Insurgency 101, Part Two: Salvation History

Insurrection is an old word derived from Latin. Webster defines it as “an act or instance of rising in revolt, rebellion or resistance against civil authority or an established government.” Insurrection is nearly synonymous with the word insurgency, and neither term implies that the revolt or resistance must resort to violent means. In other words if government should usurp power, or exercise its longstanding power oppressively, insurgents can rise up — legally and/or peacefully, or as a last resort having recourse to the sword. The motive would be to exercise the prerogatives of the people, as per the Declaration of Independence .

[I]t is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards
for their future security.

Christians have occasionally argued that, especially in its early stages, the American Revolution ran contrary to Sacred Scripture (esp. Romans 13). For example, Gene Fisher and Glen Chambers, The Revolution Myth (Grenville, South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 1981) is a study of the Prohibitory Act , with the theme that until December 22, 1775 (eight months after Lexington & Concord) Americans remained in the sort of rebellion forbidden in Romans 13.

But careful Catholic thought takes account of the Almighty’s intervention in history and how the Church solicits Divine Providence. Might not what the continental congress had to say a few months after Yorktown, Annuit Coeptis (He has favored our cause), articulate God’s truth more closely than the theological notion that divine disfavor, even eternal damnation, is the sure consequence of resisting “legitimate rulers” who have descended into tyranny?

Consider whether in the most recent quarter century, the evident blessing bestowed upon prayerful Pilipino, Polish and East Timorese patriots offers us object lessons. In East Timor, a guerilla operation led by Portuguese speaking Catholics began in 1975, when the world’s largest Islamic nation, Indonesia, occupied the former colony of Portugal militarily, annexing it politically in 1976. Under the leadership of Bishop Carlos Belo , the support of the Catholic Church was indispensable in the fight for independence, achieved in 2002 after a long and bloody struggle.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown in 1986, in the “People Power Revolution.” Here the Catholic Church, under the direction of Cardinal Jaime Sin , played an instrumental part in making this insurrection not only successful but also non-violent.

In Central Europe, in the blessed “revolution of 1989,” the process of liquidating the Soviet Empire began with Poland. A native son, Pope John Paul II, played a key role in overthrowing the “lawfully constituted authorities,” namely the Communist Party leadership headed by President Wojciech Jaruzelski. No one should be very surprised that it was during John Paul’s papacy that the Church indicated five preconditions for “Armed resistance to oppression by political authority” [Catechism of the Catholic Church , sect. 2243 (1994)]. Conditional is as unlike forbidden as charging a toll differs from closing the bridge.

Among the five catechetical preconditions, one applies in a special way to the United States, “all other means of redress have been exhausted.” In 1776, our Founding Fathers exhausted their last option when the King and the British Parliament rejected our overtures for reconciliation by means of compromise. Faced with the choice between resistance or abject submission to usurpation and oppression, they made their stand at Lexington and at the Concord Bridge, where they “fired the shot heard round the world.”

Some 3½ centuries earlier, St. Joan of Arc had fought against a similar occupation of her country by the English. She too had exhausted her peaceful options, as she testified at her trial: “…but as to the English, the peace they need is that they may go away to their own country, to England…. First, I begged them to make peace; and it was only in case they would not make peace that I was ready to fight.”

A millennium previous to the exploits of the Maid of Orleans, Constantine and his fellow Christians had revolted against the pagan government of Rome. In 303 with Christians numbering perhaps ten percent of the population in the Empire, though with a disproportionate influence , the Emperor Diocletian presided over the tenth and most terrible wave of persecution the Roman government had inflicted on followers of the Savior. It was designed to reverse conversions and crush the flourishing religion at every level of society. Diocletian’s policy was reminiscent of the Hellenization program against Jewish society in the days before the Maccabean revolt; except that initially the Maccabees fought back with guerilla tactics, whereas under Constantine Christian forces fought a great pitched battle at the Milvian Bridge, 312 AD.

This bellicose approach was dictated by the lack of any peaceful alternative. “Pray and obey and everything will be ok” was not what nearly three centuries of persecution had taught pious citizens of Rome to see as realistic. Moreover, in Constantine’s day they enjoyed no constitutional option like ours in America, for rule of law did not extent to the top of Rome’s political pyramid, not even in theory. Official state doctrine proclaimed the divinity of the roman emperor. No earthly law could bind his regime. The only ordinance that might depose the divine emperor was military force.

In contrast to imperial Rome, where warlords styled Caesars held sway, in the USA the “supreme law of the land” is the Constitution. By its fifth Article, the written Constitution authorizes the people to conduct an insurgency legally and peacefully through a “convention for proposing Amendments.” A concerted effort for just such an insurgency — an “Insurrection of Suede ” — is also part and parcel of the aforesaid catechetical precondition.

Thus, our moral obligation is this: Exhaust the convention option before escalating the insurgency in the spirit of the Continental Army of our forefathers.


writer, retired history teacher, practicing cradle Catholic, lecturer for Knights of Columbus, council 1379. Knight of the Month, October 2008, February 2009.

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  • cpageinkeller

    Directed by the hand of God, our founders gave us a wonderful, durable Constitution replete with a process for amending it. This wonderful document has been folded, spindled, and mutilated by Congress and the courts to the point that original intent is often obscure. Some sections have been over emphasized and/or misconstrued (General Welfare clause, Establishment clause), others abrogated or ignored (IX, X), and still others abused (XVI). The result is many clearly UN-constitutional laws have not been examined and struck down.

    Most amendments have worked out pretty well (though I object to XVI and XVII), and only one (XVIII) repealed by subsequent amendment (XXI).

    All in all it is a wonderful document. All we need to do is to USE it: original intent, overturn unconstitutional laws, and amend through the process provided.

    We should perish the thought of writing a NEW Constitution. As a nation, we lack the will, consensus, solidarity, substantiality, and the statesman to create anything other than disaster

  • wow cpageinkeller, it appears you have silenced all of the great minds involved in this debate! My guess is a lot of people are really having trouble thinking we, as a nation, can help bring about real reform as proposed in the Twelve Lights Amendments. The more I think my guess is a good one, the more I think WE SHOULD pursue the convention option.

    Remember, the founders gave us two processes for amending the Constitution, not just one.

    (I really don’t think you meant to suggest that anyone here is proposing a new constitution.)

  • Cpageinkeller,
    “We should perish the thought of writing a NEW Constitution.” Amen!

    The idea is to reinforce the venerable written Constitution, as distinguished from the postmodern “living, breathing constitution.” The latter is little more than rule by man — by a politburo of nine elites, bedecked in their black robes. One arch-amendment could, if it has bulletproof language, restore the rule of the “supreme law of the land.”

  • An attorney friend of mine sent me the following email: “The way I see it, the essence of the logic runs as follows:

    1. God created man in a single act of creation.

    2. All men are created (politically) equal.

    3. No one man has an inherent right to dominate another.

    4. Hence any authority to command obedience must derive from consent.

    5. All consent is limited and conditional.

    6. If the limits are transgressed or the conditions breached, the consent is inoperative.

    7. In this status, attempts to exercise political authority are tyranny.”


    I would suggest that in addition to the 7 steps stated that at least with what we have called the American experiment we have another step and that is that in the creation of our nation and our Constitution the Fathers explicity had in mind a firm believe that this nation was founded upon Judeo-Christian values and that our relationship to and with God, as our Creator and ultimate Authority trumps the institutions that we as men and women have put in place to govern us. John Quincy Adams stated that the American Revolution was “connected in one indissoluble bond, principles of civil government to the principles of Christianity”. I would suggest that even beyond the consent of the governed, if the present government consistently seeks to break this indissoluble bond then they have forfeited their authority as granted by teh CReator for temporal authority. I believe with teh present administration we are nearly at, if not already in that state

  • Part one of the Insurgency 101 series is, “Dare We Resist?”

    Part three in the Insurgency 101 series is, “Wilderness Road.”