Rosa Parks

| | Comments (40) | TrackBacks (3)

Rosa Parks is dead. See discussions by some of the Conservative Brotherhood: Sam, La Shawn Barber, Baldilocks, and Booker Rising [technically, La Shawn is now for some reason listed as emeritus in the Brotherhood, but she was a founding member].

I just have one question. I know she's an icon, and she's really respected for standing up for something that really was a good cause, but can a Christian really condone what she did? I can't see how. God can use immoral acts for his will. This certainly isn't as bad as some of the horrendous acts God has chosen to work through for good. I just can't see how it can be morally justified given what the Bible says about how we should relate governments that persecute Christians. How should it be any different for governments that allow people to mistreat whole ethnic groups? Jesus even says to give someone your shirt if they ask for your coat and to go an extra mile when a soldier asks you to carry his gear for a mile. So why can it be morally justified to refuse to give someone your seat when he asks, given a Christian ethic? That's something I've never understood about Christians' support of this woman's actions. It seems to me to be contrary to the direct teaching of Jesus, Paul, Peter, and the general thrust of Christian ethics.

3 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Rosa Parks.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Rosa Parks, 1913-2005 from La Shawn Barber's Corner on October 26, 2005 5:25 AM

Call her “the woman who refused to get up,” but I’m sure Rosa Parks had no idea what her tired feet and frustrating treatment would lead to on December 1, 1955. What became known as the Civil Rights movement was bound to start soone... Read More

Suggesting that Rosa Parks should not have done what she did because black oppression and Jim Crow laws were part of the institutionalized government in which we live is, in my view, equivalent to saying that Christians should not be agents for socia... Read More

Much like Big Ben Roethlsberger stepping in for Tommy Maddox and quarterbacking the Pittsburgh Steelers to one game short of the Super Bowl in 2004, White Ribbon Warriors steps in this week as your backup QB to bring you the 93rd edition of the Chris... Read More



What I think you are getting at is where the Christian mandates of being voluntarily subjected to the ruling authority and standing against evil meet. What are Christians to do when evil becomes legalized and institutionalized?

I would suggest that the actions of Rosa Parks and other civil rights leaders was not standing up to deal a blow to the ruling government, but to evil. Black oppression was, and is, an immoral and evil behavior.

Do you want to call that civil disobedience an immoral act? We're not talking about the assassination of Hitler here. The believer's loyalty finally must be to Christ and his kingdom over -- and sometimes against -- the kingdom of men.

But isn't it evil to oppress Christians and send them to the lions?

I don't see how it can be justified with the Christian ethic.

Although I've seen people trying to justify it by bringing up Paul's pre-scourging comment in Acts 22.

I guess I'd like to know how it was supposed to have been illegal for Paul to mention his Roman citizenship. I would have thought rather that he was helping the guards not commit a crime.

can a Christian really condone what she did?

I say, absolutely, and I do think there are numerous examples from the Bible as well as history where good people opposed evil institutions and righteous change occurred because of it.

Nowhere in the Bible, including Rom. 13:1-2, does it say to obey authorities when they require us to do something wrong.

In Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles clearly stated this principle when human institutions are in conflict with divine laws: "We ought to obey God rather than men."

It doesn't say that we are required to do something wrong but we are to submit to the power of the authorities. If that means being slaughtered...

Peter's exhortation to obey even harsh masters (boss, slave-drivers) seems to also imply submission rather than uprising.

I guess I'd like to know how it was supposed to have been illegal for Paul to mention his Roman citizenship. I would have thought rather that he was helping the guards not commit a crime.

Yeah, I've said the same thing myself when I've heard the argument. As it was Paul allowed himself to be arrested, stripped and tied to the post before mentioning that detail.

Wayne, in what way was the government requiring her to do anything wrong?

Good question, Jeremy. I know MLK wrestled with this, as evidenced by his "Letter from Birmingham Jail":
"...there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake...."

In his words "Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time." It is long, but very readable. If you've never read it in it's entirety, please do to get a first-hand account of where Martin Luther King, Jr. was coming from with his resistance. We are, after all, called to do justice and reprove the ruthless as well as walk humbly (Proverbs 21:3, Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 82:3, Micah 6:8).

I have no problem endorsing the view that we should reprove the ruthless while walking humbly. What I have a problem with is saying that we ought to use it as a justification for breaking laws that it wouldn't be wrong to keep.

The Gospel, like the Constitution, is not a suicide pact. Surly God does not want us to ignore evil because his ordained leader is doing it?

Rosa Parks, like the founding revolutionaries of our country, acted in a very Godly manner.

We ignore or obey evil at our own peril.

How is it suicide to turn the other cheek and move to another seat when someone asks? This seems just like the examples Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount.

I'd have to disagree about the founding revolutionaries as well, but I believe we've already had that conversation.

Probably the best way to condone what she did is to point out that the law which required her to give up her seat was unconstitutional, and therefore illegal by our own government standards. The Constitution therefore removes the authority of the illegal law and thus there is no legal (and consequently no moral) obligation to obey the illegal law. The refusal to give up the seat is in this scenario not a matter of failing to submit to the government, but merely a matter of her own personal choice of what to do in the situation with no legal obligation to act in on way or the other.

You might argue that it was unloving to her neighbor (and in that manner immoral) to not give up the seat, but that is highly debatable and would require knowing a lot more about the particular circumstances and context than is probably available to us.

If you're right, then this removes the Romans 13 element and reduces it to things like turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and giving your shirt as well as your jacket. Not one of those things is required by the law. It seems to me that the Christian presumption would be to move to another seat, given those sorts of statements, even if the law didn't really require it.

I don't think you can easily argue that it's against the Constitution to pass these segregation laws. I've got a post written where I will argue that the 14th Amendment does not guarantee colorblindness, but it gets into technical distinctions between three different kinds of equality. Civil equality is all the members of Congress meant in the 14th Amendment. Their arguments about it at the time demonstrate that. They distinguished political equality and social equality, which they weren't willing to grant to blacks. They needed the 15th Amendment to be passed separately for political equality, which includes the right to vote. Social equality didn't come until judicial fiat when the anti-miscegenation laws were struck down. Segregation laws violate at most social rights, which the 14th Amendment wasn't intended to include and probably didn't seem to include for any informed person reading its language. Originalists, at least, should have a hard time thinking the 14th Amendment gave the latter two kinds of rights. The argument ends up being more detailed, and I'll get into that in the forthcoming post, but I should say for now that it's not clear that the Constitution makes segregation laws illegal, at least if your basis for thinking that is the 14th Amendment.

Even if you grant that the segregation laws were illegal, it's not clear that it's ok to disobey them. There are two levels of authority here, and the kind of respect for authority commanded in I Peter 3, Romans 13, and elsewhere seems to me to include all levels of government, even if they are immoral, as long as they don't require immorality. In this case the higher level of government might make the lower level illegal. Then the state was wrong to pass that law. It was still a law that the authority figures were enforcing. That seems to me as if it might still lie under the purview of Romans 13, I Peter 3, etc. Given that the local authorities did indeed enforce it, then the authorities were treating it as the law even if they were wrong to pass that law. I'm not sure how that's different from any other case of a wrongly decided law.

Update:Tthe 14th Amendment post is up now.


What does the Gospel say about social justice and the dignity of all God's creatures? Is there no point at which the "law of God" may trump the "law of men" where they are in conflict?

You appear to be harshly applying Romans 13, as if the world was black and white and everything that the government does is divinely ordained. Were we to have this conversation 150 years ago, would you take the same position on slavery? What of abortion today?

To say that Christians are ethically bound to go along with whatever their government is doing at the time is a slippery slope indeed.

Curiosity is killing my cat, Jeremy. What did you mean when you said, "What I have a problem with is saying that we ought to use it as a justification for breaking laws that it wouldn't be wrong to keep." I'm not sure I get the bit about "laws it wouldn't be wrong to keep". Wait, I'm sure I don't get that bit.

Darren, Jesus makes it clear that the law of God trumps human law, but he doesn't apply it to cases like this one. He explicitly goes the other way. What you're failing to distinguish between are laws that are immoral to pass and laws that are immoral to comply with. This doesn't seem to be the latter, even if it's clearly the former. Only the latter justify civil disobedience of this sort, given Christian ethical principles like the ones I stated.

Romans 13 includes abortion, slavery, and anything else. Nebuchadnezzar was God's agent, so why not Harry Blackmun or those who authored segregation laws? The immorality of the law doesn't negate the submission to the authority. If the government forced people to perform abortions, that would be different. That would be a law it would be wrong not to break.

Clayton, some laws require immoral behavior. Others simply allow it as legal. If the government required me do something immoral, then I shouldn't follow such a law. If it merely allows someone to mistreat me, that's a completely different situation. It's not as if I'm being required to do something immoral. These statements of Jesus seem pretty clearly to require me not to resist such mistreatment but in fact to repay the person trying to do it with graciousness and love. If they ask unreasonable things like wanting my seat, I should give it, according to Jesus.

So laws it wouldn't be wrong to keep are laws that are immoral like this one but that my behavior doesn't have anything to do with. My behavior in putting up with someone's legally allowed immoral behavior is not immoral. I'm keeping the law by not resisting it, but that's not immoral. Does that make better sense?

So Jeremy,

What you're saying is that racism is not immoral? Or rather that the expression of racism, reflected in the segregation laws (i.e. Rosa Park's bus) is somehow distinguishable from racism itself? In other words, Rosa's actions seem to be paradigmatic of a larger issue, and that is taking a stand against, as you made the distinction, the immorality of the segregation law that put her in that awkward position in the first place.

Your usage of the sermon on the Mt to establish a NT Ethic also seems to rip what Jesus was discussing out of context. Was His primary intention, in the sermon on the Mt., to prescribe a schema for ethics, or rather discipleship? And maybe my distinction here is fualty, what do you think?

Lastly, what is the Christian to do, be passive agents, or active, in our republic? If the government is indeed of the people and by the people--then Rosa's challenge to "racism" seems to be a legitimate expression of civil disobedience (as one of the people) before God and men--if indeed racism is considered to be immoral on par with abortion, amongst other structural evils.

Maybe you're saying that there are proper channels for effecting change in our representative governmental system. Of course Rosa's representation (her congress people)probably didn't represent her very well. One last question, how is racism not immoral?

I suggest you tread lightly when accusing someone publicly known to be in an interracial marriage of thinking that racism is not immoral. Most people in my position wouldn't be very nice about such a comment.

What I said is that the law is immoral, but complying with it is not immoral. In fact, if Jesus is right, complying with it is morally required. If the U.S. government passed a law requiring Christians to use separate bathrooms, Christians should not insist on using everyone else's bathrooms, because that would violate Jesus' moral teaching. The law is immoral, but complying with it is not. Christians could speak out against such laws in their role as citizens who are given a voice in our current governmental system (which Christians haven't had in every political system). But speaking out shouldn't involve breaking any laws, providing that those laws don't force immoral behavior. Sitting in one spot rather than another is not immoral.

Jesus' teaching includes moral statements about how disciples should behave. I'm not sure why you want to distinguish ethics from discipleship.

Before we go and make this discussion too personal, let me go that extra step and, with the biblical view of sin, equate "immoral" with "evil."

If we can agree that racism is immoral, it is therefore evil.

I understand your distinction between committing an evil act and merely assenting to an evil law that does not require you to commit an evil act yourself. I suppose that what I would like to hear from you, then, is an alternative for African American citizens in the 1950s and 60s. If the racism that was institutionalized and legislated really was evil, how should they go about opposing that evil? I hope that the solution you have is more effective than "Write your Congressman."

Or are you suggesting that they should have passively endured until Jesus comes -- the same form of theological oppression being handed to the Dalits in India?

Grace and peace to you!

Jeremy: I certainly agree that the line between right laws and wrong laws (laws it was right or wrong to put in place) is distinct from the line dividing the laws one should obey from those one may (or sometimes, even must) disobey. So, from the mere fact that a law was wrongly passed it doesn't follow that we may disobey it. (So, for instance, I think it is wrong to outlaw the use of marajuana. Still, I don't think I'm morally allowed to break that law.) Still, some laws cross both lines: Not only were they wrong to put in place, but they may be (and some must be) disobeyed even when they are in place. Like most people, I feel that the law Rosa Park broke was one of those laws that crossed both lines. And like Clayton, I'm having a hard time understanding the criterion you're applying. The simplest way of understanding "laws that it wouldn't be wrong to keep" seems question-begging. In saying the law Parks broke is one "that it wouldn't be wrong to keep," are you just plain asserting that those of us who think that's a law that should be broken are wrong?

Anyway, maybe an example. I'm not sure how to read Ex 1:21: Is Pharaoh ordering the Hebrews to kill their own baby boys? If so, I take it that you'd be OK with them disobeying that order. I read it as Pharaoh commanding his own people -- the Egyptians -- to kill the Hebrew babies. Then would you say that Moses's family shouldn't have resisted the law by hiding him? After all, in that case they're not being instructed to do anything wrong themselves (unless complying with a sufficiently evil law is wrong even when you do nothing that would have been wrong w/o that law: but in that case, Rosa Parks could be excused the same way), just to allow someone to mistreat them. But even if the command to kill was to Moses's family, they didn't just fail to kill him (which you would be OK with): They went out & hid the kid so that others wouldn't kill him, not only refusing to do the evil themselves but actively resisting the evil law so as to stop others from enforcing it.

The law Daniel disobeyed in Daniel 6 didn't require him to actively do anything bad: He could have complied simply by refraining from praying for only 30 days. But he broke that law.

Though the Bible doesn't explicitly say so, at least so far as I remember, I've always taken it to be the implied position of the Bible that these acts of disobediance were not just allowable, but praiseworthy. Why not Rosa Parks?

Darren: I'm not expecting anyone even to assent to the law, just to obey it. The alternative is the same alternative for people who get struck on the cheek in the first century, to turn the other cheek. It's the same alternative for Christians in the first century, to be put in prison.

I see no commandment in scripture that tells the poor to ensure that the poor are well treated. What it says is that the rich are morally obligated to treat the poor well. For the poor, well, Jesus seems to have strongly advocated passive endurance of injustice until such time as it ends, whether that be when he returns or when (as in this case) it happens in some other way.

I don't want to minimize the Christian's responsibility to call the government to the carpet on things like this. I don't think it's the Christian who is being mistreated who should do this. It's the Christian who is among the group doing the mistreating. White Christians should have put a stop to this, but instead they perpetuated it. Amos, Isaiah, and Jesus are among many in the Bible whose teaching would have condemned segregation of this sort, but Jesus makes it clear that he wouldn't have advocated this kind of opposition.

Keith: Handing Moses over to a midwife assigned to kill him would have been immoral, regardless of who was supposed to do what according to the law. That action has the same moral status as killing him themselves. I don't think the example does what you want it to do, given that. I'd say the same about Daniel. It would have been immoral for him to refrain from praying for a month.

As for being question-begging, I'm having trouble seeing that. I made a distinction. I didn't give an argument. I'm not sure how a distinction can be question-begging, particularly when the distinction I made is the same one you started your comment by agreeing with. Making the distinction didn't amount to giving an argument. The argument I gave is premised (primarily) on Jesus' commands in the Sermon on the Mount.

I'm not quite sure what I said that warranted you to black list from your site.

I see that you've allowed me back in, I'm at work right now, not able to interact too much, but just know that my comments were not intentionally malicious. All I was trying to do was challenge your distinction between the immorality of a law and the morality of keeping that immoral law (i.e. Rosa Parks).


Bobby G.

Bobby, I have no idea what you're talking about. I haven't done any blacklisting. There are no comments from you in my junk folder, so the server didn't siphon your comments away because of any objectionable content. As far as I can tell, every comment you've posted is visible on this page. This site requires a security code. The only thing I can think of is that you may have typed in the wrong code. Sometimes it gives the wrong error message when you do that. It's something about not waiting long enough between your comments. The reason isn't that, though. It's the wrong security code. (It did this to me tonight, by the way.)

In terms of your comment itself, I'm aware of what you were trying to do. You were trying to trace out the implications of my position. That's now how it sounded on the surface, though, and I'm telling you that people in interracial marriages more prone to take offense would respond very differently to the suggestion that they condone racism.

I did try to comment back to you earlier today, and I was not allowed to post, it had a comment when it failed to post that said, "In an effort to curb malicious comment posting by abusive users, I've enabled a feature that requires a weblog commenter to wait a short amount of time before being able to post again. Please try to post your comment again in a short while. Thanks for your patience." (my bad Jeremy, I guess I forgot to enter the code). Anyway I'm glad that was not the case, thanks for the clarification, and sorry for jumping to conclusions.

I have friends who are in an interracial marriage (black/white)--and realize the added societal stress this places on a relationship (or potentially can); my intent was not to attack you in any way--sorry if I came across that way.

I still disagree with you though :). To try and abstract an immoral law from its expression, say on Rosa Park's bus, as if her moving seats is not causally related to the impetus that the immoral law provides seems to engage in post hoc analysis. I see the categories you're operating under (immoral law and moral submission to that immoral law=2 different things); but I just don't buy the dichotomy--they are inter-related points, so much so, that what Rosa reacts to (segregation on the bus)is presupposed by an immorality of the "grossest" kind; thus her response is justified.

Anyway, from reading your responses to Papercut Theology, I realize that your ethic is deontological, and seems to leave no admixture for a consequentialist perspective.

Your understanding of the sermon on the Mt., serving as a basis for an ethical construct; as I said before seems to take Jesus' intent out of context and used as a pretext to establish a foundation for your argument here. I don't believe Jesus' primary intention, in the sermon on the mount, was to provide a framework for an ethical construct--as you're using it for. I'll have to leave this as an assertion now . . . and come back later to substantiate ;).



You weren't troubled by Keith's cases. How about these: Was it wrong for the midwives to lie to Pharoh's agents? That must have broken some law that's not immoral to comply with. Was it wrong for Rahab to commit treason and lie to Jericho police about the location of the Hebrew spies? Certainly it's not wrong to obey laws against treason....

I think there are some more extreme cases when consequences are so severe that a moral principle will turn out to be not absolute, but that's a far cry from saying that mere consequences will outweigh moral principles the way consequentialists have it.

When it's wrong to obey a law depends on the case. If you've realized that these two Hebrew spies are under the auspices of the one true God, then following the law and turning them in is indeed immoral. If you've sentenced innocent people to death, through telling the truth to your Pharaoh, turning Jews in to Nazis, or handing spies who haven't really done any wrong over to your city's leaders probably to be killed, then it is indeed an immoral act.

As I said, my reason for why it's not immoral to move to the back of the bus is that Jesus basically says just that, going even further and saying that it's morally required. You don't have anything like that in the cases you and Keith are presenting, which involve people lying or turning against the government for the sake of other people, and the mistreatment was far worse than being asked to use a separate bathroom or sit in a different part of the bus. That's quite tame compared to being killed.

This claim that what Jesus taught his disciples wasn't about ethics just seems on the face of it obviously false, so you're going to need to defend that. If he tells them that they ought to behave a certain way, isn't that by definition ethical?

1. I wasn't wondering whether you'd have Moses's family "handing Moses over to a midwife assigned to kill him": I knew you wouldn't have that. I was wondering whether you'd have them do nothing, just go about their lives, not killing anybody or handing anyone over to be killed, but also not actively resisting the authorities by going out and hiding Moses.

Likewise I suspect (it seems pretty clear & if I'm getting him wrong he can correct me) that Kyle already knew you could and would rule that for Rahab "turning [the spies] in is indeed immoral," but was asking the much more interesting question of whether you would (and if not, why not) have Rahab just say nothing, not turning anyone in, but also not actively lying. (Perhaps the most interesting version: volunteering nothing, and refusing to answer if asked.)

2. At the very start of your comment immediately above, you admit that we can at least sometimes break rules when the consequences are severe, but you add: "that's a far cry from saying that mere consequences will outweigh moral principles the way consequentialists have it." I think you may be misconstruing the opposite side. I, for one, don't think moral principles give way "the way consequentialists have it" -- that they give way whenever better consequences follow from breaking law. Rather, without thinking this happens whenever it improves consequences, I think, like most people, that the case of Rosa Parks is one of the cases where the moral rule "obey the laws of the land" does give way. You don't have to be like a consequentialist to think that.

3. ...far worse than being asked to use a separate bathroom or sit in a different part of the bus. That's quite tame compared to being killed.

I, for one, and I suspect many (perhaps Kyle?) who view Rosa Parks's action as praiseworthy (and I, for one, think "praiseworthy" is an understatement), in a rather non-consequentialist vein, don't view her action simply in terms of the local situation and what results in that bus from her giving up her seat vs. refusing to. We also give great weight to the symbolic value of the act. This wasn't just a question of who gets which seat for a particular bus ride, but whether to be compliant with vs. resisting a very evil set of rules. [And, incidentally, I don't view it this way merely because of the big role her act played in the history of the civil rights movement. Even when one's act doesn't play such a role in a larger movement, I think one is often called on to stand up for what is right in such a symbolic way. (And, in fact, I fear that some of our greatest moral failings involve failing to do so.)]

1. I'm still trying to understand this argument. As far as I can tell from the passage, if Moses' family had done nothing then they would basically have been handing him over in the same way that being quiet to the Nazis asking if you have Jews amounts to admitting that they're there, morally speaking anyway. I don't think that's the case when someone unjustly asks you to do something that they have no right to expect of you, at least on the level of where you sit. It would be different if the law expected her to give in to any white man's request for sex, but where someone sits on a bus is pretty much morally insignificant in comparison to the kinds of situations that remove the presumptive moral obligation I'm talking about.

2. For your argument to work, it seems to me that you have to think the consequences of her individual act of sitting in the back of the bus is going to have such drastically bad consequences that it's worth doing something that would otherwise be immoral. That doesn't seem to me to be the case.

3. I just disagree on this. I really do think my marriage would have been morally wrong if there had been anti-miscegenation laws in New York at the time. I think it would be a morally courageous act if it went against evil social conventions, but I view the law as something to give presumption to. There's no law against not marrying, and there's no law against marrying someone of your own race. There's no moral requirement to marry someone of another race, even if I think (barring anti-miscegenation laws) that white people have a moral obligation to consider more seriously whether they should open up their pool of candidates to include people of ethnic groups they normally don't consider as options. Given that there would have been nothing immoral about not marrying the woman I did marry, I don't see how protesting by marrying her is morally required.

Now that doesn't establish that it would be wrong, just that I wouldn't be obligated to do it given the injustice of the law. But the main argument for doing it seems to be that the law is unjust. But if the injustice of the law doesn't obligate me to refuse to comply, then complying isn't wrong. If complying isn't wrong, how can it be right to insist that it's ok to resist the law on the grounds that it's immoral? It's immoral for those carrying it out by being unjust. The immorality is against me, not by me. I should therefore choose not to violate it since it's there and since my own actions not to violate it don't amount to doing anything immoral.

Re 1. if Moses' family had done nothing then they would basically have been handing him over

OK, I'm taking it then that about the alternative I'm considering -- they actively do nothing to hand him over, but also don't actively resist the law by hiding the child -- you're saying that they would have done wrong in taking that alternative. So you seem to be saying that in this instance it is OK to resist the evil of the authorities not only by refusing to do something morally wrong yourself, but by actively working against them, even though you had available another option on which you would not actively do anything wrong but also wouldn't actively resist the evil law. And we (some of us who think Rosa Parks's actions were good) say that her situation too was one in which it was permissible (and, I'd add, better than just permissible) to resist the evil rules, even though she had another option on which her actions would be more in compliance with the rules in place. Just as Moses's family, by not actively resisting the evil rule, while not killing anyone, would have been problemmatically complicit in a very evil action (as you put it, they "would basically have been handing him over": interesting use of "basically," there), so I think that obeying the evil rules of segregration would be problemmatically complicit in the telling of the lie that such rules sought to tell about the relative standing of human beings. This isn't an argument that if you say the actions of Moses's family were OK, then you must say that Rosa Parks's action was OK; it is to explain how the two actions look to someone who takes the usual position that they were both good.

2. seems to me that you have to think the consequences of her individual act of sitting in the back of the bus is going to have such drastically bad consequences...

No, I'm not nearly that consequentialist about it. The rule gives way here not because of the consequences of the particular potential action (as I said, I don't see this as just a matter of who sits where on a particular bus ride), but because of the seriousness of the symbolic values at stake -- the great difference between the lie told by the rules (which was so dispicable as to cast a shadow over behavior that was complicit with that lie) vs. the greatness of the truth proclaimed by the resistance of the evil rule.

3. Right -- We are in disagreement about that.

Well, I'm not disagreeing with everything in your paragraph on 3. To avoid speaking about your personal situation (the details of which I don't know well enough to discuss), I'll put my position generally: I do believe it can be and often would be permissible to break evil laws against interracial marriage -- for roughly the same reason that I think Rosa Parks's action was good.

1. I'm trying to figure out how doing nothing is going to be different from handing him over if they knew there was a death penalty on him for simply being Hebrew, at least if they've at all considered the possibility that they can do something to save him. This strikes me as parallel to the case of lying to the murderer. Doing nothing would be like being silent when the Nazis ask if you're hiding Jews, something that will almost certainly lead to their being found and taken away. The same goes for Rahab.

2. I'm not sure how your argument here doesn't equally undermine Jesus' command to turn the other cheek. I understand what you're saying. I just can't see how a Christian can so strongly dismiss what Jesus says. Maybe you don't do that, but I'm having a hard time seeing how. It seems to follow from what you're saying about Rosa Parks.

I'm not sure how your argument here doesn't equally undermine Jesus' command to turn the other cheek.

I think extreme caution is in order when condemning behavior b/c you think it runs afoul of the command to turn the other cheek. One hears such arguments often -- against the morality of the US invasion of Afghanistan in response to the attacks of 9/11, against the morality of a woman leaving an abusive husband, etc. I'm not trying to align you, Jeremy, with these other uses. I realize you may -- and even suspect you do -- reject these other uses. It's just to point out that exactly where & how to apply that command is very much up in the air.

And how could it not be? The Bible is full of decidedly non-cheek-turning behavior that is held up as admirable -- including behavior by Jesus himself. I take it the command is not limited to actual strikes on the cheek, or even to physical assaults, but is meant to apply more generally to how to respond to all kinds of attacks that hurt one, including verbal attacks. And, of course, Jesus -- and Paul too -- were known to respond to verbal attacks not always by turning the other cheek, but by counter-attack, often including some quite insulting language. And of course both testaments are loaded with all sorts of non-cheek-turning-but-apparently-admirable behavior by all sorts of heroes of the Bible. This includes some cases where the actions are about as far from cheek-turning as one can get, and where I would have thought that cheek-turning really is called for. So, for instance, there's this gem involving Elisha from 2 Kings 2:23-24:

Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!��? When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.

It isn't clear how closely connected the bear attack was to Elisha's curse, but at the very least, Elisha responded to an insult with a curse, which sure doesn't look like nice cheek-turning behavior.

Well, anyway, that's all in the service of the general point that it's dangerous to condemn behavior morally b/c it seems to violate the command to turn the other cheek. What's more, there are reasons to think it's especially problematic to go after Rosa Parks on those grounds. Usually, when the injunction is wielded against the morality of some behavior, it's used to question an aggressive, or even violent, response to an injury. But Rosa Parks didn't respond violently, or even impolitely, so far as I recall the details of the incident. All she did was to refuse to acquiesce in the evil. And she stayed around and made herself available to further injury (punishment for her disobedience of the evil law). So even someone who's inclined to apply the "turn the other cheek" command very broadly may well think that Rosa Parks really did turn the other cheek in the way appropriate to the case at hand.

I wonder why references to Bible passage get turned into links? In the above thread, it happened to me a couple of times, to Jeremy, to Darrent.

I don't endorse those other uses of the "turn the other cheek" command, as it happens, but in both cases I can find biblical statements that tell against applying it there. This is from Romans 13's use of the sword by governing authorities to enforce justice and I Corinthians 7's insistence that abandonment is grounds for divorce (where I think a close reading of the text makes it likely that abandonment can be more than just physically leaving). I haven't seen similar biblical statements on this issue.

In this case, though, all I started out doing was giving an argument why it's not clear we should endorse the behavior, never mind hold it up as the paragon of morality. I was half expecting someone might come along with an argument that would satisfy my objection, and most of the responses didn't even come close. I have to say that you've brought me closer to accepting a way to see this, but I'm not sure you've really satisfied my worry.

My sense of when it's clearly ok not to turn the other cheek is when something of serious import is at stake that is not simply related to one's own feeling of insult or comfort. If physical harm is at issue, one can defend oneself. If other people's harm is at stake, one can defend them. If someone else is insulted unjustly, I can respond, particularly if the cause of Christ is damaged by a misrepresentation of Christianity. If it's just about where I'm sitting, I don't see how it's as clear.

The reason I wonder about her case, even given that you can make the argument that it's about larger issues, is that she testified to the police afterward that it was simply because she was tired and not at all some planned action to protest segregation. It was at least played off as something about her and not about the larger issues that might justify it. I've seen people allege that it was all a staged event, but I've never seen anything confirming that, and if that's right then she was dishonest, which I would have at least a strong presumption against, and that might even be counterproductive to the overarching purpose anyway.

It's not clear to me that the narrator would endorse Elisha's action. It may just be an indication that God had given him particular abilities, which he would sometimes use for good but not always. I'm just not sure about that. There's certainly precedent for that (e.g. Samson).

There's a plugin I've got installed that turns the passages into links. I actually didn't expect it would do it for comments. I just got sick of linking to passages myself, and when I heard that the ESV plugin existed I asked the site administrator to install it for me.

A Seat On The Bus For Rosa

Finally it’s time to go,
All day I’ve pushed peddles with my feet,
I’ll hurry to the bus stop,
Being sure to get a good seat.

There, a chance to rest,
Home, I’m on my way,
Only to get up tomorrow,
And put in another day.

Photos, questions and fingerprints,
Did I commit a crime?
I distinctly remembered when I boarded,
Dropping in my dime.

Why give up my seat?
After working hard all day,
I thought the fare was the same for all,
Is there more I have to pay?

Don’t they know how hard I’ve worked?
To get this seat I had to rush,
Now you’re going to tell me,
Move to the back of the bus.

Wait, I pay my taxes,
Even go to church and pray,
They do not have the right,
To treat Rosa Parks this way.

I never wanted to start a movement,
Just have a seat on the bus,
Being treated fairly as an American,
Why is everyone making such a fuss?

My name is known throughout the world,
In history books here and there,
It really didn’t have to be me you know,
Just anyone who paid their fare.

Almost 50 years later,
An Icon is my name,
I’d gladly do it all again,
Circumstances being the same,

Heaven is my final journey,
Can’t wait till I get there,
Knowing I’m going to enjoy the ride,
I’ve already paid my fare.

© 2006 by Luke Easter

I just don't see why the world have so much hate in its heart and they see people every day crying out to stop the madness. But what i can't see is if people want to stop the hurt and the pain then why don't they jsut make a stand and say something to someone. Is it because the afraid of what people might think or say? i'm just asking. Are there people out there that can make a stand and become a leader?? i want all this hate ALL of it to STOP!!

y am i fighting to live if im just living to fight,
y am i trying to see when there aint nothing in sight,
y am i trying to give if no one gives me a try,
why am i dying to live if im just living to die???

when you get an answer contact me at:

thank you,
Keilyn Chung

Leave a comment


    The Parablemen are: , , and .



Books I'm Reading

Fiction I've Finished Recently

Non-Fiction I've Finished Recently

Books I've Been Referring To

I've Been Listening To

Games I've Been Playing

Other Stuff


    thinking blogger
    thinking blogger

    Dr. Seuss Pro

    Search or read the Bible

    Example: John 1 or love one another (ESV)

  • Link Policy
Powered by Movable Type 5.04