Government under God

country and god

I try to live my life in harmony when possible and not pass judgement. However, I have a difficulty with individuals with this perspective. Especially Senators, or even candidates, which is where I got this image from. Mainly, for two reasons:

  1. How will a country under “God’s Word” handle nonbelievers, or other-god/goddess believers?
  2. Whose interpretation of “God’s Word” is to be followed?

How does the believer respond to those questions? How does the non-believer react to such admonishments? Could it ever happen?

Thoughts?

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14 thoughts on “Government under God

  1. Having studied theology to master’s level (before losing my faith) I think the second of your two excellent points is even more problematic than the first. Amazingly, astoundingly, Christians can be more vehement towards each other than those outside their faith. There are far too many opportunities for human rights abuse under any so-called “God’s Law”. I guess non-believers such as myself can only hope that any prospective “God’s Law” government within a Western democracy would become so bogged down in internal conflict that it wouldn’t get off the ground!

    • Wow, master’s level huh? Now that’s interesting! I only have my B.A. level in Theology. I once considered going all the way to Ph.D., but you know, then Philosophy happened. Ha! We could have some awesome talks on just that alone. Would love to some day hear where you studied.

      I agree though, there is just way too much dissent amongst religions… much less within the single religion itself! Trying to formulate a theocracy would simply be impossible. I know Christians know this…. but why do they keep wanting the “one nation under God” thing? They can’t even get one church under God down pat!

      • OMG you too!!! Amazing! Seriously, separated at birth, or what?

        I guess we mustn’t forget that theocracies have existed even recently (e.g. Taliban) and new ones are trying to emerge (e.g. regions in Indonesia). Scary.

      • I know right!!!?? Geesh. The weird similarities just keep coming. Now if only I had an Australian accent or something…. damn. πŸ˜‰ j/l

        That’s true! Heck, we even have some religious utopias here in the US: The Amish, and Orthodox Judaism in Brooklyn. There used to be some Quaker communities, but I think they all died off because of their belief in chastity… *snicker*

        It’s a little scary though that the most well known ones… are just bat-shit crazy and violent, too. :/ Absolute power, they say……

      • Yes, I’m a bit ashamed that the peaceful Amish didn’t spring to mind; the Muslim Brotherhood et al just seem more, I guess “newsworthy”.

        We have some religious denominations which retreat from mainstream society – the Plymouth Brethren, for example – but they don’t separate from it entirely.

  2. First questions first: which god? Prove that god exists and the others do not. Which god?

    It will never happen because there simply is no proof of the existence of any god. People in politics who talk about gods are trying to manipulate the voters and if this is not true, they are delusional and should not be in office.

    • Eeeeeexactly.

      This, in particular, was from a Christian Senator (candidate? I forget, cbf anyway). But the questions are really endless with a theocracy concerned.

      Much of our founding fathers (US) saw these problems too… but Christians like to ignore those in favor of others. Religion can become a tool for those in power all too easy. I can forsee Christians saying “well, TRUE Christianity….” as usual. But again… definitions….

  3. A theocracy is only too real and it’s pretty clear how they have treated and continue to treat any deviation from the state approved brand of faith.
    Fear is the ultimate weapon. The fear of god and of those who are sure they have him on their side. The most important preserving feature of a theocracy is the control and restriction of education and the concerted indoctrination of all citizens. To establish authority there’ll be purges, heresy hunts and so on to keep people too afraid to speak out for a different faith or no faith at all. Random selection of people who will be tortured in to confession of their non-existent crimes and then give up co-conspirators in their desperation to end the suffering, who will now unjustly suffer the same fate.
    Most religions preach diversity and collaboration with other faiths when they are kept in line by impartial state authorities, but were any faith to assume command, the first thing they would do is make life very difficult for religious minorities or atheists and define citizenship by association with the faith. Intrinsic in the religious mentality is the unshakeable belief that you are right and others a wrong and therefore heretics who insult the true god. The Qur’an states there can be no compulsion in religion and that Jews and Christians are people of the book, but it also that they are infidels. This does not mean that no Muslims force conversion as they do, even in British prisons. And it also doesn’t mean that one cannot display authority and rid yourself of them indirectly, by levying taxes to extreme levels based on what god you believe in, seizing property and land, executing people for heresy, fabricating plots against god and the country, or spreading lies about other faiths practices or atheist intentions and beliefs so headstrong groups will take action themselves to rid the world of such ‘barbarians’.
    True religion as it is in scripture necessitates the removal of any semblance of individuality or independent thought, as it is making a statement of supposed fact to be followed verbatim. Differing interpretations only dilute fact and therefore authority as people can join sects and the population is divided and therefore, not as strong. For a theocratic nation, the battle is to enforce one interpretation as truth, helped by stagnating and subduing almost all social progress in order to keep religion relevant and keep the population ignorant of a better future through. To do that one must control the population in every way.
    Religion always has had an excuse for what it has said or done in the past, be it Mohammad’s satanic verses in the Qur’an, or Evangelical pastors in America trying to blame the devil for their drug and gay prostitute habits. Religion can always use the devil or ‘poisonous liberal or secular thought’ for any past statements made in conflict with current dogma.
    What is also vital in a theocracy is the creation and continuation of an arch enemy for all citizens to unite against to construct a unifying mentality. Sometimes it may be the devil himself, or in most cases it is a real country or another religion. Factual representation of these groups is not necessary as if you control all public forms of expression, the truth is a fluid concept.
    What is for certain is that theocracies are very real and always possible if religion can climb too high again. We see around the world how religion stagnates economy by subduing progress and marginalising competing forces or beliefs, either purging them or spreading absolutist dogmas that make identifying as a non-believer or in another faith as suicide.
    No one wins in a theocracy however, except the ruling elite who get to control a population preaching subservience and reverence of a higher power, while taking the liberty to be god on earth.

    • Excellent thoughts, and frighteningly true. I suppose we can only hope such a thing never happens, and do what we can to spread honest education and a seeking of wisdom, hm? Too many models created by other thinkers, writers, and sci-fi imaginaries seem to think it will happen, but I for one continue to hope against all hope. Besides, Atheism has been on the rise just recently…

      Anyway, just my weary thought reaction to your thoughts. Thank you ultimately for sharing yours, they are always appreciated and beyond welcome here. Keeps my brain working, reacting, and creating new pathways. Thank you!

  4. Hi Nikeo,

    Thanks for the thought provoking questions. I am a “believer” probably of the sort that you (and some of the others here) are critiquing. Just a side note I am a philosophy major who did graduate studies in theology so I suppose you and I couldn’t be more opposite πŸ™‚

    However, I wanted to take a stab at your questions from my Christian perspective.

    Question number one I think is very important. It seems that ANY controlling majority will attempt to totalize the polis whether it be through subtle or outright coercion. In the American experience checks and balances were put into place as an attempt to control those who are in power. Has this been a perfect system? I am pretty sure we can identify abuses of power. But as a political theory questions, “How will a country under β€œGod’s Word” handle nonbelievers, or other-god/goddess believers?”

    When you studied theology I’m sure you came across a term “imago dei”. It comes from the book of Genesis under the creation account. It means that all men are created in the image of God. By virtue of having been created in God’s image ALL men/women warrant “common grace”. The reason it is common grace is because it is distinguished from saving grace (God’s favor on Christ’s account). So how does this work out practically? For me whenever I look at my fellow man/woman I don’t see the labels (deconstructionist, atheist, agonistic, existentialist, LGBT, black, white, etc.) what I see is an image barer of God and as a result I offer up my love and care. So any “Christian polotical theory” thats worth its salt would have to have a healthy dose of common grace.

    I hope this makes sense. It made me penny. I would write more but i’m off to watch the Halos beat the Mariners (and show them common grace when they lose). Thank you for your thought proviking blog!

    • It made a lot of sense and I really enjoyed reading your reply. I don’t,t get too much Christian traffic just yet. A thirst for understanding needs multiple perspectives and critique, especially from opposing views.

      I like how you think, and your personal theology. It’s consistent and well explained.

      My fear with the theocratic idea when it comes to Christianity is mostly the opposition and vast majority of theological interpretations inside the umbrella of “Christianity.” The label has Fred Phelps’s and Martin Luther King’s, and everything in between. Luther (not MLK) is to thank for opening that door to foolish interpretation, I suppose, IMHO.

      Anyway, I digress. Stay in touch and please remind me of topics you post that I may want to check out. It,s always appreciated cause stuff gets lost in that reader sometimes.

      • Hi Nikeyo,

        I just wanted to comment on a couple of points you made. First, I don’t think you have to ever worry about a theocracy. A true theocracy is God directly leading and guiding His people like Moses and the people of Israel. It wasn’t until Israel rejected God in exchange for an earthly king that God gave them Saul and so ended the theocracy.

        I think Jesus (and Paul Rom. 13) presupposes earthly rulers when he teaches to obey them. This is just to say that a theocratic government isn’t even on the Biblical grid.

        Based on what you have said I think the fear you have (as well as the others that commented) is religion encroching on what ought to be treated as secular. Moreover you expressed religion’s inadequacy in governing due to its plurality of conflicting ideas. I think these are very strong points to argue. The last thing we need is Jim Jones asking us to drink the metaphorical “cool aid”. You are right, it is a problem and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

        To be honest I really don’t know what the answer is. I haven’t worked out a Christian political theory based on the Bible yet. I’d have some components that I would like to see (ie. common grace) in a Christian political theory but no such answer has come to mind yet (and probably never will).

        However, to respond to your concern about the plurality of conflicting ideas that religion- or to be more specific Christianity- would bring to politics could be a concern for any other poltical theory as well. In other words we can apply that critique to any political system.

        At this point I realize that you are probably thinking more in terms of being presuppostionally neutral when it comes to issues of government wrather than being precommitted to something like Christianity. Is that right?

      • You are correct in your last assumption.

        All excellent points. I can’t argue with anything, except myself poorly using the word “theocracy” to describe a religious people group run government. But that is my fault.

  5. Hi Nikeyo,
    Sorry to labor this point but i’ll do just about anything for a penny πŸ™‚

    I wanted to clarify the point about being presuppositionally neutral when it comes to governing because I don’t think that it is humanly possible. We all bring our presuppositions when it comes to answering factual questions about anything. You have yours I have mine and so on. The danger comes in when you don’t know that you have them or when you don’t know what they are. This to me seems to be trouble with government today. What I find to be the governing pressuppositions of most law makers (Republicans or Democrats) is a crude form of pragmatism. What makes it crude is they are all pragmatists and they don’t even know it.

    In short what i’m saying is the problem isn’t really with having presuppostions necessarily but with not having thought through them and arriving at a presupposition that provides the preconditions for intelligible predication.

    Do you agree / disagree? A penny for your thoughts πŸ™‚

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