Theocracy When Useful

Are all the people on the left this unthinking? I know there are lots of people on the right who have trouble with logical thought (like Pat Robertson), but, seriously, this is ridiculous.

I am 99.9% sure (I haven’t asked him) that Anthony B. Robinson, a pastor in the UCC, is against theocracy in North America. I could be wrong, and I would gladly take back half of my criticism of his opinion piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. But since I’ve never met a leftist who openly advocated theocracy in America, I’m guessing I’m right. So then, how is it that Rev. Robinson thinks the United States should uphold the position of any Scriptures, let alone those which adherents of another religion might find offensive? Or is it that upholding the laws of God is only good when they support my issues? Does Rev. Robinson also believe that the United States should stone homosexuals? Or children who disrespect their parents? Maybe we could play that game that lefty-religious types like to play with Dr. Laura and point out all the laws in the Old Testament that go against left-wing ideology. Why the selectivity when it comes to immigration or poverty or other issues that seem to be the favorites of Democrats and their friends? Come on, just admit that you want a theocracy too, and you and the Fundamentalists get on with arguing about which theocracy we should have.

Even more than the confusion over whether he does or does not want a theocracy is the confusion between Israel and America. Can you guys please get your story straight? Is America the Chosen People or not? If not, as the derision for “Jesus is Lord of America” types shows, why is Rev. Robinson making a connection between what God told Israel thousands of years ago and what America should do?

As for the first question, the answer is that God didn’t want the ancient Hebrews to forget where they had come from, or how they had gotten where they were, namely, the Promised Land. They had come from slavery in Egypt. They knew what it was like to be exploited and taken advantage of. Now that they had land and wealth they shouldn’t forget that hadn’t always been the case. Ring any bells? It should. Most Americans are the descendents of immigrants.

But wait: there’s more.

A second reason that the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity press their adherents to respect and not exploit the alien in their midst is especially pertinent to the contemporary American scene. Injustice anywhere leads inexorably to injustice everywhere. If there is a class of people without rights, without voice, without legal recourse and protection, it puts not just that group at risk. It puts an entire society at risk. It becomes a cancer that eats away at the whole social body. If a certain group can be exploited, then exploitation begins to infect the whole society. Its overall standards of justice and fair play are lowered and distorted.

Another way to put this, and to bring it forward to the contemporary situation in the United States, is that we ought to want immigrants to have legal rights and to be treated fairly because it is in the best long-term interest of our own society and its health. It is bad for all of us to have a group that lacks legal protection and is vulnerable to exploitation.

The first paragraph sounds interesting, but in the second, the argument implodes from its own weight. Let’s think about this the other way around: Rev. Robinson writes, “If a certain group can be exploited, then exploitation begins to infect the whole society. Its overall standards of justice and fair play are lowered and distorted.” But what if that “certain group” is the United States? Does not the lack of enforcement of laws lend itself to exploitation on the part of immigrants and foreign governments? Are the overall standards of justice and fair play “lowered and distorted”? I should think so, especially for those immigrants who are law-abiding and who do wish to play by the rules. In fact, in many cases, they are probably the ones who are being hurt because the rules are so extensive on how to gain citizenship.

The second paragraph would be great…if it had any relationship to actual reality. Rev. Robinson writes that “we ought to want immigrants to have legal rights and to be treated fairly.” Let’s see: do immigrants have legal rights? Of course they do! That’s why this argument is so stupid and self-defeating. Rev. Robinson is not arguing about whether immigrants should have legal protection. He’s arguing that illegal immigrants should have legal protection. While we’re on the subject, it seems to me that Old Testament Israel also had requirements for its “immigrants”–something about “cutting around” something with a sharp object.

“It is bad for all of us to have a group that lacks legal protection and is vulnerable to exploitation.” Indeed. Unless that group has itself willfully exploited the laws already in place for its legal protection, and, in effect, caused the society to be the group that is vulnerable to exploitation.

Rev. Robinson makes one good connection between the laws of the Old Testament and America’s immigration laws: The question that merits serious reflection is this:

Do we want to be a society of the rich and the rest, where a servant class is tolerated and required? The Scriptures of Christians and Jews argue for legal protection and respect for “resident aliens” because these faiths see the danger to the whole society in an unprotected servant class. Do we?

This is absolutely right. We should not have an “unprotected servant class,” and employers who do exploit illegal immigrants are sinning. But what is the underlying problem that the situation exacerbates? Illegal immigration! Obviously (or so one would think), if there are no illegal immigrants (as opposed to 12 million, or whatever the number is), they can’t be exploited. Rev. Robinson’s motto (along with most of the other pro-illegals in this country) seems to be: We can leap amazing gaps of logic in a single bound!

Should Christians love immigrants, whether legal or illegal? Of course. What does that have to do with the United States protecting its citizens and offering ways recognized under the law for non-citizens to become its citizens?

Timotheos

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10 thoughts on “Theocracy When Useful

  1. you know what: we had the same kind of people in the (failry liberal) Reformed Church where I grew up, using the same “proof-texts” in more or less the same context (the immigration issue). It was when I had “Jesus is a European social-democrat” preached to me, ad nauseam. Of course, some years after, I had (surprise, surprise) the “Jesus is middle-America Republican” version. Nothing too satisfying for soul and spirit, and, in both cases, an almost blasphemous use of the Lord’s name.
    Good to see though that the Bible is still useful (and authoritative!!) to liberals, from time to time.
    Yes, those guys are nothing more than Pat Robertson’s perfect counterparts (BTW, I do not have anything against Robertson: he is very logical with his flawed theology, after all).
    As for theocracy, just one comment: we’ve tried, and it does not work. Besides, it’s anti-Lutheran. Sorry.

  2. So many issues raised here, where do I start?

    One problem I see with theocracy type arguments is that they are cop-outs for a hollow arguments. Instead of defending a political idea on its merits, simply saying that “God blesses or favors” the idea in theory makes it hard to argue with. Nevermind that proving such positions is mostly impossible.

    On immigration, I don’t favor illegal immigration, but it does seem like our approach in the last years have done anything but stop it. Now that we have 12 million illegals here, we’d probably go broke and cause unrest if we actually tried to deport all these people. So, the standard “solutions” are probably not workable with this large a problem.

    That said, I think Bush has to start working the diplomatic channels with Mexico, to perhaps change things there to relieve the pressure by improving Mexico rather than exporting people north to US. At the same time, greater enforcement of employment laws here is in order. Of course, there will be some backlash because lots of people like the cheap labor for gardeners, nannies, construction and so forth.

    I’ve been reading lately that much illegal immigration hasn’t been because of lack of employment in Mexico or necessarily abject poverty (in fact, the Mexican economy is growing and improving things marginally for folks there). Apparently much of the immigration is simply because there is greater access to wealth here. Just food for thought.

  3. A THEOCRACY is a bogus term. We don’t, can’t and never did have one in America. A THEOCRACY is when God rules and there hasn’t been one since Israel asked for their own king.
    The Theocracy will return when Christ does. Until then, American fundamentalists hope that they can call a bunch of extreme fundamentalists theologians (and bad ones at that) a “theocracy” because they are in power.
    This is typical bad hermeneutics, bad exegetics and of course the daughter of dispensationalism.

    CC

  4. The Jews/Hebrews never had a true Theocracy. Even when King David was in charge it wasn’t a true Theocracy. David did not claimed to be a priest and did not claim to rule as God’s avatar or prophet, such as priest would do in a Theocracy.

    Furthermore, the priesthood that God set up with the Levites was not for the purpose of governmental leadership. The Bible does not reflect God initiating any kind of Theocratic government leadership model for the Jews/Hebrews. The administration of said government was always placed on the shoulders of the paternal heads of the families and tribes. Up until they demanded and received kings.

    However, there are factors at work in the world to create Theocracies (specifically one large world Theocracy). But they are not Christians.

  5. Lawrence,

    Yes, Israel had a true Theocracy, but it was prior to David and prior to Saul. Their Theocracy ended when they said (1 Samuel 8)”4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. “

  6. Yes C.C.

    I understand your position. This is the same position described historically by Josephus. And generally accepted by most scholars.

    A quick definition of Theocracy: 1: a political unit governed by a deity (or by officials thought to be divinely guided) 2: the belief in government by divine guidance.

    We are splitting hairs but two things to note:

    1. The “elders” in 1 Samuel, are they not the paternal leaders of the tribes? Or did these elders also include priests? In any case these elders represented the government administration in whatever form they had for administering government.

    2. The elders came to speak with Samuel, their prophet and spiritual leader. Point is that while Samuel advised them of what God wanted as their spiritual leader, Samuel was not their overall government leader nor was he a specific administrator within their governmental organizations. An advisor, yes, but not an administrator or bureaucrat.

    What the elders effectively did was to abdicate their leadership roles under one man, Saul. Again this was not Samuel, their spiritual leader, but a separate man.

    If God wanted them to have a true theocracy with their government leader being the was same person as as their spiritual leader, then He would have chosen Samuel to be their king instead of Saul.

    God purposely kept the two offices of Spiritual Prophet and Worldly King separate.

    Now,..

    We can state, as Josephus does, that the Jews where a theocracy because they subjected themselves to God as their spiritual King and therefore overall king. This is all well and good, except that all earthly governments and leaders are subject to God as spiritual ruler regardless of government structure. So this really doesn’t distinguish any Jewish or Israeli woldly form of government from any other worldly government.

    Again, while God spoke through Samuel to the people. God did not put Samuel in a governmental leadership position. While Saul was king, Samuel remained their prophet. Two separate offices.

    Therefore, I argue that because the offices purposely remained separate. Elders or kings being world leaders, and the Prophet remaining the voice of God over the Spiritual realm (and omnipotent over all), Israel never really had a true Theocracy. All they did was switch from a council of elders to one supreme elder as their worldly government leader.

    Furthermore. If we consider that Israel prior to Saul was a Theocracy under God’s omnipotent Spiritual leadership, then in the same context we have to recognize that Israel remained under God’s omnipotent Spiritual leadership after Saul.

    However, the reverse view must also hold. If Israel after Saul was not a theocracy, and God’s role as spiritual leader does not change, then Israel prior to Saul could not have been a theocracy.

    >>>>

    Now back to the definition of Theocracy. If we define any government considering itself divinely guided is a Theocracy, then what about our own government? We state that human rights are divinely protected and then base most of our legal definitions of human rights on this ideal. We also print “In God We Trust” on our currency. Etc. Does this elevation of God as our ultimate Spiritual leader make our current democracy a Theocracy?

    You see what I’m getting at when we try to make judgment calls about whether or not God is divinely directing any given world leader or government. We cannot say that God is not in charge. All we can judge is if any given government leader is embracing or rejecting God’s guidance.

  7. Somehow, what I could not post yesterday; anyway, here is more or less what I wanted to say.

    CC said:
    “The Theocracy will return when Christ does. Until then, American fundamentalists hope that they can call a bunch of extreme fundamentalists theologians (and bad ones at that) a “theocracy” because they are in power.”

    I also think the perceived agressivness of many in the Christian Right is due to the frustration of many US Christians when they see their valeus mocked or undermined. This “culture wars” aspect of things is totally hidden in Europe where american Liberals are described as an enlightened minority facing a hord of born-again talibans. I don not have much sympathy for the Christian Right (and I am sure most of its members do not like what I represent)but I want ot be honest in my view of things.
    Now, very clearly, America was never a theocracy. Yes, there is a “civil religion” that makes your country different from most western democracies, but the States ARE a democracy (the oldest one in the world, BTW. They are also the frist country where people could worship God freely according to their conscience, what a great blessing, even though, of course, this is the first step towards relativism;)
    Now, I am all for establishing a theocracy in the USA. It would last two weeks, and after that the Reformed Theonomists would start attacking the Indie Fundy Dispies, before being massacred by the Traditionalist Catholics,etc, etc.

  8. J.M.

    The so-called Christian Right is for the most part a boogie-man created by secularists in order to demonize the religious influences invloved when people are making political decisions.

    It is fortunate that there are any number of people like yourself who can see through that smoke screen and recongize that the conservative Christian voting block really isn’t what the secular media claims it to be.

  9. Lawrence ,
    Thanks for your comments. The point I was making about theocracy, is God stated that Israel rejected Him as their King so He allowed them to have a secular king. That ended the Theocracy and started the Deo/Secular dichotomy. Gone were the days where Yahweh guided Israel step by step and entered were the days of Yahweh sending His prophets to warn/admonish/guide the leaders of Israel. (The prophets used to speak DIRECTLY to Israel)Basically, the Theocracy was replaced with a middle man until Yahweh actually left the temple and eventually sent Christ.
    The true definition of Theocracy is when we receive the instructions from God Himself and not the people He uses as messangers.

    CC

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