On Theocracy


I don’t often talk politics here — I have other blogs for that — but sometimes religion and politics intersect. Nowhere more so than in the loaded term “theocracy.”

While pondering my involvement in the 2008 Presidential Campaign, I’ve been forced to ask the question: what does God want from a leader? The answer surprised me…

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The biggest problem I have with theocracy is the term itself. What most people object to — quite rightly! — is what is more properly called ecclesiocracy: rule by the priesthood. In the strictest sense, this is impossible in America, since in evangelical Protestantism (the majority religion in the U.S., as well as the most politically active) we don’t really have an organized priesthood.

However, the real problem is when those who claim to speak for God are also in charge of the government. The tragedy — as Eugene Peterson points out so eloquently — is that once the two are conflated, there is no longer any accountability:

Religion is the most dangerous energy source known to humankind. The moment a person (or government or religion or organization) is convinced that God is either ordering or sanctioning a cause or project, anything goes. The history, worldwide, of religion-fueled hate, killing, and oppression is staggering (from the Introduction to Amos).

And to be honest, I do worry about this in America. The opinion leaders on both the Right and Left — secularly as well as religious! — seem awfully certain that God (or Truth, or whatever) is on their side, and therefore they can do know wrong.

But, to me this seems the complete opposite of the true meaning of theocracy, which literally translates as “rule by God”. So what does He want?

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? — Micah 6:8

Looking throughout Scripture, God’s primary desire appears to be for leaders who:

  • Have Integrity
  • Seek Justice
  • Love the Poor
  • Yield their Hearts to Him

That’s really it. Obviously God is concerned about much more, but these seem to be his top priorities.

Disturbingly, they’re not mine. Which implies that I have some soul-searching to do before making any political commitments…

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