Image: left to right, City of Montgomery Police Chief Jim Napolitano, political activist Rob Harmon, and former State Representative candidate Steve Toth, October 16, 2015.
Conroe, September 22 – Speaking to the Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, conservative political activist Rob Harmon made a reference to the Book of Romans, Chapter 13, when he said, “It’s Biblical that we honor our public servants and pay them.”
“It’s Biblical that we honor our public servants [who, in a post-Enlightenment republic, are THE CITIZENS] and pay them.” – – Conservative political activist Rob Harmon, September 19, 2017.
Harmon was speaking as a surrogate for Brian Dawson, a candidate for Montgomery County Commissioner, Precinct 2, running against incumbent Charlie Riley and another challenger, former Comal County Commissioner Gregory Parker. In that race and a few other political debates, the exorbitant salaries of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, especially in comparison to almost every other County in Texas, have become a key issue.
Voters clearly expect Commissioners Court salary reform as a critical component of the County government spending reductions for which the citizen call has rapidly grown. It’s not clear whether Harmon was actually speaking Dawson’s position that public servants require honor and payment.
Harmon ran a valiant campaign for Precinct 2 County Commissioner against Riley in 2014. Riley defeated Harmon in the Republican Runoff Election after the new Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition arose to help Riley and County Judge candidate Craig Doyal defeat their conservative opponents.
Romans 13 is vitally important to Montgomery County, but we must remember the context
Harmon’s indirect reference to Romans 13 is vitally important to Montgomery County, although we must understand Paul’s epistle in American society. Harmon’s suggestion that we honor public servants is correct, but it was unclear to which public servants he referred.
In the United States, the State of Texas, and Montgomery County, those who deserve “honor” are a bit different from the people to whom Paul referred in ancient Rome when he wrote his letter to the Romans.
Romans 13:1-3 said,
“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. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.“
Romans Thirteen teaches that Christians (all good citizens) ought to submit to the government, because God has given us the government. Secondly, Romans Thirteen teaches that the government ought to be a terror to the wicked rather than the good. This passage regulates both the government and its citizens. Paul teaches that given the principles concerning government, good citizens ought to pay tribute (taxes) and honor (a term sometimes used to indicate a monetary benefit).
Does this Scripture mean that we must be subject to the governing authorities of the County government and honor them with high salaries? Sorry, Mr. Doyal, Mr. Riley, Mr. Meador, Mr. Clark, and Mr. Noack, you can’t there with Romans 13.
A funny thing happened on the way to American democracy
A funny thing happened on the way to the American system of government. It was called the European Age of Enlightenment which dominated philosophy in the 18th century in Europe and in the American colonies. Thomas Hobbes and John Locke argued that individuals have fundamental, God-ordained, rights by which they formed a “social contract” under which “the government’s authority lies in the consent of the governed.”
John Locke’s theory of these “natural rights of man” became the basis of the Declaration of Independence which the American colonies adopted on July 4, 1776, as its primary authors Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and probably Benjamin Franklin were serious students of Enlightenment philosophy. Adams, who wrote the preamble to the Declaration of Independence explained to the Second Continental Congress that his intent was to reject government ruled by a king with “divine right” and replace it with government “from the people.”
Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers and James Madison in the Anti-Federalist Papers both concurred that the source of American democracy was the concept that “the people are the authority” in the post-Enlightenment world.
The State of Texas has followed Enlightenment philosophy from its inception, first as an independent republic and then as an American state. The concept of government by the people of Texas is express in many instances, including one Texas statute among many:
“Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.“
Texas Government Code Section 552.001(a).
Even Montgomery County, a county in the Great State of Texas, has adopted a similar philosophy, as the organizational chart depicts the people at the top of the government’s authority:
Returning to Romans 13 and Mr. Harmon
Romans 13:1-2 provides, “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.”
When Paul wrote his epistle, the governing authorities were Caesar, his governors, his soldiers, and his tax collectors.
In 2017, however, the governing authorities that “have been established by God” are the citizens!
When Mr. Harmon proclaimed “It’s Biblical that we honor our public servants and pay them,” in the post-Enlightenment world of the United States, Texas, and Montgomery County, he’s pointing out that:
“It’s Biblical that we honor the citizens and pay them.”
The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper will explore three subjects in the context of the Scriptures and the wisdom which Harmon has shared with us. This newspaper will explore three subjects: County government spending (briefly), Commisioners Court salaries, and citizen activism.
A brief look at County government spending in the context of Romans 13 and First Kings
In the Old Testament, there’s a story concerning the wisdom of leaders. In First Kings, Chapter 12, the new king Rehoboam, King Solomon’s son, received a plea from the citizens to lighten their load. The eighteenth verse shows this plea was primarily a tax burden. Along with the plea from the citizens was the promise that, if Rehoboam complied, they would serve him faithfully. Rehoboam heard from the old and wise counselors who had consulted Solomon, who told King Rehoboam to comply with the will of the people. Rehoboam, being prideful, refused and sought counsel of younger untested men, who counseled him to increase the people’s burden which the King did. The end result was the rebellion of Israel and the splitting of the Kingdom.
Similarly, the citizens are the governmental authority in Montgomery County, Texas, and America. Like the people of Israel, they are begging that the government lighten their tax burden and that the government “pay them” with substantially reduced taxes.
The reality is that, when County Judge candidate Mark Keough, an ordained pastor, Gregory Parker, a former County Commissioner, and possibly even Brian Dawson (hasn’t happened yet but hopefully he will support government spending reductions) talk about excessive government spending, they are speaking in direct correlation and consistency with the Biblical principle of honoring the governmental authority, which is the citizens, and paying them.