I was recently engaged in a conversation with a Christian acquaintance. For the purposes of anonymity, we’ll call him “Mark.” We were discussing what moments in history we would change if we could. I suggested a few, including the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I then moved back to 1789 and looked for a moment I could change to stop the French Revolution. When I realized there was really no moment I could change in 1789 to make that happen “Mark” suggested that instead I might merely lead my own, altered, version of the revolution, minus the secularism. When I told him this would defeat my purpose as I am a monarchist, his reaction was along these lines:
Sam: I’m a monarchist.
Mark: You’re a what?
Sam: A monarchist.
Mark: Why are you that?
It’s amusing to me that monarchy, the system historically considered by the vast majority of political thinkers the best of the three basic systems of government, is now considered laughable. You might as well tell someone you’re a Flat Earther as a monarchist.
Now, there are many arguments for monarchy versus democracy, most of which apply equally to democratic republicanism, despite the protestations of American patriots, who will repeat ad nauseam that we are a republic, not a democracy, never realizing that we are, of course, both a republic and a democracy.
But what I wish to address today is Mark’s contention that “one can have a republican form of government and still have a Christian state.” It is not my belief that the revolutionary democratic republican form of government(the sort he presumably meant) is compatible with the idea of a Christian government.
Here’s why: the revolutionary democratic republic is founded at its core in profoundly unChristian ideas and motivations. It is founded on pride, on envy, and on lust for power over others.
Why do I say this? First, I say that it is founded on pride, because at the core of the revolutionary democratic-republican ideal is the idea that everyone has the right to be treated equally, by which it is meant, of course, not that no one can be treated worse than I(that’s perfectly fine) but that no one can be treated better. Even when they are staunch republicans, fathers do not cease to demand deference from their children, nor employers from their employees, nor(until recently, and this change I deplore) husbands from their wives.
I do not say, mind, that fathers ought to stop demanding deference from their children, or husbands from their wives, or employers from their employees. These things are good and natural. But it shows the inconsistency at the heart of the clamoring for equality. They do not really want to eliminate hierarchy; rather, they want to eliminate that part of the hierarchy which is above themselves. We see the same thing with liberals who clamor for high taxes on the rich, or equally commonly the “super-rich.” Am I the only one who has noticed that the “rich” class these liberals want to tax out of existence rarely if ever includes themselves under the definition that they choose? “Rich” for each liberal generally means “just rich enough that I have no reasonable chance of getting there in the foreseeable future.”
So this cannot be based on idealism, at least in most cases. Rather it is based on pride, on the sentiment that “no one shall occupy a higher place than I.”
On a similar note, the revolutionary democratic-republican urge is based on envy; envy of the rich, aristocrats, royals. The republican wishes to claim their property(a crown, an estate, a title) as some kind of public right, which he can then strive for. If he cannot achieve it, at least he can take it from those nasty elitists and punish them for being more fortunate. Those who hate the more fortunate generally do so because they are envious. This is why they celebrate when kings are replaced with presidents; because “now, maybe someday I can be the head of state, I can be the ruler.” This might be called the Isaiah 14:14 syndrome.
And that brings us to the third motivation that I’ve previously mentioned behindrevolutionary democratic republicanism: lust for power. Whereas before, power was restricted, in whole or in part, to a hereditary class of royalty and nobility, now anyone can take power. This means that people of common birth who desire power will favor revolutionary democratic republicanism, because it gives them an opportunity for power. Since, in a previously monarchical system, those who favor revolutionary democratic republicanism are generally of common birth, we may conclude that lust for power is probably a significant motivating factor for many of them.
So the first key reason that the revolutionary democratic-republican government is incompatible with Christian government is that it is based in envy, lust for power, and pride. The second key reason that revolutionary democratic-republican(hereafter simply “republican”) government is contrary to Christian government is that it is anti-hierarchical, levelling, egalitarian, and irreverent.
Now the astute reader may object that I previously claimed republicanism was not consistently anti-hierarchical, and now I call republicanism anti-hierarchical. My reasons for not thinking this a problem follow.
While it is true that particular republicans are inconsistent, that they wish to eradicate only those levels of the social order above themselves, nevertheless the overall influence of the movement from monarchy to republicanism is generally anti-hierarchical. Each time a middle tier throws off a top tier and itself becomes the top tier, it creates a new middle tier, which tends to repeat the process. For example, take the American Revolution.
In the American Revolution, a middle tier of middle-aged, rich, white, landowning men threw off a top tier of King and Parliament, becoming themselves the new top tier. But what has happened since then? The remaining hierarchy has been thrown off step by step, though generally without the violence of the Revolution. First the property requirements were eliminated, then the race requirements, then the sex requirement, and then the age was lowered. The trend has been, as could easily have been predicted, toward greater levelling and a general de-elitification of the electorate as it expands to approach the inclusion of the entire population, a limit it will no doubt never reach; few even among republicans would be foolish enough to extend the franchise to seven-year-olds; but we’ll get closer. This trend, in fact, though republican in origin, has so permeated the zeitgeist as to invade even nominally monarchical states; indeed there is talk in Canada of lowering the voting age to sixteen and making voting mandatory!
So the republican system is a levelling one, an anti-hierarchical one. Why is this incompatible with Christian government? The reason is that Christianity posits a hierarchical view of the world. There is hierarchy between parents and children, husbands and wives, church leaders and church members(Eph 6:1, 5:22, 1 Tim 3) . The Church is not an egalitarian society! The Church is a society of loving, sacrificial, benevolent hierarchy, the prime example of which is the highest One of all in the hierarchy, God Himself, who rules, make no mistake, and to whom we certainly are not “equal,” but who nevertheless sacrificed His very life for our sake. In like manner, then, should society operate at all points in the hierarchy; at each step, the lower should submit to the higher, and the higher should love the lower and sacrifice himself for him.
Thus the republic is anti-hierarchical, but the Church and the Christian society are both deeply hierarchical.
Are there any other reasons why the republic is contrary to Christianity and cannot be a Christian government? I believe there are. The republic, as has been pointed out, is anti-hierarchical and levelling, and generally in modern times founded on explicit rejection of tradition, often through violent revolution. Thus the republic is hostile to traditional authority, and the authority of the Church is no exception. The republic is by nature in rebellion against the Church, as it is against all traditional authorities. The republic rejects the moral standards of the Church and its claims of absolute truth in the name of “freedom.” We should be “free” to be homosexual, or adulterers, or “free” to just believe whatever we want to believe. Not only must the State not interfere with these behaviors and beliefs, but others must accept them and integrate with them and treat them as normal and right.
And so we see that the rallying cry of “freedom” is really a red herring. The republican wants “freedom” from traditional morality, but the traditionalist cannot have the freedom to deny the republican a job or housing on the basis of his deviance, because that would be Discriminatory. That would be contrary to the Great Egalitarian Ideal. In fact, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights put out by the United Nations explicitly states in Article 29, Section 3 that the rights therein delineated “may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.” There you have it: freedom to do whatever you want as long as we like it and freedom to say whatever you want as long as we agree with it. Don’t you feel liberated?
But I digress. The republic’s aforementioned and explained hostility to the Church, moreover, practically necessitates that the republic be a secular institution. In breaking with tradition and traditional authority, and in rejecting the Church’s standard of conduct and belief, it can hardly be expected to allow the Church a say-so in lawmaking and law enforcement, which it perceives as its affairs. In fact, it is likely that even democratically-elected lawmakers who do not owe their position to any special treatment the State has given the Church will be attacked and viciously silenced, shamed, or lambasted if they attempt to legislate based on their religious convictions.
The reasons thus far named that a republic cannot be a truly Christian government include:
- It is founded on pride, envy, and lust for power.
- It is anti-hierarchical.
- Its vision of “freedom” leads to a rejection of Christianity’s standards of morality and truth, not only in the sense that they cannot be imposed by the state, but in the sense that others in society are forced to accept those who deviate from them.
- It cannot accept that it will be commanded by the Church, or indeed by any traditional authority, and thus has a strong affinity for secular rather than Christian government.
And now a few parting points, as I wish to clarify exactly what I mean and do not mean to say with this little essay.
What I mean to say is simply this: The revolutionary democratic-republican ideal is contrary to Christian teaching and tradition and a Christian worldview. The two have no affinity; they cannot for long peacefully coexist. A revolutionary democratic republic that claims to be Christian must soon reject one or the other element of itself.
What I do not mean to say is that it is impossible for someone to create a state that calls itself a Christian republic. Nor is it impossible, perhaps, for this state to last and be successful for a time. But it will always be in a state of internal tension because it is founded on conflicting ideals. Eventually, it will either cease to be a revolutionary democratic republic or it will cease to be Christian. This, indeed, is what has happened in the United States, to an extent. These United States, mind, were never really a Christian nation, but they were to some extent a reverent and religious nation, in the beginning. That foundation, however, was in tension with their very nature, and as a result was tirelessly attacked and ultimately lost.
In conclusion then, it is my opinion that a revolutionary democratic republic(and perhaps any democratic republic) is opposed to the Christian worldview and such a government cannot long remain Christian rather than secular, for the reasons previously set forth.
This post is open to comment and debate, and I remain ever
Your Humble Servant,
Samuel C. Starrett
The Rambling Royalist