The Confusion Surrounding Theocracy

The full definition of the word ‘theocracy‘ according to Merriam-Webster is thus

“government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided”

This is closer to the mark than most definitions, but misses the point. If we were to give an etymologically informed definition, we would see that we have two root words in the Greek: theos meaning God, and kratia meaning regime, rule, or central strength. Theocracy is in essense the rule of God. One really has to qualify this term “divinely guided” used in Webster’s definition. What does this mean? Any Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Hindu can be said to be following divine guidance, as is written in their respective holy texts. Is this referring to direct communication from God such as that received by Moses as he ruled over the Hebrews after the Exodus? It would seem that a theocracy by definition gives the head of state position to a deity. That deity is what weilds tangible political power in its reign over the society.

When Christians speak of theocracy, it is accurate to describe it as the government to come after the Second Coming, when Christ takes political authority over man from that point into eternity. At no other time has there been or will there be a true theocracy. We can however point to fraudulent theocracies, for instance that of Ancient Egypt where pharaoh was believed to be quite literally an incarnation of Horus, the falcon god.

but wait! Isn’t Iran a theocracy?

Working with etymological definitions, we can dismiss the claim that countries like Iran are theocracies, even in the fraudulent sense. This charge typically comes from ignorance of how the Islamic Republic of Iran actually operates. The Ayatollah holds the political position of Supreme Leader, and apart from him exists a president who has a lot more direct involvement in politics. It may surprise many to know, but the supreme leader is in part, democratically elected… sort of. The position is filled by appointment from a body known as the ‘Assembly of Experts’, themselves Mujtahids (Islamic theologians) elected by popular vote every eight years.
The Supreme Leader has many powers, the most important of which is appointing various high officials including the head of the armed forces, the chief judge, and the heads of various religious foundations highly influential in Iranian life. While the Ayatollah may be more involved in his country’s politics than the Queen of England is in her own, part of his public image relies on being untarnished by messy political squabbles between the various legislative bodies. He does have the power to veto any bill, but he cannot declare war without a two thirds majority vote in the parliament. He is a high priest, he is not a deity.

With this in mind, Iran can be classed as a somewhat weak ‘Syncretic Ecclesiocratic Republic’. When leftists formally refer to a theocracy, they are really talking about some form of ecclesiocracy, from the root Greek: ekklesiastes meaning speaker of the assembly of church, and kratia. This is a government ruled by religious authorities who hold the position of supreme authority over the people.

When leftists refer informally to a theocracy, we know what they mean.

Bruce Charlton addresses this point in his post entitled ‘The absolute need for theocracy (or, what will get called “theocracy” by modern mainstream secular discourse)’

Essentially, to the Modernist any society built on absolutes in the areas of law and government is definable as a theocracy and it matters not whether God is actually the head of state, or whether religious leaders run the country. If you wish to force upon anyone a moral code that the left disagrees with, you will be accused of promoting theocracy. One could accurately define this as ‘the tyranny of right and wrong‘.

I have maintained for a long time now the maxim that “we in the west have a morality police. We call them ‘the police’“. Essentially, no matter how much you try to run away from it, all law enforcement is a matter of moral judgment for all laws, at base, are statements about what one should and should not do in a society. There is NO objective difference between the Sharia police in Iran and the traffic cop who pulls you over for speeding on Route 66. There is merely a subjective difference in that one may enforce laws you agree with, while the other may enforce laws you don’t agree with. This is besides the point as it pertains to the actual function of the policing institution.

In an early posting, I spoke about the Four Laws Theory about how man governs himself, one of the four laws being ‘Theonomy‘, the law of the Divine.

Allow me to present a contrast between two ‘morality policemen‘ handling the situation of a robbery. The first conversation in BLUE will be the interaction between the thief and a secular police officer. The second conversation in RED will be the interaction between the thief and a hypothetical clerical officer of the Ecclesium (Judicial body functioning between sovereign and priesthood).

Officer: You are under arrest for theft.

Thief: Why am I under arrest for theft?

Officer: Because theft is against the law!

Thief: Why is theft against the law?

Officer: Because society wouldn’t function if everyone was stealing all the time!

Thief: Why should I care about the society?

Officer: Because it would be negligent not to!

Thief: Why should I not be negligent?

Officer: Well…. ummm….

This conversation could hypothetically go on for hours, going through motion after motion, secular concern after secular concern, and it wouldn’t end up anywhere. You would always be left with a question of why one should do such and such. Let’s look at the next conversation.

Officer: You are under arrest for theft.

Thief: Why am I under arrest for theft?

Officer: Because theft is against the law.

Thief: Why is theft against the law?

Officer: Because it is an intolerable immorality.

Thief: How do you know it is an intolerable immorality?

Officer: Exodus 20:15.

Thief: But why should we obey that moral law?

Officer: No further reasoning is required, citizen. No moral reasoning goes beyond the Creator. It ends with Him, and thus from Him we have derived the law that we ought to live by, that which you have so shamefully broken.

The second conversation here reflects the law enforcement conditions present in a societal theonomy, that being a society which openly and unequivocally recognizes that all civil laws concerning matters ought and ought not are derived from the Moral Law given to man by the Divine source of all that was, is, and ever will be.

Reactionaries do not wish to set up a theocracy (it would be impossible to do so, completely beyond our power)

Reactionaries do not wish to set up an ecclesiocracy (the priesthood is not the primary source of political power in the World of Tradition)

Reactionaries do seek to reinstate theonomy.

Not to be confused with the somewhat heretical doctrine of Christian Reconstructionism, theonomy in the political sense is the imposition of the Divine Moral Law as the basis for civil law and order in a society, to seek righteousness and justice wherever possible guided in that effort by the Holy Scripture.

So the next time a Modernist charges you with wanting to introduce a theocracy, explain etymology and sound Reactionary judicial thinking to them. Alternatively, realize that by virtue of what they are they will be incapable of comprehending such concepts and let them continue to lie in bed at night having nightmares about mullahs and the Spanish Inquisition.

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