Occasionally in comments on this blog the link between Christianity and the Constitution arise. Inevitably, Romans Chapter 13 is referenced to bolster the excuse of Christians to remain safely out of the political arena. It allows them to throw their hands up and avoid political confrontation within the church, but Chuck Baldwin has done a masterful job of defining the truth (h/t Woody Creek Farmer).
As Baldwin points out, due to our unique political institution, the Constitution is our divinely sanctioned "leader" or "ruler." We have no other king than God and our rights are not given to us by the Constitution, but by God and secured by ourselves through resistance to corruption and usurpation.
The church hates this reality, because the church seeks to secure and protect the church through social and political acquiescence. It does not necessarily defend Christianity and certainly not the United States of America. Augustine (340-430) first advanced the idea that the Bible rather than the church is the ultimate religious authority, just as we might look at the Constitution rather than the Supreme Court as the ultimate legal authority.
Supreme Court justices can be compared to the Cardinals of the Catholic Church, placing themselves between the Word and the people, dictating the meaning of the Bible and handing down their opinions as the Word of God. But the Cardinals are not the Word of God and though they may have studied the Bible, God does not speak through them to the people, but to the people directly.
The Supreme Court justices are not the Constitution and while they enjoy the usurped power of dictating the meaning of the Constitution, it remains an usurped power and inherently incorrect. The Constitution speaks to the citizen directly. Where a citizen might not completely understand the particulars of the Constitution, it is within their discretion to seek guidance from lawyers, or justices if they choose, but it is also within their discretion to reject that guidance and seek counsel elsewhere.
There is no shortage of Constitutional scholars who arrive at completely different opinions from that of the Supreme Court. Even within the Court there is most often a disagreement. How many rulings are a result of a 5-4 decision? The Supreme Court, therefore, cannot be correct, even in the rare case of a unanimous decision, because there are other opposing arguments of equal merit, or there would be no case before them.
It is not suggested that a common reading of the Constitution is sufficient for one to know what is and is not Constitutional, but a dedicated citizen might read the founding documents; read of the Federalist and (more informative in our times) the Anti-Federalist Papers to educate oneself. Generally, however, the Constitution does not tell the people what is and is not their rights, but what limitations the government must endure when it seeks to pass laws against those rights. A fact conveniently ignored by the courts, which is made clear by the Ninth Amendment which affirms that a citizen has rights largely without limit.
The Constitution does provide for the citizens to choose their representatives, but this does not guarantee that those representatives will act according to the Constitution. Of late, the hostility of duly elected representatives toward the Constitution is stark, open and unapologetic. It is a clear sign that a government comprised of any composition of opponents to the very document that gives it authority is wholly corrupted.
The most obvious example of this reality is present in the violations of the First Amendment guarantees of the "free exercise of" religion; to practice religion freely. This right cannot be reconciled with the banishing of religion, by law, from public institutions. If government officials can banish God from our lives, there is no possible reading of the Bible that would justify it.
Romans Chapter 13 is not a defense against political action, but an admonition to engage in political activity on behalf of the rightful authority: the Constitution.