Friday, July 27, 2007

The Problem With Theocracy

Theocracy has become a popular idea as a proper form of government. It is easy to see its appeal. What better ruler could their possible be than one who is all-powerful, all wise, and totally good. Unfortunately the ruler in question is a terrible communicator. We don’t even know for certain that He exists. His will is a thing we must discern from Scriptures, which are inconsistent with each other both internally and externally. When He does speak to individuals He does it in a way that makes it impossible for others to know if He has actually spoken to the person in question.

For these reasons, and I suspect others can be added to this list, Theocracy in practice is a terrible form of government. Claims to understanding God’s will are subject to misuse in order to support the agenda and power grabbing of particular individuals and groups. Oppression of those who disagree with the holders of absolute power becomes the norm. God becomes a brute responsible for all sorts of evil. Like it or not, and there are clearly those among the believers who don’t like it, temporal government can’t be a solution to the problem of evil.

At this point it is appropriate to quote the parable of the wheat and weeds. As told by Matthew it reads as follows

“ The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep an enemies came and sowed weeds among the wheat and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field.? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until t he harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind t hem in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
(Matthew 13:24-30 NRSV)

The point of this parable for theocrats should be obvious. The wheat represents good people and the weeds represents bad people. The householder is God; and advocates of theocracy are the slaves. The idea behind theocracy is the use of the power of the state to reward good people and punish bad people. But you can’t use the power of the state to punish bad people without the risk of things getting out of control. When it gets out of control good people will be harmed. So the lesson of this parable is the impossibility of creating perfection on earth. Certainly perfection on earth can’t be accomplished by use of the police power of the state. So much for theocracy in practice.

The above should serve as a warning for Christian theocrats. And since Jesus is a very important prophet for Muslims, it should serve as a warning for Muslims as well.

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