Monday, April 25, 2011

Refuting Republicanism in Christianity Part I

As ludicrous as it may seem for anyone who knows Christian history or who has actually read the Bible, there are some out there who seem to think that not only does republicanism go hand-in-hand with Christianity but that one is even compelled to be a republican to be a Christian and that the religion is somehow opposed to monarchy. As with many such positions, this comes largely from an over-simplification of Christian history and the very selective reading of certain Biblical passages in order to fit a predetermined viewpoint. To get to the truth of the matter one has to do a little digging, just a little, though more than perhaps might result from an internet search (though perhaps I should not say that as when I tried it a previous post on Christian monarchy of my own appeared in the top slot!) and, as usual, one must keep everything in context. I know, that’s never fun but it is quite often necessary to get the complete picture.

To take the less sacred first, we shall start with the historical arguments. Among Orthodox Christians I have yet to find any who advocate republicanism from a religious standpoint (which is to the credit of the Orthodox). When it comes to Catholics and Protestants usually there is some historical prejudice that comes in to play. Most Catholic republicans who are serious Catholics, certainly in the English-speaking world, have obvious political prejudices for making them want to believe that Christianity is inherently republican. In places like North America or Australia this usually goes back to the plight of the Irish Catholics at the hands of the English and later British. The British monarchy is officially, legally and emphatically Protestant and anti-Catholic, they associate the monarchy of Britain with monarchy in general and therefore they condemn all monarchy as Protestant and evil and republicanism as good and Catholic -because the Irish Catholics founded a republic.

Obviously, such a simplistic viewpoint does not take a great deal of effort to refute. In the first place, when England first became involved in Ireland both countries were Catholic. In the second place, the worst atrocities ever carried out against the Irish were done when Britain was a republic (the Irish had supported the King believe it or not) and the original Irish rebels did not fight for republicanism but for a different (and Catholic) monarch. Furthermore, the original Irish republicans were following the example of the French Revolution, which was their inspiration, which was violently anti-Catholic. It may also surprise some to know that many if not most of the original Irish nationalists were Protestants or simply irreligious men when not. Robert Emmet, Wolfe Tone, the founders of the United Irishmen and Young Ireland and many other groups that later evolved into the IRA were Protestants. On the other hand, Dan O’Connell, an Irish Catholic and a nationalist, was horrified by the revolutionary French republic and advocated only a repeal of the Act of Union and political independence for Ireland and not the overthrow of the monarchy. The sectarian conflicts as we know them did not come until much later, mostly in the north and then mostly led by members of the IRA who were often socialists, communists and not in any sense good Catholics.

Other Catholics, in Latin America, again make a patriotic issue out of this, in a way putting nationalism before religion (and it is a shame when that happens because nationalism *always* wins). They remain Catholic but put aside the religious support for monarchy in order to oppose the imperial rule of Spain. The problem, of course, is that most of these countries, once becoming independent, eventually stopped being officially Catholic as well and in many cases even turned violently secularist. More intellectual types might take a broader historical view and turn to the many clashes between the Church and the Crown in numerous countries throughout history but seen most blatantly in Germany with the “Investiture Dispute”. Surely that shows Catholic opposition to monarchy since the Italian republics tended to support the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor and many of the aristocrats opposed the Pontiff? No, and quite obviously not as these people seem to overlook the fact that those aristocrats and those emperors were all Catholic as well! Moreover, at no time did the Pope ever try to abolish the Holy Roman monarchy, at most he tried to remove an anti-clerical monarch with a pro-clerical one. It was the Papacy that had first established the office of Holy Roman Emperor and at no time in any of the Church conflicts with the kings of Europe did they ever advocate having no king at all.

Finally, there are those who say that all of that may be true but all that really matters is the here and now and today the Catholic Church and all the recent pontiffs have supported republics and liberal democracy and opposed monarchy. Once again, those people would be wrong, though perhaps not as entirely wrong as I would like. Republicanism and liberal democracy is certainly the prevailing trend in the Catholic Church as in the world at large, however, their support for republicanism cannot countermand the past support of priests, bishops, pontiffs and saints for monarchy. Moreover, regardless of political pronouncements on this or that subject, recent pontiffs have actually never said anything against monarchy and probably had more ties to monarchy than one would think. Pope St Pius X was a staunch monarchist and Pope Bl. Pius XI famously instituted the Solemnity of Christ the King. The relationship of Pope Pius XII (a product of the old Roman “Black Nobility”) and the downfall of the Italian monarchy was complicated but suffice it to say that he regretted the loss of it. Even when papal pronouncements on freedom and democracy became the norm you had Pope John Paul II beatifying the last Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, something he certainly would not have done if he was anti-monarchy or felt monarchy was un-Christian.

For Protestants, the issue is difficult to tackle since there is no common Protestant doctrine; it is far too diverse an entity to address as a whole. Traditionally most placed their emphasis on the Bible alone and that subject will be addressed in Part II of this mini-series. However, most Protestant denominations today can be traced back to one of two sources: Martin Luther and the Lutheran Church he founded or the Church of England founded by King Henry VIII. These two are easy to address. Martin Luther was a staunch monarchist and that was one thing he never really wavered on throughout his life. He exalted the assorted princes of Germany and said that it was the monarchs (rather than the popes) who carried out the divine will on earth. In fact, when misconstrued teachings of his were taken up by a popular rebellion of the lower class he wrote one of his most controversial works calling on the princes to get to work wiping out the peasants! Rest assured, Luther was no republican and would have been horrified at such a suggestion. Evidence can also be seen in the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, the only countries in which Lutheranism is the official state religion, all are monarchies.

Finally, we have the Church of England. Today the Anglican Communion is rife with republicans even though there is probably no Christian tradition wherein this makes less sense than Anglicanism. The Church of England was founded by a monarch (Henry VIII), fully defined by another monarch (Elizabeth I) and had as its foundational principle non-interference with the royal power. Here is a case where the form of government is not decided by religion but where the religion itself came from a form of government. In other words, the monarchy did not come from the Church of England; the Church of England came from the monarchy. The King was recognized as the “supreme head on earth” of the church and supreme in religious matters. To this day, as far as I know, the Church of England is the only major Christian denomination wherein the supreme position is held by a hereditary monarch rather than a purely religious figure. This was also later extended somewhat in the Protestant community in the English-speaking world following the Toleration Act of 1689 which extended religious freedom to everyone except Catholics as a way of consolidating all English-speaking Protestants behind the monarchy.

King Henry VIII, who founded the Church of England, while not exactly a paragon of virtue, was a very religious man and quite a Biblical scholar. Both Luther and the leaders of the Anglican movement looked to Scripture to show that monarchy was the form of government God favored above all others. Christians of every sort did the same and in Part II of this refutation of Christian republicanism we will look into how utterly futile it is to try to use the Bible to justify republicanism.



    Well too many today think the Bible is all about Republicanism and Christianity, because it teaches that all men ought to be Free, favours a Republic. I shall of course note that I disagree most strongly, for the most ardent Republicans had always been those who wanted rid of Christianity, and obviously Christ is our King, not our Duly Elected President. I fail to see why this is not more obvious.

    Nonetheless, I think most who say Christianity favours Republicanism or opposes Monarchy do so because they simply aren’t honest with themselves. They love Republicanism, and love Christianity, but study neither in terms of History or Theory. They construct their own version of what Christianity is and what Republicanism is and what a Monarchy is, and align their Religion with their politics by simply subjugating them all to their preferences and desires and the narratives they tell themselves. A Perfect example of this is a book, “The 5000 Year Leap”, by W. Cleon Skousen, which so abuses its source materials and so distorts History as to be laughable. It even calls the Jacobins Right Wingers who only wanted to limit the Kings power and says they fought only for Freedom! Of course Paul Skousen himself told me on another forum that the Jacobins were not hostile to Christianity!

    People reinvent History to read how they want it, and rather than the Truth, seek only fables that fit their own prejudices and desires.

  2. As a passionate student of history, I oftentimes turn to a historically-based argument for my positions. Usually, I find that history vindicates both Christianity and Monarchy.
    If over 1500 years worth of scholars and theologians could not find an issue with Christian monarchy, what makes people think that Republicanism is God's choice?
    Willful ignorance, I say.

  3. Many people take a very *selective* reading of history -which is nothing new and not limited simply to Christianity or monarchism. Communists choose to view everything in terms of a class struggle, associating both monarchy and religion ONLY with the upper classes. Of course that ignores things like the number of aristocrats who sided with the revolution, even the clerics who turned traitor, all trying to save their own skins which ultimately did them no good. As for the revolution, it might have started with the butchering of aristocrats but in the end, many more common people were killed than aristocrats.

    There are also those (not communists, at least not consciously so) who view everything in terms of a struggle for "democracy", taking that as an absolute good and so take the side of the Jacobins against the king. The truth, of course, is that the Jacobins were against religion and ( as it happens ) were against democracy too. It is a flag for them but of course, popular government never happens.

  4. If I am not mistaken, God was the one who “crowned” Saul. He finally became corrupt and God dethroned him and crowned David as the King of Israel. Interestingly, God didn’t make David the first president of Israel.
    Every time the Israelis were too sinful in the eyes of God, he would destroy their kingdom and forced them to live as a conquered nation or even as a mere conquered people.
    By the time of Christ, the Mediterranean already had had two republics, Athens and Rome; however, Christ never lectured about the democratic republic of heaven despite his lectures about brotherhood and equality.

  5. True, God chose Saul and later chose David to replace him, but I will be getting into all of that in Part II tomorrow.

  6. Great article. I was--if you can believe it--a traditional Catholic market-anarchist until very recently (I'm still Catholic.) I used to think that anarcho-capitalist libertarianism was the great discovery of history, but now I see it as only the most logical conclusion from bad republican premises. In any event, I would now call myself a "legitimist" in the sense that Otto von Hapsburg used the term: "I am often asked if I am a republican or a monarchist. I am neither, I am a legitimist: I am for legitimate government. You could never have a monarchy in Switzerland, and it would be asinine to imagine Spain as a republic."

  7. A great post MM it takes down the falses arguments of the republican majority, it is true the Catholic Church has always been monarchist althought there are many republicans inside of it, it has a long history of suporting the monarchy since the times of Constantine the Great.

    I really hate how the people now defend secularism the secularism is politic without morality the seculars one in my country allowed the fags (excuseme if anyone is offended by the term) to marry when the cardinal bergoglio called to an referendum to say yes or no and the corrupts of the senators of the kirchnerism where bribed to vote for the yes, i use that example to ask (a politician with morals principle in a confesional and religious state would do that?.

    Hi from Argentina.

  8. As a staunch Catholic monarchist and regular blog reader I say thanks. I look forward to see Catholic monarchism further explored in this series.

    19th century Conservatives in various European and Latin American countries defined themselves by their adherence to tradition and to Catholicism, but good examples of such in Latin American republics have included Gabriel Garcia Moreno of Ecuador and Rafael Carrera of Guatemala. Not to mention the long history of clerical v anticlerical politics in Mexico. Interesting to note that when Conservative regimes fell in Central and South America, the countries were left more vulnerable to foreign economic exploitation.

  9. Gabriel Garcia Moreno was a great man, he was also a monarchist at heart who wanted to import a Spanish prince (or some such candidate) to be the monarch of Ecuador. Rafael Carrera came along after the break with monarchy had already occurred. As to your last point, that is to some extent true and partly why the U.S. took such a dim view of the effort to institute a monarchy in Mexico by Agustin de Iturbide.

  10. True, but Carrera and other 19th century conservatives wanted to preserve as much of the old Spanish order in the Americas as possible. But what is noteworthy, especially in Central America, was that Conservative governments protected economies and respected communal and indigenous land rights. The Liberal regimes which followed not only sought to secularise society, but their policies led to indigenous dispossession, one of the underlying causes of the problems of the region in subsequent decades.

    This was also a factor in Mexico, particularly during the 1860s where Maximilian won at least some indigenous support. Noting too in the early years of the Mexican Revolution that Catholics did politically organise, a precursor to Cristeros and further activism.

    A good example is the Mosquito Coast in Nicaragua, which was a kingdom under British protection, whose autonomy was generally respected by Nicaraguan Conservative governments, whereas the Liberal regime of Santos Zelaya not only ended any vestiges of the autonomous monarchy, but also dissolved other communal holdings.

    Garcia Moreno would be worthy to profile here.

  11. And I might do that. As you say, Maximilian was very popular with the Indians in Mexico (you can check past posts done on men like General Mejia or the Yaqui tribe in Mexico) and this was true as well in North America where most Native tribes sided with the British against the American revolutionaries. Rafael Carrera was also a strong supporter of the native population. Also, in the far south, the Mapuche Indians in Chile were very loyal to the Spanish Crown against the republican forces.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...