The concept of Secession is all the rage, at least on the internet, these days. It has not escaped the notice of radio host Glenn “God Sucks” Beck, either. He seems to be entangled in the popular fuzzy thinking that has secession equaling civil war, or rebellion. The Blaze documents his confusion, with regard to all the secession petitions that have been created at the White House’s website. Among other things, Beck opined:
“Really? You’re putting your name on a list that goes directly to the White House, and you’re putting your name on a list and saying, ‘yeah I think we should secede, I think there should be a Civil War.”
Those are two separate things, Mr. Beck. War and secession are not synonymous. Beck goes on to repeat the statist mantra that the issue of States’ seceding has been settled once and for all, by the Civil War. Another article at the Blaze quotes from a supposed letter from Supreme Court Justice Scalia to that effect:
To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, “one Nation, indivisible.”)
(Side note: Patriots should give some thought to the Pledge. You can’t say the pledge and also believe in the right of secession at the same time. Well, you could, but not consistently.)
To say that the Civil War settled the constitutional issue of secession is akin to saying that the local bully settled the issue of whether or not the nerd owes him his daily lunch money, by punching the little guy out behind the gymnasium. The bully won the fight. Issue settled. The use of force to win an argument does not mean that the issue at hand was settled correctly. It just means that the side with the greater force won. I’m sure King George did not think the American colonies had a right to secede, either.
As a Christian man and pastor of a small congregation, I have some responsibility to ask the question, “What does the Bible say?” Is the idea of secession necessarily rebellious? Does the Bible allow for it? Does it even give solid principles that will tell us when we ought to seriously consider it?
I do not desire to turn this post into a Bible study, but I do want to state clearly that the Bible does NOT outlaw secession. In fact, the idea of secession is a fairly common, fairly prominent theme in the Scripture. I’d like to briefly look at that.
But first, let’s clear up the issue of secession and violent rebellion. They are not the same thing. Our word “secede” comes from a Latin term that simply means “to withdraw.” It has nothing to do with violence. It means walking away, especially from a covenantal agreement that has been broken by the other party. The fact that tyrants often respond to secession with force, and then war, does not mean that secession is warmongering.
As I said, we really find this concept throughout the Bible. If you and I have an agreement, a contract, or covenant together, and you violate your end of it, I am no longer obligated to uphold my part of it either. Joshua’s spies at Jericho, for instance, spelled this out plainly to Rahab, with whom they had struck a bargain. If she failed to follow their instructions, or if she revealed their business to their enemies, they would be free from the obligations of their arrangement. (See Joshua 2:17-21.) If she withdrew (or seceded) from her responsibilities, they would secede from their promises to protect her.
Many times in the Old Testament, especially in the prophets, Israel was rebuked for having seceded, walked away, from their covenant with God Himself. As a result, He basically divorced them. (Jeremiah 3:8) He wasn’t obligated to go on blessing them when they had broken their covenant with Him.
Again, throughout the Bible, the people of God are constantly encouraged to secede, or separate, from evil.
To explore this topic further, I recommend you give a listen to this sermon from John Weaver, on the Biblical principles of secession.
He takes a long look at the secession that happened between the Northern tribes of Israel and Judah in the generation after King Solomon died, in 1 Kings 12. Not only does he conclude that this event shows secession to be a solid, biblical concept, but he distills the following four principles. Here are brother Weaver’s four Biblical principles for deciding it may be time to secede:
1. It may be time to secede when rulers become wicked, ungodly, and tyrannical.
2. It may be time to secede when rulers consistently violate covenantal (or “constitutional”) obligations.
3. It may be time to secede when rulers rule by force, rather than by consent of the governed.
4. It may be time to secede when rulers steal from the people in order to support government policies that are contrary to the people.
It is a plague upon the church that so many Christians have been taught that when a man carries a governmental title, that automatically means he’s allowed to act however he will, and the people of God have no option but to bend over and take it, grinning submissively. There would be no United States of America if the founding fathers had bought into that brand of pseudo-Christianity.
And let’s be clear: There will be no America in the very near future if modern Christians don’t renounce that sort of heresy in favor of Biblical faith and action. For more on this, see the book that wouldn’t have been controversial 250 years ago, but certainly is now: Resistance to Tyrants: Romans 13 and the Christian Duty to Oppose Wicked Rulers. For added fun, share that link on social media and watch your friends list shrink to nothing!