Is theocracy good?
This seems like a silly question to ask in the modern age. Most people never think about theocratic governments and those who do see them as a thing of the past.
Moreover, when one looks at the few theocracies left today, the observer is rarely thrilled with what he finds. So the answer to the question of a theocracy’s goodness seems to be an obvious “no”.
And the fact that the answer is obvious is the reason why people don’t spend much time thinking about it. After all, why would they continue thinking about the question after they have an obvious answer to it?
So the proposed question is answered quickly and resolutely, yet little thought is given to it.
So people answer a question o which they have given little thought, and they keep hold of that answer with a powerful faith in its truth.
Yet the aim of the Theosis Christian project is to produce a theocratic political faction to salvage the remnants of the collapsing Western World. Therefore, the mission finds it needful to assert the merits of theocracy.
And I believe I must begin by addressing the reason why theocracy, in general, and without regard to any particular religion, is good.
Theocracy is good because it creates moral standards which unite people and their leaders. These standards allow the members of a theocratic society to trust one another and to recognize the moral authority of the laws which their leaders pass.
Below, I will present a few arguments against theocracy and the counters to each of them. Afterward, I will describe why my above statement is correct.
Is Theocracy Good? – Criticism #1: Theocracies Reduce Freedom
Theocracies impose strict moral rules. These rules are of a varied and severe sort. These rules are then enforced by the government, and this allows the powers that be to interfere in the lives of the common people in an impermissible manner.
Theocracies reduce freedom. They impose moral rules in order to maintain a people’s stability and continued existence. These rules often compel actions which the citizens of that state would not otherwise follow. So the personal freedom of a member of a theocratic state is reduced.
I agree with the views held by the people who present the argument above. They’re right to say that theocracies reduce freedom.
But they are wrong to assume that the loss of freedom is a bad thing.
Most people do not have thoughts. They don’t have morals either. Nor do they have any virtues or values. And the effect their emptiness has is to enslave them to the one thing they do have – their feelings. So the great majority of people are slaves of their feelings.
So the common person will go through life saying and doing whatever he (or she) feels like doing. They never think things through, they don’t set goals, they don’t improve over time, and they take every chance they get to sell their future for the sake of some momentary enjoyment.
The Product of Hedonism
The result of the common person’s lifetime hedonism is to destroy produce a life that is simply not worth living. The common hedonist has never produced anything of value, either within themselves as a virtue or outwardly as a work, and the result is that they live miserable lives.
They look at all the books they’ve written, and what they find is… nothing.
They look at all the friends they’ve made, and what they find is… nothing.
And they look all the virtues they’ve shown, and what they find is… nothing.
Then they look at all the reasons they have to continue living, and what they find is… nothing.
And they become miserable and resentful fo their worthless existence. Oftentimes, they’ll around them for the squalid state of their lives.
They say to themselves,
“It’s not my fault that my life sucks! Instead, it’s… everyone and everything else’s fault! I’ve been treated unfairly and oppressed! Of, if only those other people didn’t ruin my life for me!”
The Curse of Freedom
Freedom was a curse for these people. It gave them the opportunity to ruin their lives, and they could resist the temptation. It would have been far better for them if they had been enslaved to a merciful master.
The theocracy is that master. It saves people from themselves.
Is Theocracy Good? – Criticism #2: Theocracies Are Stagnant
Theocracies tend to be backward-looking. Most religions hold the view that the peoples of antiquity possessed some trait that made them greater than the peoples of today. So theocratic governments impose codes that keep people tied to the past and prevent change and, therefore, improvement.
Theocracies are stagnant. Wherever religious governments are allowed to exist, the improvement of technology begins to either slow or stop.
I agree with the views presented in the argument above, but I believe that those who would pose it have a skewed value system. Those who adhere to it will always find themselves in misery and hell.
What do I mean by this?
Simply put, technological advancement is not good. Technology is not an inherently good thing, so its expansion is not inherently good either. Technology may be used for good, and it may be used for evil and any moral value which it may possess it wholly dependent upon those who use it.
Moreover, technology enhances one’s power. The conquest of the New World by the Old is our most famous example of this.
And power corrupts and tends to move those who possess it toward evil. So the expansion of technology and, therefore, power tends to increase the wickedness of people. So technological improvement results in sin the creation of a society filled with people who are as immoral as they are powerful.
And it is far better that such a society would not exist at all!
Now, some may say that this move toward evil could be mitigated if people became more virtuous as their technology improved, but this simply isn’t true. The peoples of today are not more virtuous than the people of 200 years ago were.
The Western World’s current STD epidemic, the collapse of families and communities, the loneliness epidemic, our rampant drug abuse, and the obesity epidemic all stand as proofs of this.
So the supposed argument against theocracy presented above is actually an argument in its favor and the people who pretend otherwise move themselves and their listeners to a ruinous life.
Is Theocracy Good? – Criticism #3: They Blaspheme Against God
Theocracies are justified by their claim that they act in order to ensure that God’s will is done on earth. Yet these governments are just as prone to error as others. So when a theocratic body errs while it acts in the name of God, it disgraces the Almighty. So it is better to oppose theocracy in order to preserve the reverence which people hold for God.
Many religious factions exist, and it is inevitable that wherever a theocracy may be, there will be certain people under its jurisdiction who believe that the particular faction in power does not represent God’s will accurately.
So the dissenting religious faction will reject the legitimacy of their rulers with the assertion that their rulers are heretics/blasphemers/apostates/etc.
But suppose that these religious groups did not believe that their rulers were in error. Would these dissidents still oppose their rulers?
Catholics may reject an Islamic theocracy, but will they reject a Catholic one?
Or will the Wahhabi overturn a Wahhabi government?
How about a theocracy run by the Southern Baptist Convention?
In each case, I think not!
The religious factions that reject theocracy are all liars and hypocrites. They LOVE religious government, and they would adore the opportunity to impose one – just as long as the religion in charge was their own.
And how could anything else be the case? If people didn’t believe that their own religion proposed the right way to organize one’s life then they would not be following it in the first place! If this were not the case, then that faction’s followers would belong to the religion in the first place.
So they would need to tell themselves something to the following effect,
“I’m Eastern Orthodox, so I believe that Eastern Orthodoxy is the right religion. But I don’t think that government or society should be organized according to Orthodox principles. People should not be expected to follow the right religion. My religion is the right one, but it shouldn’t have any legal authority.”
This seems like a silly view to hold, but it is the position which one must hold if they actually believe that their religion offers the truth while they reject theocracy.
Is Theocracy Good? – A Case in Favor
The Structure of All Civilizations
All nations, states, civilizations, or what-have-you are organized in the same basic manner: a ruling body, the ruler, exists, people exist beneath it, and a network of intermediaries exists between the two. Sometimes the ruler has associates which regulate the network, but these are not essential.
What Justifies the Ruler(s)
The ruler of a people is chosen by one of four methods. They are consensus, convenience, power, and righteousness.
Many rulers are chosen because lots of people find them to be an agreeable choice. Rulers can be chosen by the people at large or by representative councils.
A person may have an immediate concern that needs to be addressed, and certain candidates for leadership will stand out as the obvious choice for fixing the problem. These people are then raised up to solve the problem. they then proceed to solve the problem for which they have been given power, and then they are discarded.
Three massive problems are found with this method for determining rulers.
The first is that the obvious “best” choice for rulership becomes less apparent as the population in question becomes very large.
The second is that incompetent people with good marketing campaigns may eb hoisted up as temporary fixes to a problem which they cannot fix.
And the third is that rulers chosen to solve a problem have an incentive to make the problem worse because they will lose their power the instant the problem goes away.
Some people are able to coerce their way into power. They exploit fear to maintain their rule. These people tend to be more effective than those who resort to other methods for obtaining power. this is because fear is such a powerful motivating force. Yet the fact that they obtain power this way leads people to hate them.
The result is that leaders who obtain their rule through fear acquire many enemies, so they become paranoid and constantly expand their power in order to preserve their position. And during the process of this power expansion, they create more enemies and find themselves in a vicious cycle.
This cycle persists until the leader is universally hated and killed.
Some people maintain their power because they have the moral right to be in power. In ancient times, people claimed they had the moral right to rule because they were descended from gods. In the modern age, people try to pretend they have the moral right to rule because they have been voted in by the people.
Some people are able to buy their way into power. The purchase can be made with money, or it can be made with information or some other good or service.
Modern governments are becoming increasingly wealth-based, and the result will be that the leaders of large technology firms will gradually replace governments of the other types.
Most of these technocrats are wealthy because of the services that they offer to common people, so they will be more widely tolerated than those who obtained power in the past by way of bribery.
What the People Want from Their Rulers
People want their rulers to be morally upright and effective. They do not want to be overseen by people who rule through power and fear. Nor do they want rulers who bought and bribed their way to where they are.
In theory, this is the type of ruler whom the people actually want.
The Consequences of Discord
When the people over whom a ruler presides believe that the ruler lacks the moral authority to be the ruler, then they hate and resent him.
They act this resentment out in the form of constant civil disobedience, rioting, and protest.
Does that mean that the ruler is morally defective?
No. Of course not. The people are every bit as corrupt as their rulers.
But that doesn’t mean that they won’t riot.
These displays of civil disobedience exist in proportion to the perceived size of the leader’s moral defects, and if they grow large enough, then they culminate in a civil war and the potential overthrow of society.
This is to be avoided.
The Need for Moral Standards
People want their rulers to be good people. They hate when their rulers are bad people.
Now, in order for a ruler to be a good person, it must first be possible for anyone to be a good person. If one cannot be a good person, then no ruler can be good, and all rulers will be despised because they will never be good.
And in order for anyone to be a good person, then good must be a thing that exists. If good does not exist, then nobody can be good, no ruler can be good, and all rulers will be despised.
Now, in order for good to exist, it must have some definition associated with it. This definition must include some things and exclude other things; if it does not exclude things, then it will possess contradicting terms and refute itself.
But if good is going to have a definition which humans may use, then something must exist to define it in human terms. Something must state what is or is not good.
The Church to Provide the Standards
The church, in whatever form it may happen to take, is the body that defines good for the people and their rulers. It derives its authority from its role as the steward of the religion inspired by the true god(s). By holding this authority, nothing may overrule it.
So it serves as an intermediary between the ruling and civilian classes and cannot be overturned by either one.
Why Not the Ruler
The ruler cannot and should not be the one who is defined well. This is because the ruler of a people is often the one who is most effective at obtaining power. Yet the things which one must do to obtain power are often unprincipled destructive to both the self and to the world at large. It is for this reason that the rulers of many organizations are psychopaths.
So if the ruler is responsible for deciding what is good, then the definitions put forth will be destructive to the society as a whole. This is because they will be made by unprincipled people whose main concern is power and not the continued existence of their people.
So any society which allows the ruler to decide morality will find itself in a constant state of decline and social upheaval as people begin to adopt the ruler’s power-lust as a moral standard.
Why Not the People
Most people are purely hedonic. They don’t have morals, virtues, values, or knowledge. They are controlled entirely by their feelings, and they construct from their feelings a pseudo-morality which consists of the following two statements:
Statement 1: Things that feel good are good.
Statement 2: Things that feel bad are bad.
The ethic which then arises from this worldview will then proceed to destroy the civilization which adopts it. This is because the members of that group will constantly choose instant gratification over delayed gratification. And the collapse of self-discipline that accompanies this shift destroys both the respect for the laws which hold that society together and the ability for improvement to occur therein.
So a nation that allows common people to define goodwill becomes hedonic and disintegrates by its lack of discipline.
A Fourth Branch of Government
Modern governments are typically modeled with three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The church is closely related to the judicial branch, but it must possess some legislative power that differentiates it from the other three.
So the function of the church within politics is mostly to adjudicate and partially to legislate, and its aim is to moderate the culture of the governed people and the behavior of the executive.
Its role in regulating the executive is to ensure that the moral standards which the ruler is meant to live up to are being met. Meanwhile, its role in regulating the people is to keep them obedient and serve the interests of the nation at large.
Meanwhile, the executive may keep the church in check by refusing to tithe on its behalf, thus destroying the church’s funding; and the people may restrain the church by selecting the rulers which the church is may approve for leadership.
I have written elsewhere a more detailed description of the church’s role in government, but for those who have read until this point, you may find it convenient to consider the church as a branch that exists to regulate the interactions between the executive and the people. And certain checks and balances exist between these three groups.