From approximately eight years ago we have seen Santa Muerte having a big presence with drug cartel members, from the bosses all the way down. Why? Because these people say that Jesus or the Virgin Mary can’t provide what they ask for, which is to be protected from soldiers, police and their enemies.
I was just thinking about this BBC article about how Mexican drug cartels pray to “Saint Death” as opposed to Jesus and the Virgin because they believe that the latter is not interested in protecting them from government soldiers and troops. Yet I cannot help but wonder the basis for this identification of Jesus’s “side” with the government. Why assume this?
What is the basis for identifying the national government with the “powers and authorities” which has been ordained by God in Romans 13? Why can it not be Mafias or Drug Cartels?
If I proclaimed myself ruler of Singapore and crafted a nifty little constitution and set of documents to codify my rule, that does not make me a “power” over Singapore automatically. To be an actual power requires not only a piece of paper and the claim to authority, it requires the –actual, empirical, effective and positive- exercise of authority over a region as well.
But the thing is, all national governments are empirical contingent and finite entities. They are not omnipotent or ‘sovereign” even over their own territories. Yes, to be a national government in the conventional sense, you will have to be of a certain empirical size and power. Yet, if the national government is sufficiently weak or corrupt or both, they may not have the actual, empirical and effective power over certain, if not, many regions even within their own country.
Therefore, if they don’t actually exercise any effective power over a region, then they are effectively not the “power” over their region, no matter what your atlas or some UN bureaucrat says. Thus, if the Mafia or some Cartel does exercise effective power over a region, why should the populace of that region not treat the Cartel or Mafia as the de facto powers that have been ordained by God to ensure the security and order of that region?
If you invoke the fact that these Cartels or Mafia are not “just” rulers in some substantive sense other than the fact that they don’t have lawyers and pieces of legal documents, such as dealing in “immoral” drug trafficking or whatever, then this question would very easy backfire on the “legitimate governments” as well who engage in immoral and unjust wars, weapons trading (WWII killed many million more lives than drugs has ever done). Their rule and officials are as liable to immorality and corruption as the Drug Cartel and Mafia, etc. The Mafia may not have a codified legal system, but any form of order in this world will have some form of systematic behaviour, and they can consist in honour codes, mutual respect, etc.
Of course, this approach would turn questions of political legitimacy into highly empirical questions, more particularistic, and much more postmodern, etc, not easily shoehorned into universalist and academic solutions dreamed up by the academia who of course are part of the same system and power structures as the “legitimate” governments…