Secularists have it right, sort of, when they accuse Christians of tending towards a theocratic form of government. What these critics conjure up is a dystopian vision of a Christian form of sharia, compounded of the Catholic Inquisition, fundamentalist moral values and a reintroduction of Puritan stocks into the public square. One response to this trope is to point out the historic role of Protestant Christianity in the rise of democratic government. Belief in God and in the priesthood of all believers serves as a check on the pretensions of human pride and power -- a check that is sadly missing from modern non-Christian polities. The secular reality, as distinct from the pie-eyed theories of the left, is the regimes of Stalin, Kim Jong-il, MaoTse-tung and Castro -- real-world autocracies where static uniformity is maintained at the cost of millions of lives.
But I wish to take a different tack here. Rather than deny the absolutist tendencies of Christian politics, I wish to consider the monistic implications of the rule of God -- not so much as a political possibility (the bogey-man of the theocratic state), but as a theological concept -- Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Instead of denying the secularist nightmare of the Christian advocacy of total control, I wish to admit the charge and take pride in it, and confess it for what it is -- a form of totalitarianism indeed, but not that of the leftists. Rather, it is a totalitarianism of love.
This Biblical concept, the rule of God, represents a fusion of what we experience as contradictory forces: power, love, freedom, individuality:
-- in this realm, God's power is absolute. There is no intrusion of either rebellion or weakness.
-- God's love is omnipresent. The wrath of God and the judgment of God are external to this community.
-- men and women are free to think and act as they want. This freedom is an ineradicable component of our nature.
-- but all human choices are among good alternatives. Sin, error, and self-will are no longer on the menu. The desire of every heart is for good, and no one misses the mark.
-- faulty, immature and damaged humans who enter into this realm are progressively and inevitably repaired and restored by immersion in this environment.
-- there is no compulsion in this community, no coercion, and no punishment
-- No one is discriminated against, subjugated, shamed. In fact, the humble are raised up.
-- this totalitarianism is benign and teleological: it imparts its own qualities to the citizens, and works towards their greater well-being.
-- participation in this community is entirely subject to human veto: anyone may self-exclude. He or she is then free from any undesired exposure to divine love.
In essence, stripped of its Jewish background and context, the purpose of Jesus' mission was to declare the inauguration of this absolute rule, and to become the means for men and women to participate in it. The realization of this community is the goal of history: St John's vision of the the "new heaven and new earth" represents the actualization of this Kingdom. The Christian community on earth now, the church, is merely an imperfect prototype, a colony, from beyond.
Divine totalitarianism, thus, is essentially a liberal, not a reactionary, force: it aims for each person's highest and best, and with their free assent and participation. It is not something we can fully experience in this life, yet it is the goal towards which Christians are headed. And its principles (and paradoxes) are the standards by which we are called to live in this world and to relate to others. This is God's intention, for as we do so, we bear witness to the nature of His Kingdom and its contrast to the oppressive political organizations of this world.