Citizen? What's That?
Who would have thought fifty years ago that so many questions would have been raised about such a small, four syllable word as citizenship?
You thought you knew what a citizen is? Well, think again.
Someone may ask you what it is. Do you have a ready answer?
Actually, the idea of a citizen as we know it in this country is a radical departure from the old world’s idea.
No doubt, our Founders understood the difference between a serf and a citizen.
But in merry old England the populace was known as serfs and the freemen were called nobles.
Our “mother” country’s ideas about serfs were most certainly different from our ideas regarding the standing of individuals in our country.
What’s a serf?
Noah Webster dismisses the notion that men are serfs with these words: “Serf, (from the word “service”), a servant or slave employed in husbandry, and in some countries attached to the soil and
transferred with it.” (My italics) You may recall that in the first, great document written to apprise the world of our separation from
Great Britain we read this: “all men are created equal.” Aha, no serfs here!
Prof. Edward Erler, professor of political science, California State University, San Bernadino, tells us in an
article in “Imprimis”1 that, “…the very concept of citizenship was unknown in British common law.”
This means, of course, that our ideas about that subject are our own.
And where do we get those ideas.
Those who were charter members of the organization called the U.S.A. always went
to the Bible for enlightenment. And what do we find? That our Lord spoke frequently about the “kingdom of God.”2
We are told in Ephesians that we are “no more strangers and foreigners but
fellow citizens with the saints (you and I if we are Christians)….”
Furthermore, we read that “our conversation/citizenship is in heaven: from whence also we look for the saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ...,” (Philippians 3:20).
The scriptures always refer to our rebirth as our becoming a child of God, a member of the “Family of God,” whereas
our country is the Kingdom of God of which we are citizens. This kingdom of which we speak is a heavenly kingdom the ruler of which is King Jesus to whom we owe undivided loyalty and whose laws must be obeyed.
Citizenship, as Prof. Erler tells us, has, “two components:…birth or naturalization in the United States
and being subject to the
jurisdiction of the United States.”3 (Italics in the original; underlining mine, ed.) He further quotes Sen.
Lyman Trumbull, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (18684), as stating that,
“subject to jurisdiction thereof meant not owing allegiance to anybody else and being subject to the complete jurisdiction of the United
States.” (Emphasis in the original.) Senator Jacob Howard of Ohio (1868), the author of the citizenship clause in the Fourteenth Amendment, also argued that, “Jurisdiction understood as allegiance,
excludes…persons born in the United States who are foreign-born, aliens, [or] who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign
Prof. Erler concludes, therefore, that, “Thus
subject to the jurisdiction does not simply mean, as is commonly thought today, subject to American laws or American courts. It means owing exclusive political allegiance to the U.S.”
If you review my arguments from Scripture, you can see the parallels between the above discussion and that of our heavenly citizenship:
A. Birth is not the same as becoming the citizen of a country but is part of our becoming such.
i. In the case of spiritual rebirth one is actually born again, becoming spiritually alive and a member of a spiritual family. (See such Scriptures as: Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:5.)
ii. Being born in a place, usually a country, whatever it may be, (Africa, Mexico, England, etc.) means arriving in this world as an infant having, obviously, a “family. Family means a mother and a father, and, possibly, siblings (whether the family is intact, present, or even alive or not).
B. Citizenship: becomes a reality as a result of becoming a member of a society: a heavenly one or an earthly country or state subject to the jurisdiction thereof. In the case of the heavenly society it entails the giving of ones loyalty
exclusively to the one and only God; in the case of the earthly country, ones loyalty is to the ruler of that country, to the country itself or in the case of our country, the laws/Constitution thereof.
In the United States our loyalty is to our Founding documents5 which were composed and ratified by the people and the States because we are a country of law not of loyalty to a man.
Being subject to the jurisdiction means
not owing allegiance to anybody else and being subject to the complete jurisdiction of the Ruler (God) or the laws (Constitution) thereof.
IT TAKES MORE THAN BEING BORN ON OUR SOIL TO BE A CITIZEN.
You will find Professor Erler’s
article very informative.
I highly recommend your asking for a copy of IMPRIMIS from Hillsdale College.
To request a copy of the July, 2008, Volume 37, Number 9 go to: www.hillsdale.edu.
Hebrews 11: 16-17. We understand that the kingdom of God is, first of all, a spiritual one of which all Christians are members.
All quotations other than scripture, are reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.
The quotes by Trumbull and Howard are from the discussion of the Fourteenth Amendment at the time of its being considered.
You will recall that our civil servants must take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.
All, from the dog catcher to the president take that oath; the president taking one especially designed for him.
See the Constitution itself.
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