When Ministers Suggest That God Has Ordained Killing

After Trump said that North Korea would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” one of his biggest supporters on the religious right, Rev. Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, said that God has given Trump the authority to take out Kim Jong Un.

“When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” Jeffress said. “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”…

The biblical passage Romans 13 gives the government authority to deal with evildoers, Jeffress said. “That gives the government to the authority to do whatever, whether it’s assassination, capital punishment or evil punishment to quell the actions of evildoers like Kim Jong Un,” he said.

In other words, Jeffress goes beyond Kim Jong Un and suggests that the government (i.e., Trump) has the authority to assassinate and impose the death penalty based on what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13. Let’s take a look at that portion of the Bible, shall we?

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

Whenever I hear these “court evangelicals” make an argument like this about Trump, my immediate thought is to wonder what they did with verses like this while Obama was president. Was he too ordained by God? I never heard any of them make that claim. Instead they tended to suggest that our 44th president didn’t love this country and was probably a Muslim anyway. So did God take a vacation from American politics from 2009-2016?

But the issues with what Jeffress suggested go much deeper than that—especially when we look beyond our own borders. What about the people of North Korea? Is Kim Jong Un exempt from being placed in authority by God? Are we to believe that the people of Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s should have had nothing to fear from Hitler because he was “God’s servant for your good?” How about Cambodians during the reign of Pol Pot? The examples are endless. We might even apply them to this country’s founders, who sanctioned slavery. The truth is, verses like these were consistently used by white slave owners to keep Black people in chains.

Some might suggest that Romans 13 doesn’t apply to “evil” leaders. But then one has to wonder who gets to decide which leaders are good and which are evil. Given that these same people have sanctioned the likes of someone as morally depraved as Donald Trump while arguing against the leadership of Obama, it would be foolish to trust their moral compass.

Christian theologians much more august than myself have been struggling with these questions for centuries. I would simply point to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which was written to white clergymen to justify non-violent civil disobedience in response to unjust laws.

My point is that, for ministers like Jeffress to manipulate Christianity like this in order to justify their own political beliefs is unconscionable, especially when it comes to claims that God ordains killing. That, too, is something that has gone on for centuries…to the detriment of much of humanity.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.