Monday 7 July 2014

The absolute need for theocracy (or, what will get called "theocracy" by modern mainstream secular discourse)


What is needed, the only thing that is needed - what is necessary - and without which there is zero possibility of effective action... is theocracy.

Theocracy in a very general sense. It does not have to be rule by priests, or rule by a divinely ordained monarch - but it does have to be a government with religion as its primary, explicit, public objective; government which references every single decision to religion when the rationale for that specific decision is challenged.


NOT a government which justifies its actions on the basis of prosperity, or making people happy, or freedom, or equality, or relief of suffering, or security, or preserving the planet earth, or preserving or privileging any race or civilization or arts or science or power or glory. None of them. No secular goal.

They are only means to the end, and the end is religion.


The specific type of 'theocratic' government contains a variety of possibilities - but all the participants, all the rulers, all the elites must be singing from the same hymnbook!


And for heavens sake don't quibble about the meaning of theocracy! 

Any good, viable, valid possible government will get called theocracy so we might as well get used to it.


The only choice is the choice of religion. If people could get that fact into their skulls, the future would be a lot brighter.


Do I believe this will happen?  A theocracy in Britain?

No, I don't. Not at all. Not in any future I can forsee. I detect no signs of this happening at all in the UK...

Well, that is not quite accurate. I could imagine it happening, and quite soon (within my lifetime, if I live an average lifespan) - but not with Christianity being the religion.

That will be the default for those who refuse to see that the only choice is choice of religion. Really, it will.



Seijio Arakawa said...

I realized that this is also a key criterion for doing science, or starting mundane engineering projects, or choosing to produce any work of art or philosophy.

"Is this a God-pleasing activity?"

And if it is God-pleasing, there is no way to excuse doing a poor job of it!

And if it is not God-pleasing, there is little in the way of excuse doing it at all. As a part-time hobby, sure....

It would be interesting what the state of science would be like if every scientist asked that question of themselves before producing another paper.

Of course, there is no way that you could actually get modern-day scientists to do that. You would simply get all kinds of invented and stupid reasons why God cares for this or that nonsense piece of research. On the other hand, all kinds of actual God-pleasing inquiry would be strangled as it does not fit a stereotype of what God wants.

A focus on the externals of piety, as it were. It would be a horror, the equivalent of grantwriting for the Heavenly Bureaucracy.

I think this sort of thing is what killed the old 'theocracies'.

So, what is not needed is a government which references its decisions to God, but actual people in government who reference their decisions to God.

Bruce Charlton said...

Mark Citadel has left a new comment on your post "The absolute need for theocracy (or, what will get...":

Thank you for tackling this, (and my condolences you live in Britain, a very bleak place to be sane)

However, I do think terminology is worth analysis.

Theocracy, from the Ancient Greek 'Theocratia', is translated as 'the rule of God'. So as a Christian, I guess I could say the entire world is already a theocracy, but that's a more nuanced and less political view.

If you take the word literally, then there has not been a notable theocracy since the ancient world. In Ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh was considered divine, he was a god, and wielded absolute political power.

The things called theocracies today, namely Iran, are actually ecclesiocracies (rule by religious leaders). Of course, we'll discount the ridiculous shrieks of 'theocracy' leveled against Britain's castrated church/government relationship. That is not even warranting of laughter.

This being said, I as a Christian obviously reject true theocracy before the Second Coming and the eternal theocracy promised. However, I also oppose an ecclesiocracy on the grounds of practicality. They just aren't good at running things outside spiritual and some legal matters. In fact, involvement in other areas may distract such authorities from goals their expertise are primed for.

You speak of "singing from the same hymnbook". This is something I alluded to in a post on a article about religious pluralism.

What I think we prize is a society that is religiously and ideologically homogenous. That is, religion and the state are married and all who serve the state's function for the people have a zealous commitment to the religious order.

Now, I am relatively new to this world of political speculation, but I am trying to work out what such a society would look like in detail. Let me bounce some ideas off you and see if you agree with them.

1) A state church as an independent body, with all other religious orders banned from organizing. Nobody may be unaffiliated from the state church.

2) Compulsory Sunday attendance to Church for religious instruction and praise. This applies to all citizens.

3) An armed clerical civilian security force charged with preserving public morality and cohesion (not sure if an actual police force would still be warranted)

4) A highly respected religious leader as head of the church. He would have authority somewhere between the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox and the Pope. While he would have very legitimate authority, a body of priests behind him could remove him in an emergency

5) A Christian Theonomic Legal structure, recognizing the supremacy of God and his Law as the basis for civil law. Witchcraft, adultery, sodomy, abortion, and other offenses against the Almighty are criminalized. The death penalty is retained for murder, sedition, high treason, and repeat offenses of certain crimes. Punishments for lower offenses incarceration and public corporal discipline such as lashing.

These are just a few of the ideas I have postulated, in the abstract. I have yet to decide if/how such a state church should be involved with legislative authority. I fundamentally believe in a political/military/aristocracy integration in tandem with a form of hyper-regional non-party representation. Perhaps a veto authority on the part of the church, as well as permanent representation in half of the legislative body.

Much of this would depend on that united 'hymnbook' you mention, but to work I think the commitment to the hymnbook would have to be in a different form than is generally present today. I would seek a Christianity as fanatical and zealous for its doctrines as [Christianity's most formidable rival] fosters in its own adherents.

I hope to get around to blogging a lot of this eventually.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Arakawa - My point is mainly negative - that the desire to avoid a theocracy, to avoid accusations of theocracy etc. has been fatal to good government. This is more important that designing a specific government system (and government systems never are designed).

Nonetheless, the Byzantine Empire - which many people call a theocracy - had the most successful government in terms of survival against formidable pressure. Brigham Young's government of Utah was extremely successful - and did remarkable things - for several decades, and that too usually got and gets called a theocracy.

I do not expect that any good government will arise - BUT if it does, it would be the kind of thing which would get called a 'theocracy'; and if people had a strong prejudice against 'theocracy' then they would (for this reason) oppose what might be the best or only chance of a good government.

Seijio Arakawa said...

@Mark Citadel

Interesting thoughts, though overall you are basically describing Jean Calvin's Geneva experiment.

My challenge to you -- can you name a positive feature of your scheme that actually depends on Christianity, and could not be duplicated just as well (with fewer theological qualms, even) by Other Monotheism? Or, for that matter, Shinto?

Bruce Charlton said...

Mark Citadel has left a new comment on your post "The absolute need for theocracy (or, what will get...":

An interesting question.

What I am describing is an ideal for a stable political system. Its a theory of governance. Could it work with another worldview/philosophy at its base? Perhaps, but we'd really be getting into the weeds and I'd be speculating on theology sets I am not an expert in.

Judaism, yes. I can see no real qualms with it. If Israel was to put itself under such a government, obviously society would be much stricter as true Judaism would place itself still under the Biblical Civil Law, which would include things like fabric rules and stonings for things like blasphemy. Plus, it helps that the Jews have an ethnic bond intertwined with their theology.

[Christianity's most formidable rival?] Not entirely sure. Its proven fairly unstable without a secular guiding hand, but it does have major advantages in that it fosters such zealous commitment from its followers (...)

Shinto? I suppose, yes. That's an odd one. Personally I find those eastern religions to be barely coherent, but they have some advantages in that they foster that eastern attitude of cohesion and put less emphasis on the power of one. But there doesn't seem to be all that much religious morality in Japan. Though I am aware Shinto was mated to the government during the Imperial era, it doesn't purport any moral absolutes. This is a problem. I am big on absolutes ;p. I think society is better with absolutes.

Of course, I would not recommend anyone to live under such regimes, because by definition it would force someone to believe a falsehood. I believe all these theologies are fundamentally incorrect and are likely to damn you for all eternity, but from a purely political/practical point of view, I can see this model working with the underpinnings of any religion, however I think it would have to have high mystical qualities. At base, I don't think any society crafted around atheism or any atheistic philosophy would work.

The great thing about Christianity politically is it gives the universe an optimistic edge. I would say it offers the least bleak view of the world for individuals and therefor would be the groundwork for such a society, in order to achieve that society's potential that might not be realized under other monotheistic beliefs. If the people are happy, they are less likely to rebel.

A line must be drawn to separate political machinations and the supremacy of divine truth and destiny in such discussions. In the grand scheme of things, I would be happy with ANY system as long as it brought the maximum number of people to salvation in Christ. In the worldview of eternity, government systems are meaningless. All that matters is reaching salvation in the time-span one lives.

But when we talk about politics, we have to be practical. I do think the system I outline would bring the maximum number of people to Christ as compared to other systems, but in pure political terms, I just think it's good governance.This should come as no surprise, because basing a government body on universal truths instead of universal lies is likely to create a better system. I think such a society would be sustainable, stable, functional, pleasing to its citizens, and pleasing to God. That's not to say it would be perfect. I'm not a utopianist. But it just strikes me as a system that those who reject modernity could get behind.

Seijio Arakawa said...

So, I'm not sure how to give my answer to this bluntly but politely....

I should admit that the political programme you are describing basically echoes the idea I had in my mind of how not to do a theocracy, point by point.

I will summarize by saying that your model describes a bog-standard totalitarian state, which would overall be reckoned an evil, and then you sprinkle some Christianity on top of it, which does not modify its earthly operation or actions in the slightest, but somehow makes its evil suddenly not evil, because now it's evil in the service of Christ.

Point (1) already fails for simple reasons It is very easy to mandate on paper that all religious groups disband and be assimilated into the One Church, but in practice these religious groups will include, say, Catholics; or Orthodox, if you prefer to have a Catholic totalitarian theocracy, though I'm not sure what the Pope would tell you about that. Both these groups have a well-developed tradition of martyrdom which they are going to dust off. It is very hard to maintain your narrative of being the True Christianity when you are the one digging self-professed Christians out of their catacombs and employing escalating threats to try to get them to leave their denomination, and join yours.

So, in practice, you are never going to implement point (1), because it would immediately blow up in your face. At most you are going to have some kind of millet or ghetto system. With point (1) infeasible, so are points (2) and (3).

That would leave point (4), a tweak to the organization of the Church itself which I won't comment on either way, and point (5), a notion that the Law should agree to and be informed by Christian morality, which I broadly agree with, though I find your ease of resort to capital punishment distasteful. On the one hand, I have your opinion, and on the other I have Grand Prince Vladimir of Russia, an actual real-life Christian theocrat and a Saint of the Orthodox Church, who sought every excuse to avoid the use of capital punishment not out of an incorrect evaluation of its prudence or imprudence, or sentimentality about the criminals he had to deal with, but because, and I quote, he "feared to sin".

I find Prince Vladimir's example to hold more weight in this argument.

The one point of corporal punishment I suppose I can get behind is lashing. If governmental prudence wants for punishment in a retributive or deterrent capacity, then this accomplishes it in a way that does not foment the massive dysfunction of the current prison system.

However, I would balance this by saying that the head of state, upon assuming his role, should also be subject to lashing. This is a kind of conclusion that I get specifically from Christianity, which Shinto, Islam, Confucianism, Ancient Egyptian Paganism, etc, ... would certainly not provide; first of all, the head of state is not a sovereign or owner of anything, but merely a steward managing it until Christ's return -- a corresponding humility would be in order; and second of all, it is the act of a hypocrite to propose a punishment that one would not be willing to endure oneself, if it was deserved.

A country ruled by Stewards capable of this general kind of humility (I don't insist on the form but on the content), and avoiding the 'easy' solution to every situation because they feared to sin and defile their stewardship before the Lord, I would be able to take seriously as a Christian theocracy, and one whose faith was actually revealed by its works. I simply do not see any comparable element in your proposals.

Bruce Charlton said...

@MC & Ara - Your exchange illustrates the dangers of government blueprinting - a hobby to which I am not immune. Mencius Moldbug triggered the current neo-reaction group to play with such ideas.

But my point is negative - not to propose an ideal theocracy - but to argue that under modern conditions *any* good and desirable form of Christian government would be seen as a 'theocracy'.

Mark Citadel said...

Allow me to respond to Mr. Arakawa.

You are projecting onto my proposal current conditions and realities. Your point about the many competing sects of Christianity refusing to assimilate is as moot as saying "The UN would never allow such a state to rise anywhere on earth"

This is theoretical. It does not take into account how one might arrive at the position to form such a government. Do remember that when Christianity was first laid out in Constantinople, it also had groups who refused to assimilate who were driven out, so this is not some unprecedented idea, even with the precepts you lay out. Also, who is to say I am referring to Catholicism or Orthodoxy when establishing such a state, just because I referenced their leadership structures? Take the Christians in China, most of whom are non-denominational and practice in secret, growing by leaps and bounds every year. It's not hard to imagine a future scenario in which such people were free to form a government. Perhaps this one.

You criticize this idea as a "bog-standard totalitarian state". Totalitarianism is define thus:

centralized control by an autocratic authority

I am imagining no such thing, in fact my post largely detailed church authority in civil matters, and I only vaguely went over authorities outside of the church, but since you have speculated that I am proposing some sort of autocrat controlling everything, let me assure you this is not the case.

As I said, the Church would be an independent body with enforcement power when it comes to the defined civil law. Governmental power rests with a governing body. I imagine one split in half.
One side is a form of hyper-regional representation, with small regions electing their representatives (how totalitarian?). Perhaps three in total would be elected per region, each having a successive re-election every two years. I stated there would be no parties, because there would be no need for parties. Parties imply ideology, and there is only one ideology in an ideologically homogenous state. What these people would be doing is representing the interests of their region.

In fact, let me go into detail with you how this process might actually render this imaginary state far more representative of the people than even the American system of government.

Everyone would be required by law to vote in these elections. Before voting, they would pass a government aptitude test. If they failed, they would not be allowed to vote, and would pay a fine. This is an incentive for people to be informed. I think it was Churchill who said "the greatest argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter". There would be no campaigns. No ads. No rallies. There would be three public debates between candidates, and then the election would be held. This way, no candidate could enjoy the advantages of being wealthy (not that there would be anything wrong with being wealthy), and dumping representatives would be much easier.

It's hard to see how this would be totalitarian. The other half of the legislative body would be made up of the military command, ecclesiastic representation, and field experts handpicked by the chancellor general, who would retain the position as executive. So what about him? Well he himself would be handpicked by his predecessor, with limits on familial designation (I am not in favor of hereditary monarchies).

The beauty of this system is that if the government are zealots for the state ideology, the executive will only choose to succeed him, other zealots for the ideology. This way, the ideology is continued, and is resistant to temporal degradation or disintegration.


Mark Citadel said...

But this is only totalitarian if the state ideology is itself totalitarian, and it is not.
I ask you what exactly is totalitarian about the system? Is it Christian Theonomic Law, because in that case the United States was pretty totalitarian up until recently. I don't think the governmental structure I propose is totalitarian, since I have said nothing about how regional governments might be structured, and what authority/purview/deference they might have. I have made room for representation of the people and grievances they may have locally in the federal body.
To be fair, I have not outlined separation of powers, but let us assume they do not put too much authority with the executive.

As to the death penalty, this will be more a theological disagreement we might have, and I am fine with that. Its not entirely necessary to the state, however I think serious crimes warrant the ultimate punishment as a societal form of self-defense.

You then state the executive should be subject to lashing... I don't really disagree. As I have outlined, the Church would have most of the independent legal power, so if the executive was found guilty of some crime (let's say adultery), he would be subject to the same laws. Don't project autocracies of the world onto this plan. It is not in their mold, where governments run roughshod over the law. Now, I highly doubt the executive would do something like that because as I have outlined with Bruce, it is ideological commitment that is key here. Take the Amish community for example. I am sure occasionally people commit active theological crimes in that community such as theft or adultery, but I would bet that it isn't nearly as common as in any greater society. Why, because the Amish are zealots. You have to be to live as they do.

With all this in mind, I would point out that totalitarianism is not necessarily 'evil' (though many have been). This is propaganda put out by liberal democracies, which are themselves often totalitarian in more discrete ways. But I reject totalitarianism because I find it to be inefficient and it puts the society at risk of degrading almost as much as liberal democracy.

Finally, to put a fine point on it, you are probably imagining a state where every facet of people's lives is controlled by an all-powerful government. But this is not the case. In the field of commerce, I favor far less restrictions than those which exist in America and Western Europe today. A free and vibrant market without government interference is without doubt a better path to prosperity for its people. If you wanted to set up a lemonade stand in my society, you wouldn't have any problems, to coin a recent American controversy. There would be restrictions on things like pornography and corrupting media, but this is pretty minimal. There would in total be far less laws to ensnare the public. In fact, the law might end up being simple enough that the need for lawyers evaporates, because people can understand the law and argue their own case without an interpreter. So people in my society, while having to follow Christian rules on social behavior, would be under far less legal oppression than in America (the supposed land of the free) where according the new book by Harvey Silverglate, the average citizen commits three felonies a day. Not so in my proposed society.

With this in mind, I think you're making my proposal out to be more Hitlerian than it actually is.

I thank you for the criticism though.

Bruce Charlton said...

@MC and Ara - I'm finding this exchange a bit tedious - I shall let you both finish and then delete the comments - so if you want to make a record of it, now's the time.

Seijio Arakawa said...

It appears that I may have misunderstood the import of your points (1) and (2), which state:

"1) A state church as an independent body, with all other religious orders banned from organizing. Nobody may be unaffiliated from the state church.

2) Compulsory Sunday attendance to Church for religious instruction and praise. This applies to all citizens."

This suggests that Christian belief (not conduct) is mandated of all citizens in your hypothetical state, which strikes me as a totalitarian policy. At the very least, making unbelievers go through the motions of worship in a Church strikes me as manifest nonsense, unless the intent is somehow to make them believe in Christ by so doing.

Theonomic Law, on the other hand, is an authoritarian (not totalitarian) policy, which deals with actions rather than beliefs. My criticism is not directed towards that portion of your proposal.

Regardless, I think this is probably the wrong venue to continue the discussion; I've copied the thread [over on the blog here:] and have a further response at the bottom of the post there, which I invite you to respond to.

(I will delete the blog post and associated thread if you object to having it up for some reason.)

SJ said...

I know you asked us not to quibble, and I am away from home at the mo so I wont be verbose, but the word you are looking for is "theonomy" to describe your preferred system of governance (and mine as well). Google it; you might be surprised at what else is out there on the topic. i agree that any theonomic model would be called a theocracy by curent moderns.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SJ - There isn't really a word for what all governments used to be.Indeed, I don't see any evidence that government can be stable without all activities being inprinciple and ultimately subordinated to God/gods. 'Theonomy' is a bit like 'heterosexuality' in that respect - a reaction against the victory of the radical subversion of language.

Mark Citadel said...

SJ, I did leave a comment on your tumblr blog :)