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Mar 06 2014

Barton on Democracy and Theocracy

David Barton went on the TV show of Mike and Cindy Jacobs (yes, the “prophet” — read: con artist — who says God gave her a bottomless bowl of spaghetti) and said that it’s a myth that the Christian right wants a theocracy because you can’t be both a democracy and a theocracy.

So here’s what we hear constantly from the right wing, that silly “we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic” line (we are both, of course). And their argument is that a republic is way better than a democracy because democracy means mob rule and can crush liberty. So how exactly does democracy prevent theocracy? If a majority of voters elect leaders who promise to rule the nation on the basis of their religious beliefs, and there’s no protection for the rights of everyone else and no separation of church and state, then democracy can’t possibly prevent theocracy.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    Chiroptera

    If a majority of voters elect leaders who promise to rule the nation on the basis of their religious beliefs….

    That’s not what they are expecting. The Christofascists believe in the same “democracy” that made the former East Germany a “Democratic Repubic”: what they want is a one party state where the only allowed alternatives are those approved by the the single party which, in there case, would be the “One True Christianity of Which I Am a Member” Party.

    Hell, I bet Christianists would narrow “democracy” even further than the former East European totalitarian dictatorships by restricting the right to vote itself to True Christians.

  2. 2
    John Pieret

    Logic: the last thing to expect from a religious wingnut!

    What I suspect he means is you can’t have a democratic republic (with a Constitution and a Bill of Rights like ours) and a theocracy at the same time.

    On the other hand, that would be a way more cogent thought than Barton has ever displayed before …

  3. 3
    sh3baproject

    @1 what about a theodemocracy? or am i going on a limb here?

  4. 4
    eric

    What I suspect he means is you can’t have a democratic republic (with a Constitution and a Bill of Rights like ours) and a theocracy at the same time.

    Well sure you can, if that constitution and bill of rights enshrines the principles of one specific religion. Which, ironically, people like Barton argue ours does – for example, calaiming the 1st amendments’ religion clauses only protect Christianity.

    So this is all very Orwellian. He’s arguing for theocracy in fact while claiming he’s not arguing for it as an ideology.

  5. 5
    hunter

    John Pieret @2: Oh, they’re great at logic, but if you start with crazy premises, the result is likely to be — well, crazy.

  6. 6
    lofgren

    If a majority of voters elect leaders who promise to rule the nation on the basis of their religious beliefs, and there’s no protection for the rights of everyone else and no separation of church and state, then democracy can’t possibly prevent theocracy.

    Well in this case the way that democracy would prevent a theocracy is that what you describe isn’t a theocracy.

  7. 7
    Alverant

    Barton doesn’t want a democracy. The word doesn’t appear in his bible nor was it practiced by christian nations pre-USA. Those countries had unelected kings. There were no term limits, no balance of power, no checks and balances, no government by the people, etc. The christian bible never supported the idea of the people ruling themselves, it supported a theocracy where even the kings answered to the church.

  8. 8
    busterggi

    Hummmm…a republic…isn’t that when an elite group pretends to represent the masses while actually enriching themselves? Who would want a republic?

  9. 9
    Tabby Lavalamp

    And their argument is that a republic is way better than a democracy because democracy means mob rule and can crush liberty.

    Which is hilarious, because they also spend a LOT of time complaining about “unelected judged overturning the will of the people.”

  10. 10
    Sastra

    Wait a minute — what? This is how he defines a “theocracy:”

    “What is a theocracy? A theocracy is a government that God runs… as long as the people are choosing their own leaders at every level you cannot have a government where God comes in and imposes…”

    Apparently then, the only possible theocracy is HEAVEN. Or the Earth after Christ returns. Because Barton urges Christians to elect Christian leaders “among themselves” — leaders who will no doubt try to implement the laws of God. But nooo, that can’t be a theocracy, because God hasn’t actually come in Himself. THAT’S a real “theocracy.”

    What a Bozo. (With apologies to Bob Bell.)

  11. 11
    rapiddominance

    Barton is clever to define a theocracy as “a government that God runs”. By doing this, he avoids the topic of “theocratic oppression” which remains highly viable in a democracy (or a republic–whatever).

    I said he is being “clever”, but its only clever regarding how he speaks to his own particular audience.

  12. 12
    Olav

    Ed:

    that silly “we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic” line (we are both, of course).

    That the US is both a democracy and a republic is the optimist’s perspective.

    A case can be made that it is neither.

    I trust I don’t need to spell it out. And the same goes, by the way, for most other Western countries as well. The “democratic deficit” is a real thing.

  13. 13
    Endorkened

    Remember, Christians live in the Warhammer 40,000 universe–in the context of their worldview, a brutally repressive theocracy is as common sense a restriction on personal liberty as a seatbelt law is in the real world.

  14. 14
    heddle

    Alverant,

    [The Christian bible] supported a theocracy where even the kings answered to the church.

    100% wrong. The New Testament never supports a theocracy. It supports the idea that, through Christ’s work, the Kingdom of heaven has been initiated. It teaches the idea that Christians are pilgrims and aliens in whatever land they find themselves dwelling. It never once calls for the formation of a Christian state and never calls for the state to answer to the church. I defy you to demonstrate otherwise. On the contrary, it calls for people to obey their leaders and to “render unto Caesar.” The notion of Christian theocracy comes from misguided minority of Christians projecting the OT, wherein the church was typed by a theocratic and ethnic state, onto the NT, where the new-and-better church is a spiritual kingdom of all races, tribes and tongues and w/o political identity.

  15. 15
    democommie

    Not to get into hairsplitting with heddle (an exercise I find as exhausting and, ultimately, as unproductive as separating flyspecks from black pepper) but a certain HUGE subset of christians–most of them, prior to the Reformation–relied quite a bit on the notion of the divine right of kings. Didn’t Anglicism get its big push from Henry the VIII finally telling the Pope to go fuck himself when Rome wouldn’t grant him an annulment?

    The reality, as I see it, is that kings, emporers and other rulers co-opted (in many cases) whatever faith was predominant in their state) and worked out a deal with the church authorities to give them both cover and allow them to share in the spoils gained by brutalizing other states’ populations or fleecing their own. The practical effect on the lower strata of citizens/denizens was indistiguinshable from what Alverant posits.

  16. 16
    dingojack

    ‘By their fruits, ye shall know them’
    Dingo

  17. 17
    heddle

    Democommie,

    I am only arguing against Alverant’s claim that the bible supports the notion that Christians should create theocracies. I am not arguing that people, both opportunists and the faithful, have supported monarchies and theocracies with various justifications. They cannot however find any support in the New Testament.

    This is true even of the most intellectual theonomists. If you read their justifications, which are rooted in Covenant theology, it always always can be reduced to this: The OT had three types of law: i) ceremonial, priestly laws, ii) civil laws (e.g., stone adulterers, etc), and iii) moral laws (10 commandments). They agree that ceremonial laws are null and void. They agree that the 10 commandments are still in place. They disagree on the civil laws. The theonomists-lite will argue for a government based on just the moral laws. The hard-core theonomists will argue for a theocracy based on the moral and the civil laws. But none of them can point to any NT teaching that supports their position, it always boils down to the divination of three types of OT laws–but nowhere in the NT does it state that the OT law comes in three flavors (no more no less) and that either one or two of those flavors is still binding. What you can make a case for, pretty easily and based on the actual text, is that none of the OT law is binding and has been replaced by law given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: Love God with with all your heart, soul and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.

  18. 18
    markr1957

    heddle – is that why so many xians used Romans 13:6 to justify positions of authority over the hoi polloi? They claimed to be justified in anything because they were appointed by god.

  19. 19
    dogmeat

    the new-and-better church is a spiritual kingdom of all races, tribes and tongues and w/o political identity.

    Heddle,

    One of the many things I’ve always wondered about “God” in general and Christianity in specific, if God is all powerful, all knowing, outside of time and space itself, and so on and so forth, how did He manage to fuck up the first church? How and why does an all knowing, all powerful God have to send his son/self down to create a new “and better” church? Also, why was this new and better church so in need of a “reformation” by the 16th century?

    I mean really, it’s a pretty shitty way to get His message out. I’d be better off leaving a message pad with a three-year-old to take messages at my phone than use the methods of this all powerful, all knowing God. We’ve seen where the framers of the Constitution made mistakes, but apparently the moral of the Bible is that you’ve got to be a God to truly fuck things up.

  20. 20
    Michael Heath

    dogmeat,

    Well to pile on, it’s not much of a sacrifice if you’re doing it to yourself and already know the outcome is ultimately all good for oneself. The whole Christian-argued reason for Jesus to die and be resurrected is incoherent when you consider the factual assertions that premise this narrative, e.g., a triune omnipotent, omniscient god.

    We can then pile evil onto incoherency when we consider the supposed implications of this plan – eternal suffering for some due to the supposed threats of this same god if one doesn’t submit to a god who is unable to reveal himself or his desires.

    We can logically describe the Christian story as extortion, either by God if this is a true story, or by the people that promote submitting to a god so weak and incompetent he can’t even reveal his existence, let alone what he desires.

  21. 21
    heddle

    markr1957, #18

    heddle – is that why so many xians used Romans 13:6 to justify positions of authority over the hoi polloi? They claimed to be justified in anything because they were appointed by god.

    In certain historical instances they did it because they could. They were already in power and could use this passage for support. As for current times I don’t know how to answer. Because although you say “many” I have never personally encountered any. For example, I have belonged to two denominations: Presbyterian and Baptist. Who has used Romans 13:6 to justify their positions of authority over me? I can think of nobody. Baptists don’t even have a hierarchy (many of them, like us, are independent Baptist denominations)–so who is this person or persons? Our pastor? Do you know how long our pastor would last if he started to do whatever he pleased and justified it by claiming he was appointed by God? Or are we not of the “many” that you speak of? Of Christian denominations the obvious closest you could come is the Catholic church–but even there I find it unlikely that a modern pope would justify his actions, especially as you put it in anything, “because he was appointed by god.”

    Romans 13 is used, at least in the mainstream, to say that normatively speaking we are to obey authorities and be responsible citizens. It is true that we will say that all presidents and rulers fall within god’s sovereignty–that is he was not surprised that, say, Richard Nixon was elected president. It does not imply endorsement. Nebuchadnezzar, who took Judah into captivity and destroyed the 1st temple, was described in the bible as a servant of God in spite of the terror he unleashed on God’s people.

    This makes sense because when Romans was written is was not written in the context of a Christian theocracy, and today we are not in a Christian theocracy–and so our modern context–in which our leaders are secular– is much more analogous to Paul’s context, when the leaders were pagan Rome. In between then and now was the era of the Christian theocracy–so I suppose it was completely unsurprising that those leaders would see Romans 13 as supporting their positions.

    dogmeat, #19

    I don’t detect an actual question, just an editorial. I guess I’ll answer what I think your question might be, if there is an essence left when it is boiled down, with: “I don’t know.”

  22. 22
    Alverant

    Wrong as usual, heddle. Jesus is called the “King of Kings” meaning the church puts itself ahead of the state. Also the Donation of Constintine was a scam created by the Catholic Church to do the same thing. You can talk about what Jesus supposedly said all you want, what matters is the actions of his followers and that includes setting of a theocracy during the Dark Ages.

  23. 23
    heddle

    Alverant,

    Wrong as usual, heddle. Jesus is called the “King of Kings” meaning the church puts itself ahead of the state.

    Sure, that’s what it means. Never mind Jesus didn’t even use that title to claim to rule the Jewish state. And that he said, explicitly, “my kingdom is not of this world.”

    You can talk about what Jesus supposedly said all you want, what matters is the actions of his followers and that includes setting of a theocracy during the Dark Ages.

    But that is not what you wrote. Did I deny the existence of Christian theocracies? If you wrote about the actions of Christians in the Dark ages (or any age) I would not have replied. What you wrote in #7 is:

    it [the Christian bible] supported a theocracy where even the kings answered to the church

    You are now either doubling down, moving the goalposts, or both. The bible does not support a Christian theocracy where even kings answered to the church. You are wrong.

    You atheists are supposed to know the bible better than us bumpkins. You are not showing it.

  24. 24
    billdaniels

    Barton also misleads with his quote from Exodus 17:21. It’s a suggestion to Moses that he choose men to act as judges. This is selection by a dictator rather than an election by the people. As usual, Barton twists his scripture to mislead the sheep.

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