Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s

It’s a curious saying, “Render unto Caesar.”  Advice to the oppressed, give it up, accept what you can not change.  Don’t organize a resistance.  Don’t fight back.  Cave.  No matter that he’s evil, illegitimate, foreign, and couldn’t careless about your culture.  Of course in context the entire quote is about surrender “…and unto God the things that are God’s” so it is really pretty consistently in the give it up and submit school of philosophy.

But there are times when it’s probably good advise: fighting city hall, gravity, death and taxes, etc.

I’ve spent a lot of calories over the years declining to submit to Microsoft’s monopoly.  Even had some success in doing so.  But rolling the clock back I’m comfortable that I didn’t expend too much effort evangelizing that other people decline to submit to that Caesar.

That’s all water under the bridge, more or less, but this issue arises again and again.  A dominate commercial monopoly exercises their power in offensive evil ways and the choice arises, submit or sign-up for the extremely abrasive alternative of fighting or shunning the network?

What brings this all to mind?  Today’s example – Facebook v.s. Google

2 thoughts on “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s

  1. Zack

    That’s a big can of worms about fb and credentials and other sites.

    I hope I can convince you, Ben, that your source quote (“render unto C…, render unto G…”) has some value bigger than encouraging us to give up.

    I see it as saying that we should let the state take care of administrative functions (collecting taxes, paving roads, putting a judge in courthouse) and let other, self-organized groups, take care of moral functions (commanding your fecundity, dictating your fidelity, etc.)

    In this context, the quote might be a very positive and powerful one. Each institution might be stronger for having clearly delineated powers.

    A willful obedience to a moral mandate might actually be much stronger because there’s no law against it. You continuously, freely, choose to act rightly. Paved roads in front of your house become a civil expectation, protected under principals of judicial efficiency, fairness, and equity. (the black guy, the banker, the lesbian, and the criminal all get to drive on the roads. They also all have to stop at the red lights.)

    Under my interpretation of the “render unto…” quote, your concerns probably come out the same way, in the end.

  2. bhyde Post author

    Sure, you could read that aphorism as an early example of the forking of church v.s. state. I don’t read it that way. Diversity of institutional roles is a positive. It provides some counter balance to abuse. Note, architects of institutions subtract role clarity to enable that balance.

    But that posting isn’t about the civil/sacred distinction. It’s about blood sport inside of the commercial sphere.

    What’s being rendered here is a core function to all three.

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