What type of government is most conatural to Christianity?

ArkansasReactionary has his own blog.  Check it out.

As he wryly points out, the historical record is pretty clear:

This Sunday we celebrated the solemnity of Christ the President. We call Christ our President as an expression of the type of authority Christ has over everything. His authority not emanating from his Father, but being the result of election or the will of the people. It’s interesting to note that this is the imagery Christians have used from early times, even though the Roman Empire in which Christianity arose was legally a monarchy. Yet from the earliest times, the Christian ideal of democracy has been present, indeed it was not until after Rome became Christian that it legally became a democracy again. And of course, it is no coincidence that nearly all of the Christian states throughout history have been democracies, and the form of government associated with secularism was monarchy. Also, of course, there’s the fact that the Church itself is organized on democratic lines. These facts should serve to dissuade anyone taken in by Christian Monarchism.

17 Responses

  1. Hmm, does it make you wonder why many vernacular-Mass attendees call their priests “presiders?”

  2. The only way I can see for anyone to think Christianity is a pro-democracy religion (aside from ignorance of history) is to think that “real” Christianity just took nearly two thousand years to come out. And if you believe that you might as well be Protestant.


    I haven’t heard that one. Though there isn’t much need for wonder.

  3. The only way I can see for anyone to think Christianity is a pro-democracy religion (aside from ignorance of history)

    Here’s St. JPII:

    …world politics leave America with a heightened responsibility to be, for the world, an example of a genuinely free, democratic, just and humane society.

    I would say a reasonable person would thus assume JPII (who was elected by the Church) to be a supporter of democracy. But YMMV.

  4. Is it reasonable to characterize the Roman Empire as *legally* a monarchy? The Romans were allergic to the idea of kingship and invented terms for their eventual de facto kings, and those banners the legions carried didn’t carry an initialism for “Rex populusque romanus”.

    On another note, it would seem that St. Augustine paints about an equally bad portrait of every sort of government Rome ever had in Book 3 of The City of God (although of course this work of his is not intended as a treatise on government), and of course Leo XIII condemns both the idea that authority is derived from the consent of the governed (Immortale Dei 24) and the idea that particular forms of government are less suitable for a Christian state than others (Immortale Dei 36). And if anyone should disagree with the broad strokes with which I have painted Leo’s thought, by all means read the whole encyclical, it’s much better political thought than almost anything written by an actual politician.

    [To put my cards on the table, I am not really a fan of popular democracy nor the Huguenot conception of monarchy.]

  5. AFAIK, he never claimed that democracy is a more Cheistian form of government than monarchy.

  6. Peasant,

    It’s satire. The Roman Empire was legally democratic, most Christian states have been monarchies, we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the *king*, etc.

    I wrote it as an actual argument against Christian democracy, and then inverted all the terms to make a satirical argument for it.

  7. ArkansasReactionary,

    I recognized the piece as a whole as satire and an argument for monarchy as the preferred form of government for a Christian state, but goofily took that sentence at face value. Thank you for your patience with regard to my mental lapse there.

    Incidentally, I don’t think the Roman empire was ever legally democratic either; the Romans viewed their republican government as a sort of via media between democracy, oligarchy and monarchy, and later commentators (prominently among Americans was Hamilton) also contrasted it with democracies.

  8. Admittedly the republic vs. democracy distinction isn’t too important to me. When it comes to it, in a republic and a democracy the people’s will is ultimately the putative basis of legitimicacy.

  9. Re Rome being officially a Republic:

    That was actually my favorite bit, because I’d never thought about it before. It’s not that Christianity arose in a world where monarchy was just taken for granted. There was a well-known republican ideology that had recently been popular among the senatorial class, and the fathers of the Church just had no use for it. That is telling.

  10. @Bonald

    Yes, Christianity returned the formal institution of monarchy (dormant for nearly a thousand years) to the Romans. The present rise of democracy isn’t some sort of development of Christianity, as the right-liberals would have it, but a reversion to pagan* ideology.

    *With due apologies to those pagans who did not embrace republicanism.

    The reason for Christianity’s monarchism is, of course, it’s unique approach to humility. The pagan philosophers thought it possible for society to find the most wise person and make them ruler, while the Christians, knowing the unlimited pride of man, saw that a system designed as a meritocracy necessarily must devolve into kakistocracy.

  11. Interesting post and thread.

    The main thing which turned me against democracy was the way in which it the word ‘democracy’ became an irrefutable good-thing-by-definition – yet the content or definition of that word is a ‘black box’ has become almost limitlessly malleable.

    e.g a fixed election (such as I believe that last US election to have been) is regarded as of equal validity to any other kind of election – and indeed there is no notion of what a ‘fair’ election is supposed to mean.

    Once it is believed that ‘democracy’ is The Answer then morality has been destroyed by procedure (and not even a defined procedure, but merely some vague class-of-voting-procedures) – whatever ‘democracy’ says or does is regarded as the best answer; morally unchallangeable by any individual person.

    ‘What is best?’ becomes, whatever comes out of the democracy-black-box.

    For me, all that is a sure sign of evil-at-work.

  12. The notion of Christian kingship can fairly be said to begin with the anointing of Clovis as Most Christian King of the Franks by St Remegius in 496

    There is an illustration in an 8th century Liber Pontificalis of Rheims that convey s this notion perfectly. At the top, we see the heavens open to reveal the Father enthroned with the Son at His right hand and a seven-branched candelabra burning before them; the Spirit descends, in the form of a dove and seven tongues of flame, the counterpart of the heavenly candelabra, rest on the head of Clovis. In case the symbolism is lost on the reader, the border around the illustration contains the text, “non enim ad mensuram dat Deus Spiritum” (Jn 3:34) – God does not give [him] the Spirit by measure.

  13. Please read the quotations at 1:57, 2:09, 2:43, 2:54, 3:10 and 4:00 in this video.

  14. Was not the original idea that the Earthly government should reflect or mirror the Heavenly governing structure? Thus the Earthly hierarchy of ruling powers should reflect the mighty spiritual hierarchy of Angels, Archangels, Archai, all the way up to Christ. The Material domain mirroring the Cosmic-Spiritual Domain. Somehow I doubt the lower angelic beings gather in parliaments to discuss the pros and cons of Christ’s policies.

  15. Indeed, I have read that such arguments were once common.

  16. In particular, Voegelin claims that the idea of absolutism came originally from pseudo-Dionysius’ work on the angelic hierarchy. Giles of Rome commented on the work and wrote works justifying the power of the French crown, and was the main drafter of the papal bull Unam Sanctam.

  17. the problem came when the nobles and commoners were forgotten. if the focus on the angelic hierarchy had been thus, that monarch-is-the-state arrangement wouldn’t have happened. instead, absolutism came as kings (allied with the growing urban bourgeoisie) rediscovered the classics and Greco-Roman Caesarism to prop up themselves, either against the Church (Germans) or for it (French, Spanish). Giles of Rome and Unam Sanctam were indeed heavy for papal and royal power, but that didn’t mean discarding medieval thought nor the other Estates in society (nobility, clergy, and the commons divided in bourgeoisie and peasantry) until Machiavelli’s ideas took hold, in combination with these religious ones (which also tended to forget that the symmetry between heavenly and earthly government was imperfect) and others of course. for example, the Crusade for the New World got rebranded as exploration for material profit and evangelization as secondary; this would lead to imperial wars and eventually border wars and the rise of nationalism (not necessarily bad, but it was quite violent then) and also of secularism (definitely bad).

    likewise, the people forgot that while authority was given from above, the exerciser of that authority can attain it however “the One Above” deems fit. this may include inheritance, by default perhaps, but not necessarily so; perhaps on jubilees, the royals get married to the best of nobles and commons, as a gesture of goodwill toward the subjects, thus enhancing bloodlines and continuing without bloodshed; as well as establishing a Stats-General/Courts including clergy and nobility (today landholders, corporations, and unions) and specially the commoners, perhaps not in a separate body but with some more representation out of kingly goodwill (due to the fact that modern states have way too many powerless commoners and too few and big corporations/unions/landholders – thanks liberalism). and, if all else fails (corrupt and/or sterile dynasty) the Stats-General could always meet and (with much harder to meet requirements) declare the king a heretic ipso facto due to completely (*keyword*) absconding his divine obligation from the Lord to care for his people, and proceeding to choose a new king or even local dynasty from among the Stats if needed… I know, convoluted, but heck it works for the sedevacantists…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: