Superman Suit Saturdays

A Kiwi walks up to a group of mainly Americans…

I strongly suspect Western Christians, and in particular American Christians, have an unbiblical view of government authority.

So to poke and prod a bit, suppose the government of a country legislated that everyone had to wear Superman suits every Saturday.

Would you comply? If not, what biblical reasoning would you appeal to?

I think a more interesting and relevant question would be whether Christians would or should comply with a law such as this that was very widely flouted by the rest of the population.

No, for the sake of argument, it is widely embraced.

But it is a good question as to whether Christians should obey when others are not.

I expect that I would grumble a bit about how stupid it was but nevertheless wear a superman suit when going out in public on Saturdays. After all, that’s what I already do when going through the degrading experience of airport security theater.

It’s a more difficult question when the government issues laws that nobody really obeys, often because it is not really possible to fully comply, but the government nevertheless declares such laws either to score political points or to have convenient grounds to arrest someone when politically needed.

My point is rather that there seems to be a tendency only to submit if we agree with the requirement. You don’t seem to have a problem with that yourself, but it is an important starting point that receives little attention.

As for your question, you are posing a situation where the responsibility for failing to adhere to a legal requirement with the government itself. That is a different scenario that we are all too often willing to entertain. Is it possible that we sometimes blame the government when it’s actually just that we don’t want to submit?

Ok, I’ll bite.

It depends on the country and the state of the law and jurisprudence existing in that country before the Superman suit law was enacted.

In the US, I would suspect that such a law would be overturned as unconstitutional since it is likely a form of compelled speech forbidden by the 1st Amendment. If so, disobedience to this law would actually be obedience to a higher law, the constitution. Disobedience to an illegitimate law is not rebellion against legitimate authority.

But let’s say instead that this were already the law in, say, New Zealand, and I end up moving there for unrelated reasons. I suppose I would follow it unless there were something in NZ law or jurisprudence that made such an edict illegitimate. And at some point, if public support is broad enough, it may transform into just another one if the social mores, regardless of whether the law is legitimate or not.


I do not believe that Christians outside of the west enthusiastically comply with government abuses, large or small, though they may prudently and faithfully endure them. I am happy to be corrected.

Additionally, it’s fine for Christians to use the legal/governmental system to try to control their circumstances. And yes, that does provide us a range of responses when we are presented with a law we don’t like. Our governmental authority is much more complex than a legionnaire with a spear and a burden for us to carry.

So I would try not to wear the suit until I’d exhausted my peaceful, legal options. I do not believe that would be sinful. If I were skilled at navigating my legal rights, it might even be a service to my neighbor.


That’s a good answer, Zac. The form of government and the jurisprudence around it definitely determines the response.

In more serious matters, the fact that we are also subject to a higher authority in God comes into play as well.

I can see that my initial post was more situationally specific than I appreciated. These responses are helpful.

1 Like

Aren’t we going for sphere sovereignty here? Legitimacy then isn’t defined by the law but by God’s divided and delegated authority to superiors in their respective positions, is it not. Maybe, I’m misreading Pastor Bayly and perhaps he would correct my application here, but I think we aren’t saying all arbitrary edicts from men in authority are legitimate any more than arbitrary edicts from written law are legitimate. What makes them legitimate, is if they aren’t doing violence to authority granted to other spheres (family and church for example).

What if the law said all women between the ages of 13 and 33 had to wear skirts skin tight and no lower than their upper thigh? Unless we have a proper division of authority, we have no complaint that our daughters must dress like prostitutes. But I think we would have a valid complaint and not on the basis of mere chastity, but parental and or husbandly authority.

Enthusiasm was not really a part of the scenario. I certainly would not be enthusiastic about wearing a Superman suit. I don’t even like themed parties.

And perhaps those outside the West have the same attitudes. I refer to Western Christians because that is what I know, and though it may have been unwise to pigeonhole Americans because I am less familiar with them than Australian and New Zealand Christians, it has prevented a purely US-centered response.

All that aside, yours is a very good response, and it’s made me realise I’m struggling to express my concern.

The fact that we live in countries where we can challenge authority when we disagree with it means that, even as Christians, challenging authority is our reflex action. And hearing and reading commentary from the US, it seems to be considered a positive good. But biblically, though there are a variety of responses depending on the situation, none of them seem to be based on a person’s rights. Rather, there is an encouragement to submit either to the immediate authority (sometimes even when there was no need to - Jesus, Peter, temple tax), or to a higher authority (e.g. Apostles preaching against Sanhedrin’s directives).

I’m wondering whether we are more fixated on changing the authority so we’re happy to submit, rather than concentrating on our response regardless of the authority.


That would be one factor, but it cannot be the determining factor.

In fact, spheres of authority is not a useful tool, unless describing parallel authorities, e.g. two families side-by-side, or the judiciary and executive. A better way to understand the relationship between levels is in terms of hierarchy. A court can remove a father from the home, etc. Of course, it is more involved than that.

So I would adjust your statement by saying, what makes an edict illegitimate is if it goes against the authority or edicts of a higher authority.

But again, far more complicated than that.

Sorry, Ken, I’ll have to leave it there, for now.

I am an American who has been to some pretty lawless places. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that the law is what gets enforced by the person in authority. And the person in authority is the person with the means and willingness to enforce that authority. Is that nice and clean and tight? No. But neither was the scope of Rome’s authority in the first century.

America has thousands and thousands of laws that are never enforced. Last time I looked, aerosol cans were labeled that it’s a violation of federal law to use them in a way not in accordance with the written directions. It’s literally impossible to live and move and have your being in the United States of America without falling afoul of “laws” multiple times daily. So what are those laws? Do they come with the divine provenance of Romans 13? I say no, but I’m open to other ideas.

And on the flip side, Afghanistan’s parliament has never passed a law mandating the burqa for women, but that doesn’t make the Talib’s Kalashnikov butt feel any better when it lands upside your head.


You are ignoring that each sphere has differing scopes of authority. You are assuming that the hierarchy of authority is universal, but it’s not. The government is not of higher authority than the church when it comes to doctrine, and the church is not higher authority than the government when it comes to public safety.


I understand the point you are trying to make but unfortunately your hypothetical is deeply flawed. Superman Suit Saturdays would only increase national morale and unity, which is our biggest shortcoming as a nation in this tumultuous period of its history. A day where all citizens can lay down their identity specific uniforms - The polo and khakis of white suburban conservatives, the baggy pants and du-rags in the hood, the costly designer clothing in the liberal urban centers, the jeans and wife-beaters in the rural regions, all forsaken in a spirit of national comradery. The suit’s imparting of a feeling of strength and the nostalgic Americana of it would soon become an emblem of hope for the people. The GDP would skyrocket. Pastors wearing the suits on Saturday, would build up the gumption and bravery to preach to the consciences of their congregations on Sunday. Christians would be foolish to resist such a law.


You’ve illustrated the difference between authority and laws. However, laws remain laws whether enforced or not, which is why authority is main point of the discussion.

Remember, I said there are differing areas of authority between parallel authorities. Church and State are parallel authorities, though this is difficult to see in such a divided Church, so spheres of authority apply when it comes to doctrine.

But I’m interested the idea being tested. Can you think of another example?

You may be right about this. I just double-checked Romans 13, and the word “law” isn’t used there. “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.” “Authority.” “Authority.” “Rulers.” “Authority.” “Minister.” “Minister.” The focus of Romans 13 is men in authority, not laws.

This only gets us so far, though: Who was in authority in Norway under Nazi occupation? Was it unbiblical to resist the Nazis in any way? If Parliament’s forces occupied your town during the English Civil war, were they the authority, or does authority still reside with Charles, by the grace of God King etc.? Does kicking Richard Cromwell out and restoring King Charles II constitute resisting authority?

What about a country like the United States? What does one do where one ruler, say an elected Sheriff, opposes another ruler, say a judge or an FBI agent? What if an authority opposes the US Constitution, nominally the highest law in the land?


Sure…family life is another area of authority. The father has authority given by God to him, that is not given to the Government. I’m not denying that there may be occasional overlap, just denying that the authority starts with God to the state, and filters down from there.

Certainly it is possible to use lack of enforcement as an excuse to not submit, but certainly it also seems that quite a few laws are largely for show and not intended to be enforced aside from rare circumstances. Ever hear about a rule-book slowdown? My guess is that if everyone strictly followed all of the laws on the books, our economy would grind to a halt, and from what I hear about some other countries, it is even worse there. A government that multiplies laws that are not practically possible to obey lays a burden on the conscience of the sincere Christian.

1 Like

Excellent questions.

First off, to restate, I’m in no way suggesting blind submission. I believe we need to take responsibility for whether we submit or not. My concern is that we don’t put the responsibility for our submission (or lack of) on the authority.

How is authority established? When does a usurper of authority become the new authority?

I don’t know the answer to all that. There are biblical examples of God-directed rebellion and of godless rebellion. How do we tell the difference today? I can explain parallel and hierarchical authorities invading each other or intervening to relieve injustice and suffering, but internal rebellion (of which there are biblical examples as well) is more of a problem. Whether Christians are take part or not, I suggest we are far to quick to say, “Yes”.

As for the US, I am no expert, being a NZer in Australia, but in general I’d suggest that every authority is under another, ending with God. If a lesser authority is willing to rebel against a higher authority, you can either shelter under the lesser, knowing he will face the heat, or refuse to submit, appealing to the higher authority.

As for the Constitution, it’s law, not authority. It has no authority without people in authority who exercise power to ensure people abide by it. Therefore, if someone opposes the US Constitution, you appeal to those authorities.