Laura Wood writes (my thanks to Stewart G. for pointing it out to me):
While 21st century radical democracy, with its insistence on the extreme separation of church and state, is indeed hostile to Christian society, democracy essentially fulfills Christianity rather than opposes it. There are obvious disadvantages to church leaders being appointed by monarchs, with the church then inevitably, over the course of time, becoming a tool of the state. When church is strong and infuses its sensibility throughout society, democracy provides for the flowering of faith. Democracy represents the evolution of Christian principles and the recognition of a God that does not force, but beckons…
This is an argument I cannot fully develop here. But one reason I chose Kalb’s quote is I was annoyed to find a Catholic blogger yearning for a day when we will be ruled by a Catholic king and all the complexities of modern life will be resolved in a theocratic utopia. This longing is misplaced. Theocracy destroys a society’s love of God.
I am flattered to infer that Mrs. Wood still reads this blog. (If she’s found another Catholic theocratic utopian, I hope she’ll provide a link. My kindred spirits are hard to find.) The Thinking Housewife is probably the best reactionary weblog on the internet, and I recommend that everyone read it daily and take Mrs. Wood’s arguments seriously. One should note that she insists that it’s not “radical” democracy that Christianity is supposed to lead to. Her ideal would be a limited franchise and an informal Protestant establishment. If I were going to get behind any kind of democracy, that would be the one I’d find most attractive. However, as someone who thinks that theocracy is actually the natural expression of society’s love of God, and democracy the expression of insubordination, I owe it to my readers to present the seldom-heard alternate point of view.
I will be interested to see how The Thinking Housewife develops this idea of a correlation (of any kind) between Christianity and democracy, given that it seems to be so completely and consistently contradicted by the historical record. History, I think, backs up us Christian theocrats. Christianity has only ever flourished under empire or monarchy. Democracy has always been the work of unbelievers, and it has always brought ruin to public faith. For many happy centuries, the Church worked with monarchical governments to build Christian societies; more than this, it was primarily the Church that lifted the barbarians from tribal democracy to territorial monarchy. Then two centuries ago, a gang of usurpers–atheists and freemasons all–imposed democracy first on English America and France, then on the rest of Europe. Christianity in the West immediately died everywhere–yes even in America, where the public culture is aggressively atheistic, and the Christianity of the majority is purely nominal. The historical piece of evidence Mrs. Wood presents–the fact that Christianity collapsed in France after monarchy-established Catholicism was replaced by republic-established atheism–actually backs up my claim. France had been proudly Christian–with an enormous bounty of saints and theologians–for a millenium under the Catholic monarchy, and it could have been Christian for another millenium if deist freemasons hadn’t imposed an accursed democracy. The argument I’m always seeing is “We were doing A and it seemed to be working fine. Then we switched to B, and all hell broke loose. That means that A wasn’t really working as well as we thought, and we should keep doing B.” But that doesn’t follow at all. The fact that the majority apostasizes when apostasy is made official dogma does not mean that they weren’t really Christian when Christianity was the officially inculcated belief system. By that reasoning, we should assume that Europeans today aren’t really agnostic liberals, but only pretend to be out of fear of hate crimes litigation. This is obviously wishful thinking. The majority always accepts its society’s ideology. They accept it without thought or interior reservation.
Here is the really interesting question: what explains the consistent and enduring affinity between monarchy and Christianity? Why is it that a society that embraces one finds itself more receptive to the other? What is it about the idea of serving a king that speaks to the hearts of Christian men, even as the same idea inspires repulsion in “free-thinkers” and deists? Here we must remember that a government is not to be thought of primarily as a machine for gathering taxes, waging wars, and the rest. Above all else, government is a symbol. It is first of all a people’s symbol of itself, the embodiment and voice of the collective (what Voegelin called society’s “existential representation”). But the government also symbolizes a peoples’ vision of the order of the cosmos and their collective relation to moral and sacred absolutes (the “cosmological” and “psychological” representations). Certain forms of government may better capture a people’s spiritual intuitions than others. I claim that democracy is essentially an anti-Christian symbolic structure; it’s an atheist’s vision of the world expressed in institutions. Conversely, monarchical symbolism is extremely congruent with the Christian worldview and attractive to the Christian sensibility.
- The fundamental Christian policital principle is the social kingship of Christ: all authority comes from God. God’s sovereignty extends not only over all individual souls, but over all human collectives. All Christian nations have developed a clear way of expressing this in their coronation ceremonies. This is a distinctly Christian ritual that began in Byzantium, spread to the West with Charlemagne, and is still practiced in officially Christian lands. The king is annointed by the senior prelate: a sign that authority comes from God, and also a sign of the Church’s superiority to the state. The Church mediates our contemplative union with God, while the State makes God’s sovereignty over our wills concretely present. As the intellect is prior to the will, and the king’s legitimacy rests on faith in God’s will taught by the Church, the Church must be the superior power. The king takes an oath to preserve the traditions of the nation he shall guard, and the people by their acclamations pledge their fealty to their temporal sovereign. The king is no creature of the popular will. His claim lies in his birth, that is his organic (indeed biological) connection to his nation’s past, and therefore to its beginning, the quasi-mystical time when that people constituted itself as a sacred order. Symbolically, mythologically, the beginning of a nation recapitulates the ordering of the world out of chaos by God “in the beginning”. Beginnings symbolize God–the ultimate source of Being and so the ultimate “beginning”–by their very nature. Hence the sacrality of tradition and ancestors.
- On the other hand, democracy denies God’s sovereignty, blasphemously claiming to derive authority from the will of “the people”. Elected representatives are–and, more importantly, are seen to be by the symbolism of their election and installation–creatures of popular will. They are not bound by God or national tradition. They represent the people’s unfettered will. It is no wonder that, when a democracy is in power, it quickly displaces Christianity as the official creed with an ideology more suited to its essence, namely the worship of freedom.
- Monarchy also makes itself congruent to Christian sensibilities by making the king a quasi-sacramental figure. His distinction from the ecclesiastical ministry is always clearly maintained (a king cannot confect the Eucharist), but a vaguely sacral aura nevertheless affixes itself to him. It was not at all out of place, for example, for the king to offer blessings. Disrespect for the royal family was vaguely sacreligious. There is no idolotry here; Christianity is a distinctly sacramental, Incarnational religion. God’s efficacy is spread out through creation. He acts and shows Himself through visible signs in which members of Christ’s body, the Church, participate. Bringing the temporal power into this economy of grace is pleasing to the Christian imagination; in fact, the Christian imagination suffers from its absence.
- Democracy, on the other hand, makes the temporal order wholly profane. It is a machine engineered to satisfy whatever temporal desires we happen to possess. No man ever felt nearer to God from an encounter with Congress.
- Finally, democracy is stupid and vulgar, while Christianity is sublime. Therefore, they naturally repel.