Romans 13:1-7 and Philippians 3:17-21: Paul’s Call to True Citizenship and to Gaman

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Erik Borggren

Abstract

In this paper, I revisit Romans 13:1-7, alongside Philippians 3:17-21, through the lens of the Japanese American experience of internment in American concentration camps. This will involve my entering, as an outsider, into the history, literature and art of Japanese Americans during World War II, and, in light of their experience, offering, as an outsider, a new way for us to read and interpret these texts. Such a reading reveals the inadequacy of the unimaginative and binary categories of assimilation/resistance and cooperation/disobedience. Rather, through the literature, art, and stories of Japanese Americans, we are able to find a fresh reading of Romans 13:1-7 and Philippians 3:17-21 in which citizenship in heaven enables submission on earth, which in turn empowers hope-filled resistance rooted in love of neighbor.

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