Submission to the Government (Rom 13: 1-7): biblical perspective with Christian ethical reflection for present day Myanmar

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master in Theology
Title Submission to the Government (Rom 13: 1-7): biblical perspective with Christian ethical reflection for present day Myanmar
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
Christians are made up of a small population in the pluralistic structure of Myanmar
society.1 Though it can hardly be said that the present military junta2
In this situation, the government has been quoting Romans 13:1 to be Submissive to
the government whenever they take fellowship with the Christian Churches. For instance, the
above mentioned text has been usually quoted in the speeches by the Junta given to Christian
congregation on special occasions such as the Church’s Jubilee celebrations and Christmas
dinner. It has been said that according to this text, citizens are to be submissive to their
respective government because God is the source of the authority of the government. But as it
is widely and publicly known, the Myanmar government structure is unjust to the citizens.
Human right violation, oppression and persecution are seen as their characters. If Romans 13
has no hostile motives
against living religions (Buddhism is exception) of Myanmar including Christianity, it is clear
that it has been trying to show care and concern to religious groups including the Christian
groups in order to create political unity. The reason for hostility can be traced in the history of
Theravada Buddhism which entered into Myanmar in the first century of the Christian Era.
Buddhism and Burman (the largest ethinic group) have been interwoven throughout the
centuries. Therefore, the concept “the Burmans are the Buddhists” was originally rooted from
Burma history. There is a saying “To be a Myanmar (Burmese) is to be a Buddhist.” And it is
frequently repeated in the modern era. The relationship between the state and the Buddhist
religion, thus has been strongly influenced by the political development of the country.
Consequently, the government and majority Myanmar (Burmese) could hardly see the
Christians as the loyal citizens. is taken at its face value or out of its context, it can be misunderstood that the notorious
Myanmar military government is appointed by God. This begs the following questions: Is
God the source of Evil? Why God would appoint an unjust government? Should we give
honour and submission to the evil government? Reading it in this way makes the text sound
very misleading and erroneous.
In 2007 (August-November) the Saffron Revolution demonstrated Myanmar´s
Economic desperation. Buddhist monks peacefully protested the government by overturning
their bowls (means to resist or to disobey) and refused to receive alms from the Myanmar
generals (means not giving Buddha’s blessing). They demonstrated on behalf of the citizens,
their donors of daily food who have been living in economic crisis. The uprising demanded
the political and economic reforms from the government.3
Indeed, the problem therefore stems from the misunderstanding or misuse of Romans
13:1-7 which is intentionally or unintentionally ignored by the present Myanmar Churches.
The uprising extended its tentacles
to the Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC) and the Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC), a
member of MCC and the largest denomination in Myanmar. MCC and MBC chose to stand
still as the loyal citizens to the government. MBC pointed out the Baptist doctrine of
”Separation of Church and State” as her reason for not joining in the demonstration. When the
neighbouring religion protested the unjust situation, the Churches went silent. Although the
uprising could not transform the country to be just and order, it stimulated the Christians to
consider what should the church do when it comes face to face with the tyrant government?
Does Romans 13:1-7 mean total silence to the Myanmar Churches? At the same time, the
question about the Baptist doctrine of Separation of Church and State comes to the Baptist
Churches. Does this doctrine prevent the Churches from upholding Justice?

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