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Anabaptists, from the very beginning, have uniformly taken an exclusive position on civil government.

On the one hand Anabaptists have advocated disobedience to civil authority when the authority requires disobedience to God. The apostolic cry “We ought to obey God rather than men” has been the watchword that brought many Anabaptists to their deaths. The nickname Anabaptist came about because of such an issue. The origin of Anabaptism surrounded the Biblical doctrine of believers’ baptism; hence the term Anabaptist, meaning “re-baptizers.” Another example of this position is reflected in the teaching of nonresistance, which resulted in refusal to engage in warfare.

On the other hand Anabaptists have been advocates of obedience to government in all matters not clearly forbidden by God. This means that Anabaptists pay their taxes, give proper honor to civil leaders, and obey the laws of the land.

As an application of the above, registration for the draft provides a good illustration. In compliance with the draft registration law, all men are required to register for the draft at the age of 18. The statute reads:

Almost all male U.S. citizens, and male aliens living in the U.S., who are 18 through 25, are required to register for the military draft. However, men who currently register are not automatically inducted into military service. In the event of a crisis that necessitates a draft to be invoked, men would be called in sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth. They would then be examined for mental, physical, and moral fitness by the military before being deferred or exempted from military service or inducted into the Armed Forces. You may register as soon as you reach the age of 17 years and 3 months but must register within 30 days of turning 18. Failure to register is a violation of Federal Law. Conviction for such a violation may result in imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine of not more than $250,000. You can expect to be denied a driver’s license in the following states/ territories: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. You may become ineligible for federal benefits for life. Only men born after December 31, 1959, are required to show proof of registration.

We expect our men to obey the law and register for the draft, but if they should later face induction we expect them to refuse to serve on the basis of conscientious objection to the use of force. Therefore, we comply with the law even when doing so is unpleasant and we are prepared to disobey the law if it violates clear teaching of the Word of God.

Anabaptists have stood nearly alone in these matters. Obedience to the civil authorities is required according to Romans 13, but one never disobeys the higher power. When God and the civil government are in conflict “we must obey God rather than men.”

Written by: Paul Emerson

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