Theocracy Vs. Democracy
Theocracy means “God’s Government.” There are many in elected office today that would personally if not publicly espouse that it is time for God’s government to rule on planet earth. They are smart, well organized, and succeeding in their theologically misguided attempt to take over our government through the voting booths. They are doing it legally and, if not stopped, will bring continued war and poverty, famine and pestilence to the world as best they can. Those are some of the signs they see as positive (!) towards the end of times.
Those in office are smart enough not to speak openly of this, to leave no smoking gun, but some outside public office speak the theory clearly:
As Jay Rogers from Forerunner.com writes, criticizing the Christian Right for not going far enough fast enough in “How Theonomists Differ from the Christian Right?”
“The Christian Right may be criticized for putting an undue emphasis on "political solutions" and for not relying strictly on biblical law. Simply put: either we will have man's law or God's law as a standard for civil legislation. We are not looking for a "voice a the table" nor are we seeking "equal time" with the godless promoters of pornography, abortion, safe-sodomy subsidies, socialism, etc. We want them silenced and punished according to God's Law-Word.”
Aside from the “take no prisoners” approach to bringing God’s law to America and the whole planet, I worry most about who will interpret God’s law for man should they succeed. And they are succeeding.
Mr. Rogers points to a difference between the Christian Right and true theonomists (and frankly I think his word, “theonomists,” to be in error – they should be called “theocrats” which I will go with from here). Most of us see the Christian Right as a broad and well-unified base, which is to great degree true. However, many of the Christian Right seem unaware or uncaring that the extremists of their movement are extreme indeed. Those of more moderate right-ness may not believe the end of times is near, that man must proclaim his dominion (or dominance) over earth, and that Christianity must rule the planet for Jesus to return but they support this movement with their votes. Those are the people we need to reach most with the realization that no person knows the timing of Christ’s return, that we can only remain watchful and prepared on a personal level, and that we need to do God's work here on this planet in the mean time, by obedience through faith, not by theocratic rule.
Sara Diamond from “The Public Eye” magazine, original dated 1995 writes:
“Average people active in the Christian Right genuinely feel that the country is going to hell in a hand basket, which is true. The problem is that through a long process of ideological formation most have arrived at a distorted view of their own best interests. They look at the stagnant economy and see "illegal aliens," not runaway capitalism, which they generally support. They look at teenage delinquency and then blame teachers' unions instead of the consumer culture that trains young people to shop and not think.”
Some Republicans do get it:
Greg Goldin in his article "The Fifteen Percent Solution: How the Christian Right Is Building From Below To Take Over From Above" originally published in the Nation in 1993, writes:
"What the Christian right spends a lot of time doing," says Marc Wolin, a moderate Republican who ran unsuccessfully for Congress from San Francisco last year, "is going after obscure party posts. They try to control the party apparatus in each county. We have a lot to fear from these people. They want to set up a theocracy in America."
Apparently, the moderate Republicans are on the outside these days. So who are the Republicans that we can see as being part of the theocratic movement? I think it safe to assume those that worked hard, traveled late and signed quickly in favor of continuing the “life” of Terri Schiavo. This is a long list, and their success at passing legislation (quickly overturned by those darned legal-minded judges) points to them being in control of the legislature. The web site www.theocracywatch.org, which I highly recommend to all of interest, lists Senators Frist, McConnell, Santorum, Bennet, Bailey-Hutchison, Kyl and Allen among the worrisome. Add to the list our president, George W. Bush, and many of his cabinet as they fairly ran the Schiavo show.
What will this government look like? Frederick Clarkson from “The Public Eye” magazine March/June 1994 writes:
“A general outline of what the reconstructed "Kingdom," or confederation of Biblical theocracies, would look like emerges from the large body of Reconstructionist literature. This society would feature a minimal national government, whose main function would be defense by the armed forces. No social services would be provided outside the church, which would be responsible for "health, education, and welfare." A radically unfettered capitalism (except in so far as it clashed with Biblical Law) would prevail. Society would return to the gold or silver standard or abolish paper money altogether. The public schools would be abolished. Government functions, including taxes, would be primarily at the county level.”
The core of Dominion theology comes from a strict interpretation of Genesis 1:26, pointing to the dominion of man on Earth: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” Dominionists take this to mean that they have the right to do whatever pleases them with the planet and it gets worse when combined with another selectively strict interpretation of the words of Jesus Christ regarding when he will return as written in Luke 21: 10-11, 25: “Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and the fearful events and great signs from heaven.” “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.”
Gosh, wars and earthquakes, famines and pestilences, fearful events, signs from the heavens and tsunamis are surely happening right now! So it seems they think (ignoring that all these same signs have been occurring from the beginning of mankind), “His time of return must be near! We must bring all the people to our faith and we need have no worries about destroying our planet because we don’t need it much longer!”
Christ’s return may be near. Or not. We do not know. Even Jesus Christ himself doesn’t know the time of his return as written in the books of both Matthew and Mark:
Matthew 24: 36-40,42,44.
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. So you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Mark 13: 32-33, 36-37.
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be Alert! You do not know when that time will come.”
“If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
It cannot be denied that these verses tell Christians (and all who read them) that we don’t know when Jesus Christ will return, but that we must remain watchful, ready, and true to our faith in him. Jesus tells us clearly that he will return, but has no idea when, only that he will return and we should each be ready.
The book of Revelation, by the apostle John, is an incredibly vivid apocryphal writing that can be interpreted from now until … Christ’s return … and have as many different meanings as there are people reading it. I chatted with one of my pastors about Revelation and how to interpret it. His reply was wonderfully unconcerned in that the essence to be taken is very much as for what Christ said in Matthew and Mark, above: He will return, be ready (with a polite look of "are you ready?"as he should to all). My pastor went as far as to say that anyone thinking the time is near isn’t reading the words of Christ, again, as shown in Matthew and Mark above saying even Jesus doesn’t know when he will return. Interestingly, my pastor also said that the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were on a path similar to Dominionists of today – wanting to prepare the entire world, or at the least their culture, to be more pleasing to God. The Pharisees’ rejection of Christ Jesus remains a sign of their blindness just as the present day Dominionists’ denial of Christ’s own word shows theirs.
I say yes, let us prepare all people, all those that seek preparedness, for Christ’s return. Let us make our planet more pleasing to God through showing love for all, through bringing peace, being good stewards of his creation and by sharing faith where the soil allows. Christ fully expects to return and turn some away when he does, those that don’t have ears, let them miss that journey as fulfillment of their God-given free will. Let us share his faith through person-to-person communication, not via some American Taliban-like governance, a theocratic rule that would force a face of faith where none may exist. How could a mere face of faith please God?
In reading the Bible to pull these quotes I also come up with some on the deceptions we will experience prior to the coming of Christ:
Perhaps most prophetically from Luke 21: 8-9
He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”
Matthew 24: 4-8
Jesus answered, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
Matthew 24: 26-28
“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,” do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”
Mark 12: 38-40
As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of humor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.”
As you can see, most of these verses are interspersed within the very same chapters of the very same books from which the theocrats and dominionists pull their own justification to action. Picking up on the punishment aspect of the final quoted verse, above, I go to Matthew 25: 31-46 with Jesus saying:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply. ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
To sum it up, we have a great deal to be concerned about when it comes to the success of the Republican Party. Even many in the GOP should be and perhaps are concerned about this apocryphal understanding that many within their party hold. We must turn them out, turn them away, and banish them for blaspheming the Truth that is love, the Truth that brings peace, the Truth that cares for all, the Truth they are besmirching just as they besmirch the reputation of our fine country.
In all of this I will cover myself with a quote (a prayer actually) paraphrased from Abraham Lincoln that has been used Martin Luther King Jr., and most recently by Senator John Kerry (and yes, since then by George W., too). I think it appropriate whenever applying man's thinking to God's Word: "I pray that I am on God's side on this, and every topic I consider."
I’ll quote Luke 21:8 again: “He replied, ‘Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.”
Words for all to heed.
Here are some other links of interest with brief quotes:
Ann E. Hafften from “The Journal of Lutheran Ethics”
“The Rev. Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, has gone so far as to urge western Lutherans to consider the new Christian Zionism to be "heresy," in an effort "to alert all Christians everywhere to its dangers and false teachings."
Margot Patterson from the National Catholic Reporter:
“There is a group of people in the Defense Department and in the vice president’s office who are very, very pro-Israeli and very pro the Likud Party in Israel,” said Christison, who named Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Policy in the Defense Department Douglas Feith; adviser to the Defense Department Richard Perle; Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis Libby Jr.; and Elliot Abrams on the National Security Council staff.
The United States’ current and exclusive focus on Islamic fundamentalism is a case of what some argue is selective blindness.
“We pay a lot of attention to Islamic extremism, but we don’t pay a lot of attention to Christian extremism or the extremism in the Jewish religion that is being used to justify what is going on today,” said James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, speaking about the turmoil in the Middle East. Zogby argues that despite disclaimers to the contrary the United States is waging a war on Islam at home and abroad even as it tacitly supports extremist settlers in the occupied territories Israel controls."
From Theocracy Watch
In an effort to fulfill the dominionist belief in the manifest destiny of "Christian" nations, the theocratic right values an aggressive foreign policy. And it claims that the principle of separation of church and state is "a myth."
Pastor Phil Gaines, Bellevue Christian Center; Bellevue, Washington
a. The kingdom has come and will continue to come according to certain parameters which do not allow for dominion theology.
b. The will of God on earth, as detailed prophetically in scripture, does not allow for dominion theology.
Scott Bidstrup from Bidstrup.com
Fundamentalism is variously described by various authors, but to me it really boils down to a rather simple test: In my view, a fundamentalist religion is a religion, any religion, that when confronted with a conflict between love, compassion and caring, and conformity to doctrine, will almost invariably choose the latter regardless of the effect it has on its followers or on the society of which it is a part.
Fundamentalist religions make this choice because they uniformly place a high priority on doctrinal conformity, with such force that it takes higher priority than love, compassion and service.