HERMIT IN THE WOODS
Dedicated to the American Spirit
GOD and GOVERNMENT
It is not known at what point in the history of civilization that god came into government, but in the early developmental stages of humankind, government was quickly recognized as an effective tool for controlling the masses. When god and the state became one, any decision made by the state became impossible to challenge. Leaders were gods, proclaimed to be guided by the gods, or were in touch with the gods, so all decisions were presumed to be confirmed by the gods and the common human had no power to challenge the direction of the state. Anyone opposing the government was both a traitor and a heretic. This was the pattern for most of the early civilizations in China, India, Babylonia, Persia, Egypt, and South America.
Simply stated, there are only two types of government in the world – the one in which the state is greater than the individual and the one in which the individual is greater than the state. Ancient Greece was the first to establish a system of government in which the individual was greater than the state. The government (state) was run by men who were not considered gods or appointed by gods so their decisions could be openly questioned. It took more than mere opposition to the government to make a person a traitor or heretic. A person could normally challenge the wisdom of the leaders without fear of government reprisal. The founders adopted many of these ideas which recognized the value of the individual over the state. They established a unique system of government that recognized the existence of God so government would be limited by “God’s pronouncements” which they referred to as God’s natural laws. On the other hand, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, fascism, and communism believed the individual was nothing and the state was god. When a secular government does not recognize or acknowledge God, then there are no limits, moral or otherwise, to the actions a government can take.
In forming the Constitution, the founders measured political systems in terms of the amount of coercive power or systematic control particular systems of government had over its people. This measure was not concerned with the affiliations of political parties, but with the execution of political power. The founders considered the two extremes of this yardstick – tyranny at one end and anarchy at the other. Tyranny at one extreme meant too much control, too much political oppression, and too much government; this was referred to as the “Ruler’s Law”. Anarchy at the other end meant no order, no rules, no systemic control, and no government; this was referred as “No Law.”
It was obvious that confusion, chaos, and danger would exist in a state of anarchy which would essentially be “every man for himself.” On the other hand, tyranny is equally dangerous in that authority is established by force, violence, and conquest, and all sovereign power is considered to be in the conqueror. The land of the country becomes the property of the government. Under the “Ruler’s Law” people are not equal, they have no unalienable rights, but are divided into classes and looked upon as subjects of the ruling class. A tyrannical government has no fixed rule of law, but rules by edict or executive order which constantly reinterprets the law to favor the agenda of those in power and enforces these edicts to maintain control of the people. Such a government creates unnecessary regulations and ever-expanding bureaucracies to harass the people while paying themselves handsomely through excessive taxation.
In direct contrast to the ruler’s law, the founders sought to discover a balance between these two extremes called the “People’s Law.” In this system of government, the founders considered the people to be a commonwealth of freemen. All decisions and the selection of leaders had to be with the consent of the people. The power was dispersed among the people and never allowed to be concentrated in one person or group. The primary responsibility for solving problems was a bottom up proposition meaning problem resolutions began with the individual and then the family, community, region, and if necessary, issues would be dealt with nationally. Everyone attempted to solve problems on the level in which the problem originated. The laws by which the people were governed were considered natural laws given by divine dispensation. The rights of the individual were considered unalienable and could not be violated without risking the wrath of divine justice as well as civil retribution by the people’s judges. In their heart of hearts our founders attempted to create a system that would be a moral institution guided by divine Providence. Our fledgling republic began with the highest expectations, but now over 230 years later, our system has moved from the people’s rule toward tyranny. Our government has become a bureaucratic and oppressive beast that uses its various agencies to attack citizens who oppose it as well as those who demand accountability and transparency.
The Nature of the Beast
Today in America, the citizens of our country are dealing with a system of government that is acting in direct opposition to the principles upon which our republic was founded. In crafting our Constitution, the founders looked for examples of wisdom, virtue, and integrity in the leaders and statesmen of Greece and Rome. One of these men was Cicero, who is cited in the book, Christianity and Classical Culture. Cicero states that the duties of public office should be fourfold: “(1) to maintain the rights of property; (2) to abstain from burdensome taxation; (3) to ensure to every one an abundance of the necessities of life; and (4) to be scrupulously clean-handed, above the suspicion of greed or corruption. In light of these maxims, he denounces as worthy of capital punishment statements made by the tribune Philippus when he declared that, in all Rome, there were not above 2,000 property owners. In this he saw an attempt to inflame the passions of the mob and to promote an agitation for ‘sharing the wealth’ which would subvert the whole fabric of organized society.” Apparently, history truly does repeat itself! Today, there are many elected and appointed officials who are applying the same sinister and devious methods as Philippus.
Once again, we the people are now faced with having to deeply consider the nature of the beast we call our government. We have to seriously question the relations of the state to freedom and to the individual. In its origin, essence, and purpose, the state is not inspired by enthusiasm for freedom, justice, or human personality, although it has to deal with all of these. First and foremost, the state is an embodiment of power and it loves power more than legality, justice, or righteousness. It strives for order, strength, power, and expansion, forcibly maintaining a minimum of justice and righteousness, not out of kindness or love of justice, but to assert itself as being strong and stable. Striving for power is the downfall of the state and an expression of the demonic principle within it. Power lures the state on to conquests and expansion; in any conflict between might and right the state always is on the side of might.
The unholy and unrighteous nature of the state power shows itself in the fact that power is demoralizing; it unbridles passions and lets loose dark unconscious instincts. From the moral point of view, power ought to be regarded as a duty and a burden and not as a right and a privilege. The lust for power is as sinful as every other lust. The trouble is that the exercise of power kindles the lust for more, so only people of exceptional spirituality, like George Washington avoid succumbing to it. Unfortunately, power is generally sought after and exercised by the individuals seeking fame, fortune, and recognition, and who seldom reach a high moral or spiritual level.
What can we citizens hope for since there is no ideal form of state; all political utopias are radically false. There can only be relative improvements, generally connected with limiting the power of state. In its demonic will to power the state always strives to exceed its limits and to become an absolute monarchy, an absolute democracy, an absolute communism. The ancient Greco-Roman world did not recognize any limits to the state; the city-state was for it absolute. Limits were fixed by Christianity which liberated humans from the power of the world; the human soul being more precious than the kingdoms of this world. The state belongs to the kingdoms of this world of sin and does not in any way resemble the Kingdom of God. The state has a double character – it both struggles against the consequences of sin by externally limiting the expressions of evil will, and in so doing is itself contaminated with sin, reflecting it in all it does.
The greatest mistake in the history of the church and of Christianity was the initiative to ascribe a sacred, theocratical character to the kingdom of the Caesar. Christian monarchies were a monstrous mixture of the kingdom of the Caesar and the Kingdom of God with a predominance always being given to the Caesar. The sacred state, the holy power of the monarchy, was supposed to guide human souls and to look after their salvation, but in reality, this task rightfully belonged to the church. The relationship between the church and state is paradoxical, however, historically and socially, the state forms part of the church and the church forms part of the state, is subject to its laws and is protected or oppressed by it.
The democratic state is just as much a kingdom of the Caesar as a monarchy and to ascribe an absolute and sacred significance to democracy is as wrong as to ascribe it to monarchy. Tyranny and disregard for human personality and freedom may exist in a democratic state as much as in an absolute monarchy and are at their worst in a communistic state. However, the state has a good mission to fulfill, the authority to bear the sword against a sinful and fallen world. Even the worst kind of state carries out that good mission, but every state perverts it through its will to power and an inclination to overstep its boundaries. The state cannot be sacred and absolute; it cannot be in the least like the Kingdom of God because it is always based on compulsion and compulsory power which has its origins in sin. The relationship of the ruler and the ruled is foreign to the Kingdom of God which knows only the relation of love. There can be no perfect, ideal state, for every state means the rule of one set of men over others. The ideal, perfect life puts an end to such rule and indeed to all compulsory power, even to that of God; for it is only to a sinful world that God can appear as a source of compulsion.
The State and the Individual
The fundamental moral problem with regard to the state is the relationship between the state and the individual. The mystery of the individual does not exist for the state; personality is for it merely a general term. The nature of the state is impersonal; it is devoid of grace and holiness and has a non-Christian nature and origin. The state does not recognize unique personalities; the inner world of the individual and his destiny are closed to it. The state may reluctantly admit in the abstract the personal rights of a man and a citizen, but it will never recognize the particular and qualitatively unique rights of individual human beings, which have a destiny of their own. It is impossible to demand this of the state; hence, it is not interested in personal destinies nor will it take notice of them. This is the perennial struggle, the tragic conflict between the individual and the state from the ethical point of view.
The individual cannot live without the state, but recognizes that the system has a certain value and is prepared to work in it and make sacrifices for its sake. But at the same time, the individual rebels against “the cold impersonal beast” which oppresses all personal existence. The spheres of personal life and of the life of the state never coincide but only partially intersect. The value of the individual (as an extension of the soul) is hierarchically higher than that of the state – individuality belongs to eternity and the state to time; individuality bears the image and likeness of God and the state does not; most individuals are moving toward and may enter into the Kingdom of God, but the state never can. In the “herd-life” or “progressive mentality” of our sinful world, the state in all its glory may appear as a superpersonal value inspiring individuals to heroic deeds, but all forms of state organization and power are temporal and transitory and can never be treated as absolute or regarded as sacred.
The only political principle which is connected with absolute truth is the principle of the subjective rights of the human individual, of the freedom of spirit, of conscience, of thought and speech. The state in all its forms has a tendency to violate that principle. The monistic state, whether it is an absolute monarchy or a form of socialism is particularly dangerous and hostile to personal freedom; the mixed and pluralistic forms of state organization are not so apt to be tyrannical and represent a lesser evil.
Sociologically, the individual and society are bound to one another; the individual cannot be conceived apart from society, and society presupposes the existence of individuals. Society is a distinct reality and not just the sum total of its members. Society has an ontological kernel which the state has not; the Kingdom of God is a society, expressing an authentic communion between persons. In the hierarchy of spiritual values the highest position belongs to personality (the soul), the second to society, and the last to the state. But in the “mass-minded” world of the human herd, the lower value acquires the highest significance, and the highest has the least importance. The state has more power; then comes society, and personality, which has the greatest value, has the least. Spiritual freedom is the highest value in life, but in the world of government it has no importance. This tragic conflict between values is insoluble in the sinful world where power and value do not coincide and quantity has precedence over quality.
The state is incapable of penetrating the spirit of personality or comprehending the infinite depths of the spiritual life. It is incapable of comprehending the spiritual life of the individual, the spiritual life of the Christian society, or the communion we have with one another, all of which is rooted in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, from the ethical point of view, the principle of the absolute supremacy of the state is wrong and immoral, so is socialism and communism, which denigrates and socializes the citizen and suppresses personality. Morally, we as a people must strive for a societal organization in which the principles of personality, society, and the state interact and mutually limit one another, giving the individual the greatest possible freedom of creative spiritual life. This places a burden of responsibility upon the citizens of our country to be virtuous, honest, trustworthy, and considerate of one another. In the world today, this seems like a tall order to fulfill, but it can be accomplished one individual at a time standing firmly in the Light of God.