Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Will there be a just ordering of the world? And is “representative democracy” the way to do it?

Yes, there will be a just ordering of the world—when Jesus returns and after the thousand years Satan will be destroyed (Revelation 20). And before that? Probably not. But as Jacques Ellul says,

I believe that the anarchist fight, the struggle for an anarchist society, is essential, but I also think that the realizing of such a society is impossible (Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity, p. 19).

He further elaborates,

The more the power of the state and bureaucracy grows, the more the affirmation of anarchy is necessary as the sole and last defense of the individual, that is, of humanity (Ibid., p. 23).

Ellul sees anarchy as the only serious challenge to the abuse of power.

We can denounce not merely the abuses of power but power itself. But only anarchy says this and wants it (Ibid.).

Any other solution involves the power of some people over others. And no basis for elevating some into power over others exists. Now Rothbard:

Suppose, for example, that there are many competing cantaloupe stores in a particular neighborhood. One of the cantaloupe dealers, Smith, then uses violence to drive all of his competitors out of the neighborhood; he has thereby employed violence to establish a coerced monopoly over the sale of cantaloupes in a given territorial area. Does that mean that Smith’s use of violence to establish and maintain his monopoly was essential to the provision of cantaloupes in the neighborhood? Certainy not, for there were existing competitors as well as potential rivals should Smith ever relax his and threat of violence; moreover, economics demonstrates that Smith, as a coercive monopolist will tend to perform his service badly and inefficiently. protected from competition by the use of force, Smith can afford to provide his service in a costly and inefficient manner, since the consumers are deprived of any possible range of alternative choice. Furthermore, should a group arise to call for the abolition of Smith’s coercive monopoly, there would be very few protestors with the temerity to accuse these “abolitionists” of wishing to deprive the consumers of their much desired cantaloupes.

And yet, the State is only our hypothetical Smith on a gigantic and all-encompassing scale (Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, p. 161).

The state, of course, arrogates to itself a monopoly over a variety of services, including police and military services, law, money, and more. The state is, therefore, as a starting-point, a most inefficient arrangement, for competition between providers is prevented.

Because resources are limited, inefficiency itself serves as a tax upon those most in need. To pay for a state is to impose inefficiency and scarcity upon society. A current example of the insanity of government is the “cash for clunkers” program. This sounds more like a plot off of a science fiction television series where starship Explorer comes upon a planet that produces and immediately destroys goods. There would surely be an hour or so of story line that could be wrung out of such an absurd imaginary culture. But we needn’t find a screenwriter to provide the story; it is current in the United State today. My children and grandchildren are paying for the intentional destruction of wealth in order to “reduce pollution” and to “stimulate” the economy. My children will be poor tomorrow so that your children can live off of their blood today. The state is vampiric and parasitical.

But there is the goodness that is the Constitution. Only one problem: The state interprets the rules that govern itself. In the end there is no way that an objective, just source of coercive fallen human over fallen human lordship is obtainable. Put simply, we may place overlords over ourselves who are as fallen as we are, or we may live in a society so ordered that the distortions of arbitrary rules and schemes like “cash for clunkers” have been discontinued, and men relate to each other on the basis of their own direct action. In the end, we “reap what we sow” (Galatians 6:7). And the world will be a more just place if in the present also we “reap what we sow.”

Our real options are (A) variations on totalitarianism, or (B) anarchism. That is all. Either some lording it over others, or no one lording it over others. The minarchist (minimum state) Constitutional route, as in the USA, is shown to be a mirage. The USA has become the most vast and invasive force for distortion, imposition, and expropriation that the earth has yet seen.

To return to the theme of the collapse of reality distortion, it is good to see that there is an enormous increase in skepticism about the state. But unless at least some people begin to understand the root cause of distortion (choosing option A), any relief, perhaps after a wrenching period of turmoil, will be short-lived, and will be replaced again, with another statist world regime. Time will tell.

In the meantime, an opportunity could be placed before us that has not been seen for hundreds of years: the opportunity for a newly relevant Christianity. If Christians can see through, and realize that “the state is the permanent enemy of mankind” (Rothbard, Ethics, p. 262), something different is possible. The alternative could be one of the greatest setbacks Christianity would ever face: To align itself with the nation-state just as the domination of the nation-state has run its course and it is in rapid decline. The state is not of Christianity, is not even “just” in potential.

May the distortion field continue to come off!

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Comments on: "Reality distortion field failure pt. 2" (3)

  1. Robert Stump said:

    I think in many ways we agree, anarchism for instance, but I would disagree with the idea “to have power” Christianity must be disentangled from the state. I would argue rather that it has power, through Christ, and it is this power, and this alone that would enable it to disentangle from the beast.

    It is not much of a distinction but it is an important one. One view says we must break from evil to have the full power of God, the other says we can only break from evil with the power of God.

    That is not to say that it is unimportant to point out evil. I often point out the passages about serving two masters, or in Samuel which describes all of the horrors of kingship [read Centralized Authority], to be harmless as doves; wise as serpents. But this is of a secondary nature to the big picture. Of first important is to be with Christ.

    If you look at 1 Samuel 8, the Lord tells Samuel, that it is not Samuel, but He Himself whom the people forsake as their king. It is for this reason the God says he will not heed their calls when they realize the evils of government. To put it more clearly, if God permitted his people to have a king only because they had forsaken Him, and did not trust him to reign over them, why would he take away a king from people who already have forsaken him?

  2. Robert,
    Your post called to mind this statement in _After Christiandom_ by Hauerwas where he says that the problem is how Christians can “learn to think of themselves as missionaries in a world that we have at least in part been responsible for making” (p. 149).

    The blend of church and state underlies much of the way things presently are. And yet, this very blend is the primary (post-Fall) source of the corruption of the world (see Rev 18). Hauerwas, again in _After Christndom_ laments, “we [Christians] have failed to challenge those stories that legitimate the powers that rule us” (p. 144).

    For Christianity to have the power that it should, it must disentangle itself from the state. The world is looking for more than a watered-down tool of state power. But civile religion can be very hard to detect when you are lost inside of it. You remain unaware that you are caught in the matrix.

  3. Robert Stump said:

    This article is an excellent read.

    I was just thinking about the idea of Christianity’s resurrection from a failing world. The thought came from the end of GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. He says something to the effect that just as Constantine was nailing the cross to the mast of the Roman Empire, it sank, but that as the world reemerged it was the cross that lifted it from the waters. He goes on to say that Christianity was the only light in the Dark Ages.

    What struck me, though, was that I have always had a distaste for Christianity becoming the state religion. That, at the time, being Christian gave you privileges otherwise lost to the remaining Pagan world and in doing so Christianity had lost some of its vitality and fire, but from Chesterton’s perspective it was the world that was losing steam and Christianity was the force that kept it moving. It would make joining the state a moot point. If Christians align with the state they will be the only remaining light in a falling world, and as it has come before, we can hope Christ will lift us again from the water, as he lifted Peter on that stormy night as he sunk beneath the surface of the sea.

    That is not to say that we should stop fighting against it. It is that very joy, and tremendous spirit, which the pagan before, and the materialist now, know nothing of, that can carry the world ahead. But I doubt it matters nearly as much from where we fight, if it is with tax-collectors, or Samaritans, or with lepers, or martyrs we will still fight. Chesterton says earlier in Orthodoxy that courage is not being brave when you know you will win but rather that it is being brave when you know you will lose. That it is this that made Medieval Chivarly, that to be brave you had to have a strong desire to live mixed with a readiness to die. “He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.” I think that is the point not where you fight, but how.

    Cheers

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