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By: David Bachelor, PhD
It is either irony, or amnesia, that drives the news this week that Texans are considering a referendum on secession. The Lone Star State held a similar referendum 160 years ago in February of 1861. Hopefully, no one has forgotten the outcome of that election.
Newsweek reports Texas State Representative Kyle Biedermann “filed a bill on Tuesday that could give Texans the opportunity to secede from the United States.” According to Representative Biedermann’s website “House Bill 1359, also known as the Texas Independence Referendum Act . . . allow[s] Texans the right to discuss, debate and vote on creating a path toward Texas Independence.”
In the Texas Tribune article on Representative Biedermann’s bill, writer Aneri Pattani notes “Every few months, the question seems to come up: If Texas wanted to, could it secede from the United States?” The article emphasizes the recurring nature of Texas’ urge for independence by including large segments of a 2016 Tribune piece on the same subject.
ABC 7 News in Amarillo consulted Political Science Professor Aaron Faver concerning the outcome of an independent Texas. Dr. Faver said, “We really shouldn’t even be talking about this, in the sense that our sense of loyalty to the United States of America is being thought of as something that we can just dispose of.” ABC 7 and the other media covering House Bill 1359 all cite the late Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia who declared that the Civil War settled once and for all the question of whether a state could leave the Union.
The Bible contains a narrative about a time when the people of God thought part of their nation was taking the path to independence. In Joshua 22 the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh built an altar at the border between their land and the rest of Israel. Since the twelve tribes were a theocracy, it appeared to the remaining tribes that Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh were seceding from Israel and its God. The reaction was immediate military mobilization by the other tribes while a peace envoy tried to keep Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh in their nation, “If you don’t think your land is a fit place to serve God, then move across the Jordan and live with us in the LORD’s own land, where his sacred tent is located. But don’t rebel against the LORD our God or against us by building another altar besides the LORD’s own altar” (Jos 22:19).
The misunderstanding was quickly defused when Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh were able to explain their actions. These tribes feared a day when the tribes on the west side of the Jordan river would not see their eastern cousins as fellow Israelites. These three Eastern tribes told the Western peace commission the purpose of the border altar: “It’s here to remind us and you that we belong to the LORD, just as much as you do.” (Joshua 22:27)
The independence question for the Israelites was settled very quickly once the truth was known. The problem of Texas secession is not likely to be as easily defused since Americans seem to be unable to even agree what is truth.