F Rosa Rubicondior: Christian Democracy.

Saturday 31 March 2012

Christian Democracy.

Have you noticed how a few words just never seem to crop up in the Bible at all. Words like:

  • Democracy
  • Vote
  • Equal/Equality (as it applied to humans one with another)
  • Consensus
  • Parliament
  • Election (as it applies to the selection of representatives

Quite simply, the idea of democratically elected parliament and government was unknown to the Bible's authors and was entirely missing from their concept of what a government should be.

The governments in the Bible are exclusively authoritarian, consisting only of kings and self-appointed priests and 'judges' and, in Roman times, Emperors and Governors. The whole system of government is rigidly autocratic, authoritarian and accountable to no one but themselves. Those who controlled the power controlled the people and woe betide anyone who challenged that authority to the slightest degree.

Even today, churches are usually authoritarian, autocratic and, where there IS some form of council, it is self-appointing. Never do they elect representatives from amongst the congregation, never do the officials have an electoral mandate and never are they accountable to the membership for their decisions.

To be fair, this tendency is not just restricted to Christianity and its various sects. Exactly the same can be said of Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and Shintoist communities. Power is self-appointing and accountable to no one.

Not surprisingly the cultures heavily influenced by these autocratic principles gave rise to governments based on them. The history of the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, Central Asia, India, China and Japan has been one of despotic autocracies with change of ruler often involving assassination or military conquest resulting in one despot replacing another and life for ordinary people continuing much as before with no say in anything to do with the political, social or economic life of their country.

David Cameron. Liar For Jesus
Is it any wonder then that religions have usually been promoted by the ruling elite and latterly by the political right, with their ideas of human inequality, elitism and authoritarianism? What better form of government for the conservative right than an autocratic government based on 'Christian values' like autocracy, theocracy, a stratified, hierarchical, elitist society, freedom from accountability and power untrammelled by the need to consult the people and ask for their permission to govern.

Government of the people, by the people and for the people is nowhere to be found in any religious book. Not in the Bible, the Torah, the Qur'an, the Vedas or anywhere. The concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity - the founding principles of modern democracy - are alien to all mainstream religions and almost all minor cults. Democracy and political freedom are anathema to religion.

Democracy is not a Christian concept and has never been a part of Christian teaching. A government based on the Christian principles to be found in the Bible would be a 1930s-style Fascist dictatorship. No wonder it is enthusiastically advocated by the political right.

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  1. Given that a text doesn't address a subject doesn't imply that the text condemns the subject.

    The Bible doesn't say anything about Martians. By your logic, Christians must be anti-Martian.

    From a Catholic point of view, the structure of civil society is not governed by theological positions but by philosophical positions. This is why you can find Christian nations that are Democratic, Republic, Monarchal, Oligarchical, Tribal, and several others and the Church as no problems with these types of societies so long as certain philosophical positions are upheld.

    What are some of these position?

    * That universal laws and ethics are predicated upon reason and the natural law.

    * That society and its customs be directed towards the common good.

    Neither Catholic theology nor the Bible envisions a theocracy as the ideal form of civil government. By theocracy here I mean one in which the civil government is run or controlled by clerics. Ideally a just civil ruler governs according to both reason and the natural law there by creating laws that govern all people in the nation as well as governing according to the moral law and revelation which only creates laws the uphold the governance of the Church upon her subjects. This is why Catholic political thought is perfectly fine with being the civil subjects of a non-Christian state. It is not the goal of Catholicism to make all states Catholic. States become run by people of the Catholic faith not because the Church is agitating for that but because those who rule and those who have been put in positions of power have freely chosen to become Catholic.

    Biblically if you look at how civic society in scripture created its laws, the moral laws are only binding on Jews not aliens (which is to say non-Jews) and where they impact non-Jews it is only in so far as they allow Jews to practice their faith.

    It must be absolutely stressed that scripture doesn't think that people can be forced to obey moral laws. Ethical laws, yes -- that is to say laws that stem from reason and the natural law can be created and forced upon all people. Moral civil laws though are to be created only for believers and enforced for believers.

  2. Ahhhh but aint all "men" equal in the eyes of someone or another....If I was clever I would write an article about the symbiosis of State,Monarchy and the Church...all of which at times,some more than others, make me feel sick... I think the most confused Homo Sapien must be an "Army Chaplain"


  3. Lurker#59, Catholic theology may not envisage Theocracy as an ideal form of government but there are other Christian sects that do.
    The Catholic Church in the USA has a lot in common with the Christian Reconstructionists and the the Dominionists and uses similar "smoke and mirrors" language to disguise what they really mean.
    Reconstructionists are using the idea of Theonomy (God as originator of law) rather than Theocracy but the result is the same. The civil powers make laws based on the teachings of the clerics who interpret the religious texts for them. Catholics call it Natural Law, the evangelicals call it God's law and the Word of God (usually pronounced 'Word-a Gahd').
    The effect is the same, religion governs both those who adhere to it and those who do not.
    Innocuous seeming examples from recent history include the UK's Sunday trading laws. The former clampdown on any shops being open on Sunday has slowly given way but Sunday shopping hours are still restricted. When I was a child even the swings in the park were chained up on a Sunday. Buses and trains ran restricted or even no services. Theatres were closed on Sunday and sporting fixtures were banned. All because an old book said so.
    More harmful examples include the legal persecution of LGBT people and the Catholic (and some Evangelical) opposition to contraception.
    It's taken centuries to break free of religious domination all based on a small number of men interpreting parts of a collection of ancient near eastern myths.
    The ancient Jews may not have enforced their moral laws against outsiders but that is certainly not true of the Christian church.
    States became Catholic because armies raised by Catholic rulers, egged on by clerics, conquered them and forced Catholicism on them. After the Reformation the Protestants, especially the Puritans, took over the role of conquering the world for Jesus. They tended to be less military but the states they converted usually had no more choice in the matter.
    Finally, since they all come from the same book, how do you distinguish between moral and natural laws?


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