and the Assyrians to do evil to overcome evil, but without giving a command that changes the meaning of evil in some situations (if you are not protecting your self but other sinners being sinned against by other sinners).

    Can you rephrase this? I’m having trouble following the argument. For one thing, the meaning of the law is not good news in any event. Second, it is clear that God commanded killing in some circumstances. Are tou arguing that God should not have done that?


  14. ” But how in the world could it be good news for anybody to be told that God has ordained Satan and the Assyrians to do evil to overcome evil, but without giving a command that changes the meaning of evil in some situations”

    Felix Culpa


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