THE DIVINE CONSTITUTION:
A RADICAL RETHINKING OF THE
4-1. I shall define the church here as that set of social relations guided by the
principles of unconditional altruism and non-retribution implicit in agápe love,
whereas the state will be defined as that set of social relations guided by the principles
of egoism and retribution (including those contractual relations guided by the profit
motive and based on a norm of reciprocity, enforced by violence or coercion).
So defined, church and state are not confined to institutional entities or boundaries.
Furthermore, these definitions imply that all imperfect individuals sometimes operate
within both realms, not by changing their formal roles or institutional settings, but by
changing their modes of relating to other persons.
The boundaries of church and state, then, are too ambiguous to conform to the
usual institutional and legal niceties: wherever the ends and means are those endorsed
by God, there is the church. Wherever the ends (valid or not) are promoted by violent
or coercive means, there is the state.
So defined, there can be no accommodation between the two realms, for they are
differing realms of spiritual awareness and moral action, not two sets of institutions
with differing legal jurisdictions.
4-2. As for jurisdictions, God has jurisdiction in all realms, both material and
spiritual. Yet, those who act under divine sanction are constrained in the methods or
means that they may employ in any realm: they may not employ the coercive and
violent methods of the state in the name of advancing either their beliefs about God
or religion, on the one hand, or their beliefs as to how social and material good should
be allocated, on the other.
That is, God does not endorse the use of imperfect means to advance even the
most perfect ends, for God is a Perfect Being, and a Perfect Being would have us
aspire to perfection in the way that we relate to one another, on every scale and in
4-3. The church writ large is simply the realm of God in human affairs. It is the
moral community endorsed by God.
The church, so defined, does not and cannot depend upon the state for its
protection. The methods used by all who are within the realm of God cannot be the
same imperfect methods or means employed by the state.
4-4. It is sacrilege to suggest that the state can "protect" religious freedom: the
truest of true religions must find itself in constant opposition to the means employed
by the state. The church could not endorse or invoke those coercive means or
methods without losing its identity and becoming indistinguishable from the realm of
This loss of identity is the present condition of Christianity.
4-5. The church cannot affirm that the methods of the state have any lasting power
without thereby conceding that its own methods have no power.
The church survives by the power which comes of God: the power to change
minds and hearts. Such power does not come from violence or the threat of violence.
The church is not that which is called "church." The "church" and the "state"
represent two antithetical moral realms. No reconciliation between the two realms
is possible, for the apostles of each realm invoke different types of power to create
their respective communities.
4-6. Let no person fear being excluded from the communities represented by the
state, strictly understood as a mode of action based on egoism and retribution.
Exclusion from the realm of the state is the beginning of all freedom, for one
cannot belong simultaneously to the realm of the state and the realm of God, and one
cannot be free apart from God.
4-7. The idea of "church" is meaningful without being easily identifiable or
localizable within any enduring institutional setting: some who work for the
organizations created by the state actually use the methods of the church, and some
who claim to be "in the church" are actually far outside it in the methods that they
4-8. The traditional definitions of church and state are based upon legal
distinctions. Thus the traditional distinction between church and state is typically
defined and given meaning within the context of statist institutions. This should not
surprise us, since disputes between church and state (as usually typified) are usually
refereed by the state. An even greater irony comes from the fact that, as I have
defined "church," it can scarcely make appeals within the legal context without itself
leaving behind the norms governing "church" (as I have defined it) and embracing
those norms usually thought to exist within the realm of "state." I am assuming, in
so saying, that the principles of ag pe love governing those relations defined here as
"church" are incompatible with the use of coercion and threat implicit in state
The true church is thus a precarious and sometimes ephemeral social entity,
surviving largely within the interstices of society. Attempts to protect the church by
force tend to make it into its opposite. Its institutionalized existence is fragile.
Conflict within religious organizations indicates just how fragile, since religious
assemblies are often characterized by the kinds of power struggles which one might
expect within overtly statist forms of organization.
Indeed, when power politics intrudes, nominally religious organizations are statist
4-9. We are told that the U.S. Constitution is the world's best, as well as the most
enduring. These claims are more than hyperbole: they are false.
A constitution in the most general sense is the ethical foundation for a social order.
It is more than a legal order, much less a mere legal document.
The U.S. Constitution is a fallible document, written by fallible men. It was
intended primarily as device for protecting property, including persons as property.
Even as amended, it justifies war and other violent and punitive institutions. It is thus
fundamentally flawed as the foundation of a social and ethical order. Yet, one might
make a strong argument that the U.S. Constitution is the best constitution for a
retributive legal order ever written.
It is a shame that it was obsolete almost two thousand years before it was written.
4-10. The world's best constitution is found in the Sermon on the Mount
(Matthew, chapters 5-7) and associated teachings. The Sermon on the Mount, it may
be said, is not a constitution: it is not even a political document but a "religious" one.
Yet, if the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount were constitutive of our entire
society, we might be justified in being proud of our constitution. To be proud of the
present order, or to suggest that we could not do better, is not only to be pessimistic,
but profoundly reactionary.
4-11. Consider the teaching, "If a man strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the
other." (Matthew 5:39) Since the Kingdom of Heaven is to be a perfect realm where
persons do not assault others, the teaching is clearly intended for this world: the
recommendation to turn the other cheek would be meaningless if there were no
possibility that one would be struck in the first place.
4-12. Consider the teaching, "Judge not, that you be not judged." (Matthew 7:1)
Such a teaching is antithetical to the entire spirit of legal orders, which institution-
alize punishment and war; for what is judgment, if not the logical prerequisite to all
forms of retaliation, retribution, and domination?
The state is the realm wherein persons make and execute judgments of the worth
of other human beings.
4-13. Biblical inerrantists, who will quibble over sprinkling or immersion, will not
take seriously, much less literally, the most radical of ethically constitutive teachings
Christianity seems to have given up on its founder's goal of replacing all
constitutions conceived out of greed and violence: nominal Christianity is like salt that
has "lost its savor" and made its "peace" with the state. Indeed, it has become little
more than a prop for the state.
4-14. The person who is always predisposed to return good for evil, and to refrain
from judging others, must be ready for the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, if one's
"constitution" were so perfect that one would be disposed toward perfect goodness
even in the face of widespread evil, one would be ready not only for perfectly moral
action in the next life, but in this one as well.
One would, in a word, have become "Godlike."
4-15. The Messiah's concern was to exemplify a constitution which is practicable
for this world, this life. Such a constitution would be a guide for human conduct at
a stage in human development where the constitutive behavioral disposition is still far
from perfect. Although the "kingdom" will only be realized in all its fullness in the
next life, it is nonetheless already in existence and already in competition with the
secular constitutions of earthly princes, dictatorships, democracies, and every form
of man-made government.
The Kingdom of Heaven is also already in competition with our natural constitu-
tion: our dispositions to return evil for evil, and to throw off all limits on the
satisfaction of our various appetites. When that struggle has been completed, perhaps
we shall be ready for the next world, the next life.
4-16. Our overarching goals, if we take Christian ethical teachings seriously,
should be to recognize the competing claims of earthly and heavenly "kingdoms," to
accept the necessity to choose between them, and to choose the more noble and
enduring. The correctness of the choice will be justified in the end, and the derision
we are likely to receive in the present age will someday seem to have been a minor
In any case, let no one think that I speak metaphorically when I suggest that the
original (pre-Pauline) Christian ethical teachings represent the constitution which we
all ought to live by, and to which we ought to affirm our unqualified allegiance.
4-17. The constitutive foundation of the secular state is based upon reciprocation
and exclusion to varying degrees. Judgmental tendencies quickly follow, as one has
to decide who is included and who is not.
While it is true that the Sermon on the Mount requires the full context of Christian
ethics and the Christian example for its understanding, it does seem to contain within
itself the general foundation for a social order, and thus to be worthy of the label
"constitution." It is the only constitution to which I would give unqualified allegiance:
it is not based on judgment, violence, or exclusion of one person by another.
The U.S. Constitution is a travesty by comparison.
4-18. The lawyers might say, "But your so-called constitution gives us no
structure, no basis for allocating goods."
Thus resting the case in their own minds, they exhaust their days trying to decide
who will be excluded from the allocation of certain goods and privileges.
Exclusion: Is that not what the secular law is about?
4-19. One sometimes hears it said that, although a particular course of action is
not strictly "just," it is nonetheless "justifiable." This way of speaking is, of course,
nonsense. The only justifiable course of action is that which promotes justice. The
only just action is that which is justifiable. The terms would be synonymous in
common usage if the concept of justice were always used in its proper sense of that
which is morally right ("justifiable"). The just action is simply the right action, and
the just social ordering is simply the right social ordering.
If we are genuinely in quest of "justice," we shall simply try to act in accordance
with right principles. We shall give up forever on trying to give others what we think
that they are worthy of, and leave such judgments entirely up to God.
4-20. What if divine justice requires that Hitler or Judas should be our companions
in the next life? Are we capable of fathoming the limits of divine forgiveness?
If not, shall we be ready for the next life ourselves?
4-21. Was Jesus a political philosopher? Perhaps he was in fact quintessentially
Yet, his teachings directly address questions about the individual's relation to those
in power, as well as the problems of equality, hierarchy, domination, service, and
other problems of political theory. In addition, the pervasive emphasis upon "peace"
in Christian ethics raises questions as to what kind of social order would indeed em-
body the full significance of the biblical concept of peace: shalom.
Whatever else Jesus was, I think that it is thus correct to see him as a political
philosopher, but with one important caveat: whereas traditional political philosophy
almost always tries to justify the state and its methods of violence and coercion, Jesus
espoused a social and political philosophy which would give us an alternative to the
Those who deny this fact deny the real significance of his mission.
4-22. Two basic questions have driven this work: First, if society can be
constituted on divinely-ordained ideals rather than on human limitations (the Madiso-
nian premise), then what would such an ideal society require of us as ethical actors?
Second, is it possible for an individual to operate rationally and practicably in the
present non-ideal world without violating the divinely-ordained ideals.
4-23. Every legal system and every statist conception of justice contain the seeds
of their own corruption. They do so because the law's retributive solution to injustice
and violence is always more injustice and more violence, always in the name of justice,
but in reality for the sake of someone's interest at the expense of someone else's.
The civil law and its punishment are corruptive of the society they would purify.
Compassionate acts by persons are redemptive. We have heard quite enough
nonsense about the "rule of law." No such thing ever existed. Only persons make
decisions and act upon them.
4-24. Consider the possibility that God has so ordered the world such that the
coercive state is indeed ordained and used by God. Perhaps, that is, God has so
ordered the world that evil checks evil: on this view, the state as Leviathan (an evil
creature) is nonetheless useful in the divine scheme because it allows a way for evil
to be destroyed by itself, rather than by the forces of good.
Unfortunately, such a view suggests that the house of God is supported by the
house of evil--albeit evil checking evil. Could such a house stand? I think not. God
may be capable of bringing good out of evil, but this is far from saying that he uses
evil. That is far too cynical a view of the nature of God.
4-25. The major framers of the U.S. Constitution thought that evil checked evil,
whether they operated from theistic assumptions or not. Not only is this doctrine
visible in the basic structure of checks and balances, but it was explicitly stated in
Madison's philosophy of power checking power and ambition checking ambition.1
This assumption is the most basic and fundamental of all tenets of American political
thought, and it is the reason that the United States is a dangerous force for instability
in the world and is likely to remain so for a long time to come.
The theory of "checks and balances" implicit in the U.S. Constitution is very much
along the lines of balance of power theory as formulated by the great German war
theorist von Clausewitz. So much for the view of the divine sanction of the U.S.
Constitution: Jesus was a theorist--and prince--of peace, not war.
4-26. So you are inspired by martial music and feel goose bumps when you hear
"Hail to the Chief"?
Who is the "Chief," anyway?
4-27. The global historical legacy of checks and balances is balance of power
theory in general: it is the history of Soviet nuclear weapons checking American
nuclear weapons, Israeli tanks and airplanes checking Arab tanks and airplanes, ad
infinitum, ad nauseam.
Wherever the battlefield, the ruling god of retribution is invoked, and the God of
mercy and forgiveness is forsaken. Billy Graham had his prayer breakfasts with
Richard Nixon, even while a powerful advisor was calling for the Christmas bombing
of Hanoi to "put the fear of God" back into North Vietnam: the assumption on the
part of both advisors seemed to be that God was clearly an American, a balance of
power theorist, and a man of war, although not necessarily in that order.
4-28. When I think of the Madisonian civil religion, of evil checking evil through
"checks and balances," the metaphor which comes to mind is that of a serpent
consuming itself, or of two intertwined serpents consuming each other.
Or are the serpents only mating and multiplying?
4-29. Even as the civil realm is given over to the faith of "evil checking evil," each
individual life is a journey wherein the carnage of evil checking evil is finally found to
be unsatisfying, a journey which finds one "lost in the wilderness" crying out for a
better way. Life is thus a journey whose ultimate destination is unknown and
inconceivable except that one likes to think that one will not find evil, but goodness,
ruling and keeping order.
Is that too much to ask of an ultimate ideal?
4-30. Even hell, it is said, has due process. In a better "place" (or state of mind),
one hopes not only that there is no longer a perceived need for due process, but an
outright repudiation of it: its true nature as camouflage for judgment and retribution
will have finally been revealed.
That veil of camouflage, once torn asunder or cast aside, can never successfully be
replaced: the image which is uncovered, of the dead corpse of retributivism, is finally
too horrible and too graphic to be erased from memory.
4-31. It is not incumbent upon me to imagine or describe how a non-retributive
society or culture would work in either its particulars or its totality.
God does not demand of me that I change the entire world. He would, I think, be
more than satisfied if I sought and found the courage and the reason to change myself,
found a way in my own daily affairs, that is, to respond to evil with good, in the face
of whatever contingency.
Such behavior--universalized--would change the world.
4-32. If Gibbon was correct in saying that early Christianity weakened the Roman
Empire, leading to its ultimate downfall,2 it is reasonable to ask whether or not a
pacifism based upon an interpretation of early Christian writings might not do the
same thing to the United States.
Since Jesus himself clearly said that his kingdom was not of this world, even sug-
gesting that his own kingdom existed in conflict with the rule of "those who lord it
over their subjects," it is not unreasonable to say that to weaken the structure of
domination ought to be the valid aim of any person who calls himself or herself "paci-
fist," and that, if this implies subversion, so be it.
4-33. Since the U.S. shows unmistakable signs of the arrogance of power which
has always afflicted the mighty, and since the U.S. is the author and maintainer of the
doctrine and practice of nuclear terrorism (nuclear "deterrence"), one should have to
give thanks to God if, by his Spirit, one can share in the actions which might reduce
such a power to the rubbish heap of has-been empires.
4-34. What does the cross have to do with the Constitution of the Peaceable
Kingdom? It has everything to do with it, for the life, teachings, death, and
resurrection of Jesus established as the core constitutive principle of that "kingdom"
the agápe idea of unconditional altruism, with its non-judgmental and non-retributive
This idea of non-retribution is manifested most succinctly in the golden rule. For
in refusing to retaliate, even in self-defense, we do indeed place the welfare of an
enemy above our own welfare.
That is what the cross is ultimately all about.
4-35. There is no greater love than this, that one lays down one's life not merely
for one's friends, but for one's enemies. Jesus taught the one, but he lived and died
the other. Yet, did he not consider even his enemies as children of God, as friends?
"Friend" was the greeting he gave to Judas, the one leading the party that was
coming to Gethsemane to crucify him. (Matthew 26:50)
4-36. The golden rule offers the substantive ethical message that one should
always respond to evil with good. There is much more in the principle than some
recommendation of a procedure of empathic identification prior to action, as R.M.
Hare,3 Paul Weiss,4 Alan Gewirth,5 and other modern ethicists want to emphasize.
Indeed, if one insists upon a purely procedural interpretation of the golden rule, then
one must of necessity fail to see the fullness of its non-retributive substantive content,
for the message of non-retribution is the message of forgiveness, and that message is
truly divine. Nor can it be comprehended in purely secular terms, for it comes from
God and can only make complete sense if conjoined with belief in the existence of a
perfectly non-retributive God.
The golden rule qua the ag pe principle of unconditional commitment to the
welfare of others is the core constitutive principle of the divine, peaceable kingdom.
4-37. What is the church if not the "body of Christ" or the "community of co-
What, indeed? Co-believers in what? A divine Messiah who came to punish and
rule with a flaming sword? Or a Messiah who came to show the obsolescence of the
sword and every coercive order and institution which it supports?
If the Messiah did not have the latter mission, that of exemplifying perfect peace,
would his claim of divinity really be worthy of consideration? In what way would he
be unique, distinct from secular rulers or other religious teachers?
4-38. A failure to understand the view that Jesus was pacifistic and did not accept
the legitimacy of the coercive state has a grave consequence: continued acceptance
among both religious and secular thinkers of the bifurcated concept of "realms of
authority" in the essentially legal distinction between "church" and "state." This
simplistic dualism is associated with a resultant loss not only of awareness of the evils
of hierarchy and coercion in both realms, but a loss of the original, non-hierarchical
meaning and significance of "church" as well. That is, the church in its fullness is
simply a perfect moral community, one in which all persons finally share in a valid
ethical consensus, and from which no one is excluded.
The church is still being built upon the solid rock of the divine example of Jesus of
Nazareth and his first convert, Simon Peter.
4-39. Moses recommended a punitive order. Jesus did not. Moses ordained a
punitive order and called it justice. Jesus called this conception of justice mistaken:
"You have been taught an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you,
that to him who strikes you upon the right cheek, turn to him the left." (Matthew
The Mosaic Law, the basis of a theocratic society, combined what we would now
call "church and state": it relied upon the sword to uphold sacred values. The Law
of God, in its fullness, denies the justice of using the sword to uphold sacred values.
Sacred ends require sacred means, and there is nothing sacred about the methods
the state employs through war, punishment, and domination.
4-40. The state relies for its trump card upon war and punishment as the harsher
half of retribution, although when it relies upon the seemingly more benign half of
retribution--reward--it can threaten to bring about starvation, or at the very least
extreme anxiety about potential deprivation of the means of livelihood.
The church of the Christ relies upon benevolence, both when men are deserving
of it and when they are not. It thereby rejects, in its foregoing of retribution, not only
the institutions of war and punishment, but meritocracies and reward systems of all
sorts. Social justice founded upon Christian ideals requires that the basis of
distributive justice be the criterion of need, not whether one has satisfied someone
else's criterion of worthiness. If God would send his rain, his blessings, upon the just
and the unjust alike, should mere mortals presume to do otherwise?
4-41. The "King" who rode into Jerusalem on "a donkey, the foal of a beast of
burden,"6 surely wanted to distinguish himself from the Romans, riding on or in their
stallions and chariots, the symbols of warfare and secular domination.
He offered, that is, a tangible and symbolic expression of the real distinction
between church and state: those who are disposed to serve, on the one hand, or to
rule, on the other.
No one ever "serves" by ruling: this is the ultimate, the most perverse, euphemism
of domination. The idea of "serving by ruling" is also the most common euphemism
in modern organizations.
4-42. Very often the state masquerades in the clothing of the church, and calls
itself Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, or something else. Much good is
done by these organizations, to be sure, but their structure of formal accountability
makes them more compatible with the state than their members think. The
Protestants look at the statist and hierarchical tendencies of the Catholics and think
that they have escaped these tendencies, but these tendencies are always near the sur-
face in all formal religious organizations, threatening to corrupt them into coercive
bureaucracies or arenas for power struggles.
These dangers are all the more insidious where it is na‹vely thought that a given
tradition has purged itself of the statist disease through some litany about "the
separation of church and state."
Those who talk the most about the "wall of separation" are often actually the most
enamored of the state. They are often its prime supporters. Like as not, they worship
its flag alongside the "Christian flag." They glorify, more often than not, war and
punishment, and, in spite of protestations about the "priesthood of the believer," many
glorify human accountability in the church through democratic "rule." They also
practice exclusion, banning or barring individuals who have been judged by them as
wrong or unworthy (quite analogous to the doctrine of excommunication among
Catholics, although admittedly different in some theological respects).
In this practice, they also resemble the state, which has a similar way of excluding
those who do not accept certain criteria for citizenship. Much of Protestantism, smug
and secure in its superiority to Catholicism, is in fact an open sore, condemning the
innocent and poisoning itself with its own bile. Divided against itself, this kind of
religion cannot stand indefinitely, and God will take it in season.
These believers are, of course, correct about salvation: they will be saved, but only
after they have converted to Christianity--to the cause of Christ, the cause of peace.
4-43. Implicit in the most simplistic treatments of the church-state distinction is
the idea that God has ordained that the state should govern the material realm,
whereas the church should govern the spiritual realm.
The realm of church cannot, however, be confined to the realm of the spiritual.
Religious precepts require action which goes over into the realm of the material, and
all lie under the control or governance of God.
There is no room for power politics in either the spiritual or material realms. God
rules in both.
4-44. The redefinitions of church and state in this work require us to redefine or
re-examine the procedures for effecting social change. A vote, for example, would
have to be seen at best as a voice (the expression of an idea) and nothing more--
certainly not part of a majoritarian coercive threat to carry out its will by force if the
vote qua voice is disregarded.
A vote to raise taxes for a specific purpose, on the pacifist view, would only be a
conveying of the idea that one consents to be taxed for that purpose--that one is
willing to part with one's money for the good of others. Voting against a particular
tax, on the other hand, is the expression of the idea that one would prefer that one's
money should go for something else. Since most tax bills are not so specific, and
since most tax bills are voted on by representatives, then the most that one could do
in most instances is to try to vote for the person whose ideas most nearly correspond
to one's own. In like manner, one would not be prevented from holding office,
provided that one could do so consistent with the application of ag pe non-retributive
Or am I rationalizing? Would Jesus have bothered to vote or hold office if the
option had existed in that culture? Would he have in this culture? The answer is not
self-evident to me.
4-45. As a practical matter, the realm of the true church corresponds to the realm
of voluntarism, free will, whereas the realm of the state corresponds to the realm of
The market, on such a view, ironically falls within the realm of state, since it not
only operates within a framework defined and enforced by legal coercion, but it
operates by principles of distributive justice that are based upon the egoistic norm of
reciprocity. And, although such a conception implies voluntarism to some, I think
that it is better to conceive of the "free" market economic system as being based upon
institutionalized economic extortion and thus coercion: it exploits persons through
capitalizing on their needs, their vulnerabilities.
On this view, the market is not something which exists apart from the state: it is
part of the state, for it is one of the purest manifestations of egoism and retributivism.
If the "free" market could truly produce in abundance, then the price system of the
market would collapse. Its success thus implies its own failure, and it thereby negates
itself as a claimant to the title of "allocator of justice."
There is, of course, an "invisible hand" which allocates true justice: it is the hand
of divine Providence, not the hand of the market.
4-46. Since all persons at some time in their lives operate altruistically, and all
persons at some times likewise operate selfishly, there seems no basis for excluding
anyone from the realm of church, much less any basis for debating who ought to have
the right to be labeled as being a "member" of the church. I should think that it would
be better to say that all are sometimes members and sometimes not, depending upon
whether or not they were relating to others on the basis of ag pe principles or
sentiments at a given time. I hope that this does not sound too imperial: "church" so
defined is not something one "joins" so much as it represents a metaphysical status (on
my view) of being guided by the Spirit of God in one's ethical decisions.
4-47. To try to decide who would or would not "qualify" as a member of the
church would disqualify one's own self from membership, at least insofar as judging
the worth of another is part of that behavior which is not guided by the spirit of God.
It seems better to say that all human beings are members of the church, or, more
precisely, that the good sides of all of us are members. There is likewise a dark side
to all of us which would not qualify for membership. The wheat and the tares grow
up together in each of us,7 for a time.
4-48. Church as conventionally described implies the idea of a mutual benefit
association. Those who are members typically are thought to be more worthy of
benefits than those who are not. The Southern Baptist Annuity system, a very useful
retirement system, can thus also be seen as a club. (Yet, conventional insurance
companies, which exclude the most needy, would be similar. That, of course, is the
I am not prepared to say that it is wrong to belong to organizations which are
exclusive (although it may be), since all organizations are going to be imperfect in this
regard to varying degrees. (Consider the exclusivity implied in being a member of a
university faculty.) The point is that we should not define ourselves or our loyalties
by virtue of such exclusive organizations. In addition, we should try to make all
organizations of which we are a part less exclusive rather than more.
4-49. There is a paradox in the concept of a universal church: one must as a
member of Christ's church advocate and advance values which are not held by all
persons, while yet retaining loyalty and allegiance to all persons, even those who
would have us limit our loyalty to some finite segment of the whole.
This is the unique paradox of Christianity: it requires an advocating of the rather
specific values of the true church, at the same time that it requires a commitment to
the most general welfare of all persons, including the enemies of the church.
4-50. The church requires allegiance to the good of all, including the enemies of
the church. This fact points up the real difference between church and state: the state
requires one to stand prepared to judge or destroy its enemies, and this disposition is
the most basic requirement for membership. The true church, by contrast, requires
one to love one's enemies, including the enemies of both church and state.
4-51. Even the state's much vaunted claim of "protecting" the rights of expression
can be seen to be a hollow promise which the state cannot logically keep, for coercion
is the greatest threat to the exchange of--and rule by--ideas.
To have the state be the arbiter and protector of "First Amendment Rights" is akin
to setting the fox in charge of the hencoop. Such rights existed long before they were
recognized by human beings or were codified into the Bill of Rights, and they will
exist long after the U.S. Constitution has gone the way of all secular orders.
4-52. Does ultimate allegiance to the church as nation absolutely preclude the
traditional allegiance to the nation-state? The answer is problematic. After all, it
seems almost impossible to accomplish anything without holding some office or
membership of some kind in the civil or religious realms, or both. Yet, every position
of power has its stresses, and the temptation is always to respond to these stresses in
statist fashion. Yet, if both church and state are not structures but modes of action,
it is possible to carry the more benign mode of action into any organization, providing
that one is willing to pay the price for one's virtue.
It is noteworthy nonetheless that Jesus apparently held no formal office of any
kind, a fact which ought to give one pause.
4-53. In its best and true sense, the church is indeed not only a community, but a
nation (properly understood). It is also what Elton Trueblood called an "incendiary
fellowship,"8 and the statists and militarists do indeed have something to fear from the
emerging church even in its interstitial social existence.
Faced with any kind of threat, the state always demonstrates its obsession with
"security," and it sees quite clearly that the chief threat to security is in the realm of
ideas. Thus it is that allegiance to the true church invariably impels one to a critical
confrontation sooner or later, a crisis in which the state's attempt to control the realm
of ideas finally brings its role of usurper into evidence.
Ultimately, however, the state cannot indefinitely suppress or control the realm of
ideas anymore than the church itself can be limited, confined by organizational forms,
or even destroyed. The church operates and flourishes within the realm of ideas, and
every repressive act of any regime only makes people think all the more--and the more
they think, the greater humankind approaches the universal nation, the "kingdom" of
The state, when it plays its trump card of violent coercion, thus sows the seeds of
its own destruction. The seeds of intellectual reaction to force may lie fallow for a
time, but they are of such durability and vitality that no coercive regime can
indefinitely survive the plant which springs forth.
4-54. As a legal distinction, the counterposing of "church" and "state" serves to
give the legal authorities (in both realms!) a basis for deciding when an action falls
within the purview of one legalist institutional realm or the other.
Once one has decided to look to the state and its legalistic perspective for insights
on things ethical and religious, should one therefore be surprised in finding oneself in
a legal/constitutional impasse? Legal theory is a fantasy, the product of a blind quest
in which its high priests strive endlessly, futilely, for coherence.
God and his church will never be explained away--or confined--by the whim of the
state. The realm of God is everywhere. The "wall of separation" is a legal myth, as
is the idea of "neutral" legal solutions and procedures. On things so highly value-
laden, legal neutrality will never be more than a chimera.
Yet, the potential for misunderstanding here is so great that one must emphasize
yet again that one must never use coercion or any other statist method to force others
to either embrace or support one's own religious beliefs.
4-55. As a valid ethical distinction, the chasm (not "wall") between church and
state reminds us that there are two general ways of responding to social conflict and
ethical dilemmas: the way of God, which is the way of peace and freedom, and the
way of Caesar, which is the way of war, coercion, and economic domination.
As elements of a legal distinction, however, "church" and "state" have become
similar but parallel concepts representing institutional forms which overlap consider
ably in their methods of operation. To the extent that the word "church" in fact refers
to some kind of bureaucracy or other secular (coercive) method of rule, the norms of
Caesar have tended to govern many of the concerns that ought properly to belong to
the realm of "church."
The irony is that, while the true church itself cannot be properly reduced to any of
the particular social and institutional forms which are ordained in its names, all
voluntaristic acts and organizations directed toward valid ends are part of the true
church, whether their members know it or not. There is no part of human existence
which should not be part of the church, properly understood. The church of the living
God cannot be confined to some legal category (much less to a building or to a single
congregation or denomination), nor can it be totally excluded from any segment of
The true church has a way of permeating all of social life, and, when it has
leavened all realms of human action, the usual distinction between "church" and
"state" will no longer exist, because the state will have been transformed into its
opposite: force will have given way to thought, Reason.
4-56. The idea of an "ordained" minister can mean nothing more than an official
minister or servant of God. The ethical teachings of Jesus on servants and masters
makes clear, however, that all who serve other persons, in whatever capacity, are
ministers of the truth. The real church and its real leaders are either the unofficial
servants or else those who manage to serve in spite of some misbegotten official
4-57. Protestants who laugh at the Catholic idea of a "Pope" gulp down the
concept of "ordained minister" without reservation, and both traditions tend to accept
the Pauline nonsense of a secular ruler, armed with sword, as a proper "minister" or
servant of God. (Romans 13)
The Protestant confusion is manifested not only it its reliance upon "ordained
ministers," but also in its general presumption that adopting majoritarian procedures
can ensure that the will of God is being carried out. This reliance upon majoritarian
procedures can only ensure that the will of the majority is being carried out. When
majorities do that which is in error, then the error is multiplied, not sanctified. The
error is multiplied a thousand fold when they vote to expel someone from a
congregation, as if they had the power to decide who was a member of God's family.
These same people react with horror or even amusement at the Catholic idea of
official excommunication, without seeing that they as Protestants are doing very
nearly the same thing. Both are usurping God's authority on the same point, differing
only in the mechanism of de facto excommunication: majoritarian sacrilege on the one
hand, bureaucratic sacrilege on the other.
As for Catholic atrocities, they have indeed subsided substantially since the days
of the Inquisition. Instead, we have now not so much the atrocity as the absurdity of
the Catholic hierarchy and its formal priesthood.
But is the Protestant concept of "pastor"--shepherd--really any better?
4-58. Did Christianity subvert Rome, or was it the reverse?
4-59. Ah, Protestantism! If only the sacrileges of Christianity were confined to
the Catholics or to others outside the mainstream Protestant tradition.
4-60. It is obviously true and yet one must say it nonetheless, so that one is not
totally misunderstood: there are many true ministers of God who yet work within the
more or less formal organizations of the Catholic priesthood or the Protestant minis-
try, as well as on the fringes of both.
4-61. Church as the "body of Christ," as an ethical and spiritual rather than as an
institutional concept, is all of that which embodies the expression of non-retributivism,
altruism, autonomy, or non-violence: everything derivative of the principle of the
absolute worth of the individual in the eyes of God.
Whereas value pluralism would see these as independent virtues, a Christian value
monism would see them as various facets of the same logical whole, each of which,
if pursued far enough, would imply the others through the locus of respect for the
absolute worth of the most worthless individual, a value ordained of God.
4-62. If the state is the realm of retribution, it is also the realm of judgment or
evaluation of persons which is the logical precondition of retribution. Thus, the state's
boundaries do not merely begin with overt retribution, but with the evaluative proce-
dures which are the beginnings of retributive procedures: evaluation and judgment
may thus both be seen to be retribution, for, although we might want to logically
factor the evaluation from the execution of judgment based upon that evaluation, the
fact is that any kind of evaluation of the worth of individuals is part of the realm of
state, the ethical realm of retribution.
4-63. As evaluation is not only logically prior to retribution, but part of its
essence, can it be any wonder that evaluation for retributive purposes is also
condemnation and conviction? The trial--the evaluative process--is the judgment or
conviction or punishment. The decision by the jury and the sentence of the judge are
simply continuations of evaluation and punishment: for human beings, social beings
that we are, to be accused, interrogated, and evaluated is to be punished.
There is no such thing as a "fair trial." The phrase is a contradiction in terms.
4-64. Of theocracies we may say that there are two types: direct and indirect.
That which is typically called theocracy is indirect theocracy: God ruling through the
state. This is in fact a variant of statism cloaked in religious language and religious
The more interesting possibility is direct theocracy, which implies direct rule by
God and which is not taken seriously by many persons. (Indeed, because the term
"theocracy" already has such negative connotations, I hesitate to use the term at all.)
Yet, to the extent that God rules directly over the lives of individuals through the
media of their consciences (as well as specific providential contingencies in the
world), then one should perhaps be happy to be called "theocrat" in some novel and
ultimately benign sense--although one in fact will probably be called an "anarchist".
The term "anarchist" is mistaken, of course. "Anarchism" literally means "no rule,"
whereas the advocate of direct theocracy is adamant that there is very firm rule
indeed: rule by God, the most powerful Being in the universe.
4-65. As for direct "theocracy," it is well to look at the etymology of the term:
"rule by God." Surely direct rule by God is the least kind of rule to be feared, a form
of guidance in which to rejoice and give affirmation. Appeal to such rule, if universal,
would spell the end of secular and ecclesiastical hierarchies for all time.
This is another way of saying that the state does not really survive by its own
sword in a country such as this: it survives only because persons continue to affirm
either the necessity or the moral legitimacy of such coercive rule. We are, as often
as not, responsible for our own enslavement to the violent, coercive state. It is we as
a nation who have exalted the state, and we are paying the price for our idolatry.
4-66. Like a jealous god, the state tolerates no "blasphemy" beyond a certain
point. We may say that the U.S. government tolerates pacifist dissenters, but the
reality is that it has rarely tolerated them well.
Those who seriously challenge the state's civil religion or its highest religious
rituals of warfare and judicial pomposity will find soon enough, during time of war,
what hypocrisy there is in statist talk of tolerating dissent, or of protecting the right
to dissent. If you do not believe that, try burning your draft card or otherwise refus-
Ing to cooperate with the state-sanctioned military authorities during wartime; or try
refusing jury duty in the name of "First Amendment Rights" while continuing to affirm
the right to vote. Then you will find out what the state is all about, as well as why it
is ill-equipped to carry out its self-proclaimed mission as the guardian of individual
The state--even a democratic state--will forsake us in that cause in the end. Why
should we even think to turn to Leviathan to protect us from Leviathan? What kind
of madness is this na‹ve faith in the democratic state, this American mythology of
"checks and balances" and "limited government"?
4-67. The term "holiday" originally came from "holy day," for in ancient cultures
those days which were set aside in suspension of the usual activities were indeed
religious holy days. Today, however, we typically make a distinction between
religious and secular "holy days." We ought to look carefully at this quirk, for this is
yet another place where etymological similarities can warn us that we are on dubious
It can be seen that the distinction between the secular and the sacred loses its force
when one looks at the state, for the state as a "secular" institution does in fact have
its "sacred" personages and its "sacred" days, its high holy days. All of these, which
are honored in the name of what has been called the "civil religion," are being exalted
into something like religious icons, representatives of yet another religious icon: the
A "secular holiday"? Whatever can that mean? An unholy holy day? No other
phrase expresses so well our confusion about the distinction between church and
state--or reflects as well the dominance of the civil religion.
4-68. If the state is that set of social repertoires wherein the road to justice is
believed to lie in evil checking evil ("ambition checking ambition," force checking
force, etc.), then the church is that set of social repertoires wherein the road to justice
is believed to lie in good checking evil.
The two realms are mutually exclusive: one cannot serve God and Mammon.
4-69. An expansion of the limits of national loyalty toward true universalism or
internationalism could only occur through a legal system if there were something like
a world-state, and this is unacceptable: a world-state would only universalize
retributivism and rule by the sword, not true justice.
4-70. A universal nation, one which includes all human or even all sentient beings,
is a utopia in more than one sense. In the first place, it does not exist anywhere (the
literal meaning of "utopia"). In the second place, it could not exist unless the values
held to were indeed universally valid, for no nation of such size and scope could be
founded upon either falsehood or that which is culturally relative.
A social consensus based on "valid values" is the only possible foundation for a
society held together by the power of ideas rather than by force. Nor can such a
consensus be achieved or maintained by force. Force is ultimately superfluous for the
emergence and maintenance of a moral community.
4-71. The concept of a universal and non-exclusive "nation" is almost inconceiv
able in human society in this life, although it is likely that the "Kingdom of Heaven"
implies the possibility of a society or "nation" of some such type.
Such a heavenly "kingdom" (a metaphor one uses with some trepidation) implies
at least one other thing, however: universal voluntary compliance with its constitutive
principles (its "constitution"), not simply agreement with those principles. It might
be that, if there were a genuine universal consensus of conviction, persons would act
in accordance with such deeply-held beliefs, and thus the problem of cohesion would
not be a problem.
4-72. The idea of "heaven" has always implied a sense of final triumph over
temptation and sin, so that the idea of universal consensus and voluntary compliance
is not really so far (if at all) outside the mainstream of religious thought as it might at
first appear. That is, the idea of a final consensus of belief and a derivative voluntary
coordination of action is not unreasonable, nor is it unreasonable to believe that these
would involve a final and universal triumph over sin and temptation; yet, one must
realize that what is at issue here is the meaning and significance of the final perfect-
ibility and perfection of the soul.
Even if one conceded belief in such perfectibility, it seems unlikely that such could
occur prior to death, especially on the broad scale needed to define universal
nationhood. Thus no nation on this earth in this life is at all likely to achieve such a
perfect sense of nationhood, and, if no limited nation is going to achieve it, then
certainly humanity as a whole is not going to achieve it.
The impracticality of attainment of truly universal transnational loyalty, however,
does not prevent individuals from extending their loyalty to all of mankind, even
where the rest of mankind does not reciprocate--as it surely will not in this life.
Or am I too shortsighted?
4-73. Theocratic orders can be seen to fall on a scale from direct theocracy at one
extreme (the Providential rule of God in each individual life) to indirect theocracy at
the other (Orthodox Judaism, Islamic fundamentalism, and much of modern Christian
thought as well). We see in all of these the claim of the "rule of God" (the literal
meaning of "theocracy), but only in the early church was there apparently any
widespread belief that this rule is accomplished without the intermediary of the state
or official hierarchies in any realm: "direct theocracy."
The Thomistic view is apparently an example of a conception of "indirect
theocracy," whereas the view being defended here could technically be referred to as
"direct theocracy," since God is seen to rule directly through the consciences (the
minds and souls) of all persons, without the use of intervening hierarchies in any
realm, secular or ecclesiastical.
Even so, I prefer to relabel "direct theocracy" as "providential government," so
that the negative connotations attached to the term "theocracy" may be avoided.
4-74. It seems bizarre to have to say it explicitly, but I must, so that there is no
chance that I shall be misunderstood:
The idea that God does not rule the world through the coercive and retributive
machinery of the state--that is either what I am assuming or that which I would like
to prove. It is certainly that which I want to affirm, that which motivates the present
work. I also want to reemphasize that I am advocating neither anarchism nor
theocracy, as the terms are commonly used.
4-75. If God does not rule the earth through the retributive machinery of the state,
then how does he rule? To what extent does he allow persons to rule themselves and
to what extent does his providential rule continue over day-to-day matters?
My basic assumption in trying to answer all of these is that God, in giving
Humankind dominion over the earth, did not intend to give Humankind dominion over
4-76. The "chain of command" is from God to persons to nature. It does not
involve relations between persons, for all persons are created equal of God, and God
is no respecter of the free and equal persons whom he created. God did not institute
domination of persons over persons, and thus God did not ordain or invent the state
and its hierarchies.
Are you listening, you Paulinists who parade as Christians?
4-77. A student once remarked to me of another professor that "He doesn't even
believe in government." Although the student was wrong, and the professor was one
of the greatest legalists I have ever known, the question still gave me pause. What
in the world does it mean to "believe" in government?
I suppose the student referred to belief in the necessity of a coercive state. If that
is what "belief in government" is supposed to mean, then I guess that I am not a
believer. I believe instead in God, and I do not mean for that statement to sound
flippant, or to sound like word play. In a very essential sense one cannot believe in
both God and the state: only One truly governs, and God does not rule persons
indirectly through a chain of command which includes the state, or other persons, as
the intermediary, as executors of divine authority. God rules directly through the
consciences of individual human beings, and, if one believes otherwise, then one
believes in the state but not in God, whether one knows it or not.
One cannot have it both ways.
4-78. If one believes in a retributive God, then one believes in a fiction: one might
as well be an atheist.
If one does not believe in a providential God, who is in total control of his
universe, one also does not believe in a valid conception of God; and one is going to
default to statist methods when one is in a threatening situation.
4-79. Believing in God in lieu of the state does not mean trying to smash the state,
for the state writ large is merely the body of persons who believe in the efficacy and
necessity of coercive action for the existence of society. One cannot try to use
violence to smash the state without joining the state, for the state is the set of all
violent and coercive relations among persons.
Yet, to the extent that belief in the non-retributive God and belief in the retributive
state are mutually exclusive as I would define them (God ruling non-retributively, the
state attempting to rule retributively), there is a sense in which a defense of this
conception of God damages the state. Thus every true believer in the state is a traitor
to God, and every true believer in God is a traitor to the coercive state.
4-80. Since money itself is a convention in the modern age, having no real value
apart from state sanction, to yield money to the state is to yield nothing substantial.
It may be said that the state uses money to fight its wars, but in fact, if money did not
exist, the state would simply find a more direct, less subtle way of coercing people to
fight its wars. Surely this is why Jesus encourages persons to pay taxes--not because
he believes that every purpose supported by the state with money is just (which would
be absurd), but because he knows that the state could resort to direct violence if
money and its tempting manipulations did not work.
4-81. Thomas Hobbes referred to the state as Leviathan, a terrible monster, the
"King of the Proud."9 As with so many Hobbesian insights, this one bore no final
fruit, and Hobbes himself worshiped the monstrous state to an extent rare among men.
We might paraphrase "King of the Proud" as "God of the Proud": the state is the
sovereign of the proud, by which I mean all those who refuse to submit to the real
God, the one who is peaceful and non-retributive. As no one can serve two masters,
one cannot truly serve both the retributive state and the non-retributive God.
4-82. Belief in a retributive, remote, or non-providential God is perhaps not belief
in God at all, but something else, belief in a fiction. It may be belief in a false god, or
at best only the beginnings of the search for the true God.
This is a way of saying that one cannot determine the percentage of believers in
God simply by asking the question, "Do you believe in God?" All that one finds out
this way, at best, is how many persons believe that a supreme being exists. If they
believe in a false conception of God, do they yet really believe in God? Did not the
idol worshipers have their "god"?
This is not an idle theological exercise: to the extent that persons believe that God
is retributive, they also believe in the divine sanction of the state, which is also
retributive. Those who defend the atrocities of the state, such as the bombing of
Hiroshima or even the routine threat of deadly force through the police, are actually
attacking God (as least as I conceive of him). They thereby also reveal their faith in
Leviathan, the king, lord, and god of the proud.
In so doing, they deny faith in the true God.
4-83. The true believer in peace believes not only that there is a God, but in a God
such that none more benevolent or non-retributive can be conceived.
Such a belief does not encourage one to have faith in the coercive, retributive state
as the ultima ratio to social problems.
4-84. The state is obsolete, an anachronism, for it is constituted upon the
superstitious practices of punishment, war, and obeisance to those in positions of
hierarchy backed up by the threat of violence.
Those who believe in this anachronism seem to feel the need periodically to offer
themselves and their children up to the state's highest, most glorious ritual: war.
Would such madness come from God?
4-85. As noted above, any violent act to overthrow the state is a statist act. The
"smash-the-state" anarchists in the tradition of Bakunin would mistakenly use coercive
means to try to abolish coercive institutions. The violent anarchists are thus not so
much anti-state (in spite of their protestations to the contrary) so much as they are
pro-state, for their constitutive principle is still the principle of retribution.
The violent anarchists would take revenge upon the structural embodiment of
violence and revenge, the state as commonly conceived. In so doing, they contradict
4-86. In the course of espousing pacifist and voluntarist views, one sometimes
comes up against objections which question how social order, security, and the
delivery of basic services could prevail if there were no institutionalization of coercion
or systems of organization based upon fear or manipulation of social, physiological,
or economic need. These objections then are transformed into an indictment of the
pacifist or voluntarist as an irresponsible moral agent. "But how would society sur-
vive?" is the basic question being asked, and the basic accusation being made against
those who challenge routinized coercion is that the person who refuses to submit to
or to promote or participate in coercive institutions (such as the military) is a parasite
or "free rider."
One response to all such accusations and assertions is that they rely upon the
fallacy of misplaced responsibility. The assumption seems to be that, because a
person does indeed have a responsibility to all of society, that person also has a
responsibility to offer (or defend) a plan for an entire society, or else to defend a
particular man-made, coercive governing order for society.
The only obligation one has, however, is to see to it that one's own time and other
resources are maximally used to promote that which is good. How one's own efforts
are to be coordinated with those of others is a separate problem, and, if one does not
have the full theoretical answer to it, one is not thereby a parasite.
4-87. But how would society hold together without the coercive state? One might
better ask how it holds together now, for it is clear that no state can hold society
together where there is a total lack of agreement about basic values.
The state is not even holding things together now. Even in the present order of
things, I am continually amazed that I can even remember to do the simple things that
hold my own life together. I am in such awe over such small things that I could not
presume to say that I understand what holds the larger order together, short of falling
back upon the idea of divine providence--admittedly as something of a residual
category, a category of the unexplained. Fortunately, doing so does not mean the end
of keeping promises and other agreements. One does not want, in emphasizing the
providential force of divine reason, to separate it casually from human reason. Yet,
neither does one want to say that divine reason operates only through human reason.
God is not only God of our minds and spirits, but of material events in the physical
and social realm as well: the same God who calmed the waters went immediately on
to heal the men who were mentally ill ("possessed"), if the biblical account in Matthew
8 has any validity at all.
God, that is, is God of heaven and earth, of the spiritual and material realms.
There is order and purpose in what appears to us to be only chaos, randomness.
Perhaps the order is only emerging, but it is still there in the mind of God as the plan
for his creation.
4-88. The basic, hidden question behind all of the other questions asked by the
defender of routinized coercion is thus not "Who would govern in the absence of the
state?" but "Who governs now?" To answer quite simply, "God," is not to beg the
question, although it does beg the question as to precisely how God governs. That
he governs partly (but only partly) through human reason does not hide the fact that
the central coordinating force in every existing society does not lie with any human
or group of humans. It is necessary to posit a supernatural force or intellect as the
locus of authority and obligation, as well as the basis for what is deemed to be good
and worthy. Without the positing of such an intelligence who has created a set of in-
finite benign contingencies (one way of looking at the concept of "providence"),
there can be no possibility of order, harmony, or the meeting of basic needs.
To say, therefore, that a providential God holds society together is indeed to affirm
an article of faith. Such an answer is indeed a general one. It is not intended as a
complete answer. Even so, to the extent that one believes in such a higher force with
the power and intellect to coordinate events in the world, including human power and
intellect, the need to posit a coercive order seems somehow weaker. Perhaps if faith
in a providential God were strong enough and general enough, the reliance upon a
coercive order would wither away completely.
In the meantime, if one's own individual faith were strong enough, perhaps one
might at least free oneself from relying upon the use of force or threat--and free
oneself in the process from that heaviness of heart which comes with trying to plan
for every evil that could conceivably come one's way by preparing contingency plans
to respond in kind.
4-89. The defender of voluntarism/pacifism ultimately falls back upon the premises
that God is and that God governs. There is no room for a detached deism in such a
view. Deism is, after all, a product of the Enlightenment's moral schizophrenia: a
desire to hang onto the idea of God, but to divorce God from any personal decision-
making in the ongoing operation of his creation. A God detached from his creation
is no God at all. The world is not God's orphan, nor his abandoned child.
The alternative, that God is and that God governs, provides the basis for individual
ethical action. This is the only meaningful alternative to both deism and the
philosophy of routinized coercion, and it is the only possible avenue of rebuttal.
That such a response is not complete is a way of saying that our knowledge of God
is not complete. Such lack of knowledge need not, however, impel one to put one's
faith and one's trust in a coercive legal order: the state.
Consider instead the teaching: "Blessed are those who wait upon the Lord."
4-90. What do we owe to the state? Are we obligated to justify ourselves to those
who use threat as the basis of their claim to authority?
I do not doubt that it is sometimes necessary and moral to appeal to the state (as
conventionally defined) or to other persons in one capacity or another. Yet, moral
justification of ourselves to the state qua state as I have defined it is more than an
appeal--it borders on idolatry. This is a corollary of the more general premise that it
is idolatrous to try to appeal to retributive practices and procedures in lieu of
appealing to God.
We are nonetheless obligated, of course, to explain our values and rationales to
others where such communication is a prerequisite to a truly voluntary society
founded on a genuine consensus. Without such explanations, we should never be cor-
rected in our false conceptions nor able to correct others, and thus we should never
arrive at a consensus. But this attempt to explain oneself should never be confused
with the more significant attempt to justify oneself to another who claims a coercive
authority relationship with one. There is a difference, and it is significant. For
justification one must appeal to God alone.
The disciples of the state (and of group dominance in a variety of forms) will dis-
agree, of course. They are under the mistaken impression that they own one's soul.
On this point it is wrong to humor them or their claims to authority. On this point one
owes them not obeisance but correction.
4-91. Remember the silence of Christ before Pilate. One man thought that the
other was subject to him, and a gentle correction was in order. Thus was the silence
broken ever so briefly.
What one would not do by way of legitimizing illegitimate rule can still often be
done for the legitimate purpose of bearing witness to the rule of God.
4-92. It is never right to give unqualified allegiance to any party which lays claim
to some authority to subjugate one's moral judgments to its own. Yet, one may go
further and say that, if one has offered some such unqualified allegiance, the oath is
not binding: one has been either extorted or deceived into offering such an oath of
In the military, the ceremony or oath whereby such personal moral sovereignty is
ceded is perfunctory and lacking in any obvious concern for whether or not the recruit
really understands what is in the U.S. Constitution (that to which one ultimately
swears allegiance in the U.S. military). Indeed there is no concern to find out if the
recruit has even read the Constitution, so that one could reasonably argue that the pro
forma exercise whereby so many young men sign away their lives and moral birth-
rights to principles and persons yet unseen and unknown is indeed a very duplicitous
One may certainly say that the way that the ceremony is conducted, typically en
masse and in a setting coercive and threatening, does not encourage the recruit to
read the "fine print" (if, indeed, the recruit can read at all). Nor is there reason to
think that the typical recruit would understand the full moral implications of affirming
such an oath of loyalty. Nor are the military authorities inclined to have him do so.
Indeed, just the opposite is likely to be the case. To encourage serious enquiry at this
point could seriously interfere with military socialization down the line.
More generally, one may justifiably say that such oaths of allegiance in the
military have no moral force because they contradict the obligation to give
unqualified and undivided loyalty to God. In many, if not most, instances, the moral
obligation may be entirely the opposite of that which the oath requires. Therefore it
is not only often permissible to break the oath. It is typically obligatory.
There is One Judge to whom one carries such appeals.
4-93. If a flag were sacred, then it could only mean that the state is sacred, for a
flag is the symbol of the coercive, exclusive social grouping we call "state." If the
state were holy, then one might speak meaningfully of "desecrating" its symbol, its
flag. The deification of a flag parallels the deification of the state.
Insofar as neither has any divine sanction, however, the deification of either or both
is idolatry pure and simple, and the concept of "desecrating the flag" is thereby
One does not have to be a Jehovah's Witness to see that.
4-94. Perhaps the most powerful thing which one can do by way of expressing
one's revulsion to the notion that a flag is a sacred symbol is simply to ignore it, to
treat it with neither dignity nor contempt, but with utter indifference.
One is justified, that is, in continuing to eat one's hot dog while the national war
anthem is being played, and while the sons of Leviathan are going through their rituals
of state worship in one's presence. It is their actions that are revulsive and
disrespectful toward true authority.
4-95. If an official prayer in the public schools is deemed to be unconstitutional,
then why is not also some official pledge of allegiance to the great god of the sons of
Leviathan: the state? Is that not also some religious ritual imposed by the state?
Ah, yes, of course, but we err greatly if we expect the state to extinguish itself.
The state and its high priests expect to be worshiped.
4-96. Punishing living, thinking, and feeling human beings for the sake of a piece
of cloth is the ultimate in absurdity, the ultimate in displacement of goals. Such a
practice would suggest that the state is more important than the rights and welfares
of individual persons. It would also imply that a man-made symbol has more value
than a child of God.
Perhaps that is what idolatry is all about.
4-97. Many of the veterans' groups seem to be saying that the flag is sacred, that
the flag is worth dying for. Yet, I think that what they really mean is that the flag is
worth killing for: human beings may be shot in the name of the flag, entire cities may
be vaporized in its name, and hundreds of thousands of souls may be incarcerated in
buildings flying those colors. And yet it is the flag which is sacred? I find such
arguments unfathomable, incomprehensible. Surely it is human values which are
sacred, and the flag is a very obscure and indefinite symbol of such subtle and
complex values. If anything, what one is affirming when one says that the flag is
sacred is that the sword is sacred, for it is the sword of the state which the flag
The flag stands not for freedom, but for state coercion and exclusion.
4-98. If there is a general affliction of political theorists, it is the assumption that
valid political theory must address the question, "What ought the state to do?" Yet,
this is a nonsensical question, for the state is not a person. The essential question for
the ethical realm is "What ought I to do"?
Law and the state are "reified morality": both law and state are concepts which
present themselves to us as actors. This may be a useful shorthand in some contexts.
In general it reflects a fallacious way of thinking: only persons act.
States do not act and laws do not rule.
4-99. It is well to remember that, in a given instance, I can only be responsible for
seeing that my limited resources are used for good, either directly in my own actions
or in convincing other individuals that their own resources would be better used in a
certain way. Any other reference to public policy or group obligation is possibly a
miscarriage of logical and meaningful usage.
4-100. For the apostles of the state, solutions to problems are not to be
discovered: they are to be created or imposed. The same is true of their concept of
peace: instead of trying to discover the peaceable solution which God has provided
for every situation, they feel that they must "make peace," or impose it by force.
All such efforts begin, of course, with the basic Hobbesian metaphysical
assumption of the pervasiveness of natural conflict. God's harmony (or harmony-in-
process) is not obvious, but one must believe in it or believe that God is less than
omniscient and omnipotent.
4-101. In cases where an appeal to the state clearly does not involve retributivist
motives or de facto retaliatory outcomes, then appeals to officers of the state might
justifiably be made. Yet, overall, one must caution against appealing to the state, not
only through formal lawsuits, but through informal complaints (typically to officers
of the state) which serve to stack the deck against our opponents. If we feel that the
problem requires rectification, then we should if possible confront our adversaries
directly, not call upon some man or woman whose office is backed up by the sword.
I recognize how frustrating it must be for some to hear this kind of recommenda
tion, since it seems to put the Christian entirely at the mercy of God and the good will
of individuals: he has no statist card that he can morally play in most circumstances.
For those who are truly oppressed, it is apt to sound particularly depressing, since no
quick solution to their problems can seem to occur but through state action. Here,
however, one wants to remind that such a recommendation does not preclude the
possibility of making persuasive appeal to state officers to use morally legitimate
means to rectify injustices, and such appeals can be the most effective means of all,
especially over the long term.
Yet, one must remember that the "long term" may, by the standards of human
existence in this life, be very long indeed; and, in some instances, one may never be
heard at all by those in secular authority.
4-102. The general doctrine of not appealing to the state is anathema to the statist
doctrine, which sees the state as having not only a legitimate monopoly on the use of
force but which also apparently wants every difference to be voiced through official
state organs and channels. That which is peaceably settled independently of the state
demonstrates the inefficacy and uselessness of the state, tending thereby to vitiate its
power and to withhold the kind of information which it can use to force compliance
on any of its members.
The way of peace typically proceeds "outside of channels." Every solution so
achieved weakens the perceived necessity for, and legitimacy of, coercive rulers.
They become more obviously irrelevant.
4-103. Is God a "balance of power theorist"? That is, does he subscribe to the
view that the way that evil is to be checked is by other evil? Has he designed the
world such that a cosmic system of checks and balances is in place, whereby the
contingencies of the world are such that evil may be made to check evil, power to
check power, ambition to check ambition?
Let it be assumed that he is. If so, then the authorities, like cancer and heart
disease, are in his service, for the sake of bringing punishment upon the wrongdoer.
Let us assume that we, too, who would try to do his will, are to erect and operate
retributive institutions on such a model, institutions such as military alliances and
constitutional orders or some such, such that aggressors and violators of the law are
to be punished. We who would be officers of the state, on such a view, are thus to
be in God's service when we check the power of evil by using the punitive powers of
the state. Evil as these may be, they are, on such a view, essential to the divine
purpose, since without them there might not be an adequate check of those deliberate
evils inflicted by human beings upon other human beings.
Let it further be assumed that we are thus virtuous when we check evil with evil:
we are the instruments of divine retribution, for bringing down punishment upon the
offender, as Paul says in Romans 13. Is not such a view plausible enough (not to
mention biblical enough)? After all, if a house divided against itself cannot stand, then
is it not reasonable that God has designed the world such that whatever evil arises in
the world should be checked by other evil, so that evil is thus divided against itself and
thus cannot continue to stand for very long? How else could he possibly deal with
evil but by being prepared to destroy it by using other, albeit necessary, evil?
Such a view has a superficial plausibility--and a wide following, and not only
among the Christian fundamentalist right. Yet, it is not without its difficulties, for, if
God has designed the world such that evil may be made to check evil, then God has
himself created a house that is divided against itself, for his system of justice would
seem to require resorting to evil in order to check evil. He would thereby have to
advocate that we should be disposed to do the same thing in the name of good.
Why not design the world (and social institutions) such that good checks evil?
That would seem to be the divine way, and one wants to believe that that is in fact the
kind of world God actually created.
4-104. What does one make of the claim that some acts entailing the virtual
certainty of evil consequences may nonetheless be just, if the evil is inevitable or
necessary? The doctrine of "necessary evils" is, of course, what the balance of power
(or checks and balances) theorist is advocating: some evils are necessary, some wars
are necessary, punishment is certainly necessary, and perhaps even evil itself is a
necessary part of God's creation, essential to its balance and harmony.
From such premises we have inherited not only the "just war" thesis, but the idea
of "justice" as some kind of retaliatory practices set up by the state. In U.S.
Constitutional theory, we have gotten, by similar reasoning, the idea that coercive
government is also necessary, since men are not angels.
It is a seductive doctrine, is it not? It is still nonsense.
4-105. Would God constitute or design a world wherein one evil could not be
checked unless another evil came into being, a world where two wrongs make a right?
And, would he advocate that his lieutenants should use evil to check evil, and would
he call their use of evil "good" and "virtuous"?
Was that the intent of the Framer of the Divine Constitution?
No. It was only the intent of the framers of a nation conceived in violence, slavery,
and genocide of native Americans on a scale that makes the Nazi holocaust look like
child's play by comparison. When one considers that this country guarantees its own
security by threatening that of the entire world, one wonders if perhaps one should be
ashamed to be a citizen of this country.
Do not tell me to love it or leave it. God made this land, and it belongs neither to
you nor to me, but to its Creator. I love the land. I only despise the violent and
exploitative order that destroyed its native inhabitants and which is rapidly destroying
its natural resources and beauty.
This evil empire, like all before it, shall go down to the dust, because it was not
founded on the Divine Constitution, but on a constitution which was obsolete two
thousand years before it was written.
4-106. Why do we teach our children loyalty to the state? Why have we given
them a serpent when they have only asked for food?