Theocracy

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For other uses, see Theocracy (disambiguation).
The Roman Empire was, before Constantine, a quasi-theocracy.

Theocracy is a form of government in which a deity is officially recognized as the civil Ruler and official policy is governed by officials regarded as divinely guided, or is pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religion or religious group.[1][2][3]

From the perspective of the theocratic government, "God himself is recognized as the head" of the state,[4] hence the term theocracy, from the Koine Greek θεοκρατία "rule of God", a term used by Josephus for the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.[5]

Taken literally or strictly, theocracy means rule by God or gods and refers primarily to an internal "rule of the heart", especially in its biblical application. The common, generic use of the term, as defined above in terms of rule by a church or analogous religious leadership, would be more accurately described as an ecclesiocracy.[6]

In a pure theocracy, the civil leader is believed to have a direct personal connection with the civilization's divinity. For example, Moses led the Israelites, and Muhammad ruled the early Muslims. Law proclaimed by the ruler is also considered a divine revelation, and hence the law of God. An ecclesiocracy, on the other hand, is a situation where the religious leaders assume a leading role in the state, but do not claim that they are instruments of divine revelation. For example, the prince-bishops of the European Middle Ages, where the bishop was also the temporal ruler. Such a state may use the administrative hierarchy of the religion for its own administration, or it may have two 'arms' — administrators and clergy — but with the state administrative hierarchy subordinate to the religious hierarchy. The papacy in the Papal States occupied a middle ground between theocracy and ecclesiocracy, since the pope did not claim he was a prophet who received revelation from God and translated it into civil law.

Religiously endorsed monarchies fall between these two poles, according to the relative strengths of the religious and political organs.

Theocracy is distinguished from other, secular forms of government that have a state religion, or are influenced by theological or moral concepts, and monarchies held "By the Grace of God". In the most common usage of the term, some civil rulers are leaders of the dominant religion (e.g., the Byzantine emperor as patron and defender of the official Church); the government claims to rule on behalf of God or a higher power, as specified by the local religion, and divine approval of government institutions and laws. These characteristics apply also to a caesaropapist regime. The Byzantine Empire however was not theocratic since the patriarch answered to the emperor, not vice versa; similarly in Tudor England the crown forced the church to break away from Rome so the royal (and, especially later, parliamentary) power could assume full control of the now Anglican hierarchy and confiscate most church property and income.

Secular governments can also co-exist with a state religion or delegate some aspects of civil law to religious communities. For example, in Israel marriage is governed by officially recognized religious bodies who each provide marriage services for their respected adherents, yet no form of civil marriage (free of religion, for atheists, for example) exists nor marriage by non-recognized minority religions. India similarly delegates control of marriage and some other civil matters to the religious communities, in large part as a way of accommodating its Muslim minority.

Etymology[edit]

The word theocracy originates from the Greek θεοκρατία meaning "the rule of God". This in turn derives from θεός (theos), meaning "god", and κρατέω (krateo), meaning "to rule." Thus the meaning of the word in Greek was "rule by god(s)" or human incarnation(s) of god(s).

It was first coined by Josephus Flavius in the first century A.D. to describe the characteristic government for Jews. Josephus argued that while the Greeks recognized three types of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and anarchy, the Jews were unique in that they had a system of government that did not fit into those categories. Josephus understood theocracy as a fourth form of government in which only God and his law is sovereign. Josephus' definition was widely accepted until the Enlightenment era, when the term started to collect more universalistic[clarification needed] and negative connotations, especially in Hegel's hands. The first recorded English use was in 1622, with the meaning "sacerdotal government under divine inspiration" (as in Biblical Israel before the rise of kings); the meaning "priestly or religious body wielding political and civil power" is recorded from 1825.

Current theocracies[edit]

Christian theocracies[edit]

Holy See (Vatican City)[edit]

Following the unification of Italy, Vatican City became the last surviving territory of the former Papal States.[7] In 1929, the State of Vatican City was formally recognized as an independent state through treaties with the Italian government.[7] The head of state of the Vatican is the pope, elected by the College of Cardinals, an assembly of Senatorial-princes of the Church, who are usually clerics, appointed as Ordinaries, but in the past have also included men who were not bishops nor clerics.[7] A pope is elected for life. They may resign.

Voting is limited to cardinals under 80 years of age.[7] A Secretary for Relations with States, directly responsible for international relations, is appointed by the pope. The Vatican legal system is rooted in canon law but ultimately is decided by the pope; the Bishop of Rome as the Supreme Pontiff, "has the fullness of legislative, executive and judicial powers."[8] Although the laws of Vatican City come from the secular laws of Italy, under article 3 of the Law of the Sources of the Law, provision is made for the supplementary application of the “laws promulgated by the Kingdom of Italy.”[9] The government of the Vatican can also be considered an ecclesiocracy (ruled by the Church).

Islamic states or Islamic theocracies[edit]

Main articles: Islamic state and Sharia

An Islamic state is a state that has adopted Islam, specifically Sharia, as its foundations for political institutions, or laws, exclusively, and has implemented the Islamic ruling system khilafah (Arabic: خلافة), and is therefore a theocracy. Although there is much debate as to which states or groups operate strictly according to Islamic Law, Sharia is the official basis for state laws in the following countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. In Nigeria, the constitution provides that states may elect to use Shari'a laws and courts, though non-Muslims are not required in any state to submit to Shari'a jurisdiction and adherence varies by state.[10]

Saudi Arabia maintains religious courts for all aspects of law and has religious police to maintain social compliance.

Pakistan has Islam as its only official religion and its Federal Shariat Court has the duty of striking down any law not complying with the Sharia code of Islamic law; however, ruling falls upon legal scholars who, while required to be Muslim, are not religious clergy.

Iran[edit]

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been described as a "theocratic republic" (by the US Central Intelligence Agency[11]), and its constitution a "hybrid" of "theocratic and democratic elements" (by Francis Fukuyama[12]). Like other Islamic states it maintains religious laws and has religious courts to interpret all aspects of law. According to Iran's constitution, "all civil, penal financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and other laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria."[13]

In addition, Iran has a religious ruler and many religious officials in powerful government posts. The head of state, or "Supreme Leader", is a faqih[14] (scholar of Islamic law), and possesses more power than Iran's president. The Leader appoints the heads of many powerful posts (the commanders of the armed forces, the director of the national radio and television network, the heads of the powerful major religious foundations, the chief judge, the chief prosecutor, special tribunals, and members of national security councils dealing with defence and foreign affairs. He also co-appoints the 12 jurists of the Guardian Council[15]).

The Leader is elected by the Assembly of Experts[11][16] which is made up of mujtahids[17] (Islamic scholars competent in interpreting shariah law).

Another body, the Council of Guardians, has the power to veto bills from majlis (parliament), approve or disapprove candidates who wish to run for high office (president, majlis, the Assembly of Experts). The council supervises elections, and can greenlight or ban investigations into the election process.[11] Six of the Guardians (half the council) are faqih empowered to approve or veto all bills from the majlis (parliament) according to whether the faqih believe them to be in accordance with Islamic law and customs (the Sharia). The other six members are lawyers appointed by the head of the judiciary (who is also a cleric and also appointed by the Leader[18])

Central Tibetan Administration[edit]

The Central Tibetan Administration, colloquially known as the Tibetan government in exile, is a Tibetan exile organisation with a state-like internal structure. According to its charter, the position of head of state of the Central Tibetan Administration belongs ex officio to the current Dalai Lama, a religious hierarch. In this respect, it continues the traditions of the former government of Tibet, which was ruled by the Dalai Lamas and their ministers, with a specific role reserved for a class of monk officials.

On March 14, 2011, at the 14th Dalai Lama's suggestion, the parliament of the Central Tibetan Administration began considering a proposal to remove the Dalai Lama's role as head of state in favor of an elected leader.

The first directly elected Kalön Tripa was Samdhong Rinpoche, who was elected August 20, 2001.[19]

Before 2011, the Kalön Tripa position was subordinate to the 14th Dalai Lama[20] who presided over the government in exile from its founding.[21] In August of that year, Lobsang Sangay polled 55 per cent votes out of 49,189, defeating his nearest rival Tethong Tenzin Namgyal by 8,646 votes,[citation needed] becoming the second popularly-elected Kalon Tripa. The Dalai Lama announced that his political authority would be transferred to Sangay.[22]

Change to Sikyong[edit]

On September 20, 2012, the 15th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile unanimously voted to change the title of Kalön Tripa to Sikyong in Article 19 of the Charter of the Tibetans in exile and relevant articles.[23] The Dalai Lama had previously referred to the Kalon Tripa as Sikyong, and this usage was cited as the primary justification for the name change. According to Tibetan Review, "Sikyong" translates to "political leader", as distinct from "spiritual leader".[24] Foreign affairs Kalon Dicki Chhoyang claimed that the term "Sikyong" has had a precedent dating back to the 7th Dalai Lama, and that the name change "ensures historical continuity and legitimacy of the traditional leadership from the fifth Dalai Lama".[25] The online Dharma Dictionary translates sikyong (srid skyong) as "secular ruler; regime, regent."[26] The title sikyong had previously been used by regents who ruled Tibet during the Dalai Lama's minority.

States with official state religion[edit]

Main article: State religion

Having a state religion is not sufficient to be a theocracy. Many countries have a state religion without the government directly deriving its powers from a divine authority or a religious authority directly exercising governmental powers.

Historic states with theocratic aspects[edit]

See also: Imperial cult

Antiquity[edit]

The imperial cults in Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire, as well as numerous other monarchies, deified the ruling monarch. The state religion was often dedicated to the worship of the ruler as a deity, or the incarnation thereof.

Early Israel was ruled by Judges before instituting a monarchy. The Judges were believed to be representatives of YHWH or Jehovah.

In ancient and medieval Christianity, Caesaropapism is the doctrine where a head of state is at the same time the head of the church.

China[edit]

[dubious ]

The Shang dynasty essentially functioned as a theocracy, declaring the ruling family the sons of heaven and calling the chief sky god Shangdi after a word for their deceased ancestors.[27] After their overthrow by the Zhou, the royal clan of Shang were not eliminated but instead moved to a ceremonial capital where they were charged to continue the performance of their rituals.

The titles combined by Shi Huangdi to form his new title of emperor were originally applied to god-like beings who ordered the heavens and earth and to culture heroes credited with the invention of agriculture, clothing, music, astrology, &c. Even after the fall of Qin, an emperor's words were considered sacred edicts (聖旨) and his written proclamations "directives from above" (上諭).

As a result, some Sinologists translate the title huangdi (usually rendered "emperor") as thearch. The term properly refers to the head of a thearchy (a kingdom of gods), but the more accurate "theocrat" carries associations of a strong priesthood that would be generally inaccurate in describing imperial China. Others reserve the use of "thearch" to describe the legendary figures of Chinese prehistory while continuing to use "emperor" to describe historical rulers.[27]

Christian[edit]

In the Byzantine Empire (324-1453 AD) the Emperor was the head of civil society. He also exercised authority over the ecclesiastical authorities, or patriarchates. The emperor was considered to be God's omnipotent representative on earth and he ruled as an absolute autocrat.[28]

Geneva under John Calvin's influence and the Massachusetts Bay Colony of the "Puritans" had many characteristics of Protestant theocracies.

The short reign (1494–1498) of Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican priest, over the city of Florence had features of a theocracy. During his rule, "un-Christian" books, statues, poetry, and other items were burned (in the Bonfire of the Vanities), sodomy was made a capital offense, and other Christian practices became law.

Although having a lay ruler (the King of Jerusalem) the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1299) is considered to have some theocratic influences.

Also the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector is also considered to have a considerable amount of theocratic influence.

The Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace in 1860s Qing China was a heterodox Christian theocracy led by the self-proclaimed younger brother of Jesus Christ, Hong Xiuquan. This theocratic state fought one of the most destructive wars in history, the Taiping Rebellion, against the Qing Dynasty for fifteen years before being crushed following the fall of the rebel capital Nanking.

Deseret[edit]

Main article: State of Deseret
See also: Theodemocracy

Another ecclesiocracy was the administration of the short-lived State of Deseret, an independent entity briefly organized in the Western United States by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its original borders stretched from western Colorado to the southern California coast. When the Mormons arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847, the Great Basin was still a part of Mexico and had no secular government. As a result, Brigham Young administered the region both spiritually and temporally through the highly organized and centralized Melchizedek Priesthood. This original organization was based upon a concept called theodemocracy, a governmental system combining Biblical theocracy with mid-19th-century American political ideals, including heavy reliance upon the U.S. Constitution.

The treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo resulted in the Mexican Cession by which Deseret was incorporated into the United States. In 1849, the Saints organized a secular government in Utah, although many ecclesiastical leaders maintained their positions of secular power. The Mormons also petitioned Congress to have Deseret admitted into the Union as a state. However, under the Compromise of 1850, Utah Territory was created and Brigham Young was appointed governor. In this situation, Young still stood as head of the LDS Church as well as Utah's secular government.

After the abortive Utah War of 1857–1858, the replacement of Young by an outside Federal Territorial Governor, the eventual resolution of controversies regarding plural marriage, and accession by Utah to statehood, the apparent temporal aspects of LDS theodemocracy receded markedly. However, — like many Christians, Jews, and Muslims — Latter-day Saints regard some form of theocracy with God as the head (king) of a chiliastic world government to be the true political ideal.[citation needed] But, until the Second Coming of Christ, the Mormons teach in their 12th Article of Faith: submission to the powers that be. But true to their beliefs in individual liberty and moral accountability, they exhibit a strong preference for democratic-republican, representative government as embodied in the Constitution of the United States.

Montenegro[edit]

Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro offers a singular example of monarchs willingly turning their power to ecclesiastic authority (Montenegrin Orthodox), as the last of the House of Crnojević (styled Grand Voivode, not sovereign princes) did, in order to preserve national unity before the Ottoman onslaught as a separate millet under an autochthonous ethnarch. When Montenegro re-established secular dynastic succession by the proclamation of princedom in 1851, it did so in favor of the last Prince-bishop, who changed his style from Vladika i upravitelj Crne Gore i Brde "Vladika (Bishop) and Ruler of Montenegro and Brda" to Po Bozjoj milosti knjaz i gospodar Crne Gore i Brde "By the grace of God Prince and Sovereign of Montenegro and Brda", thus rendering his de facto dynasty (the Petrović-Njegoš family since 1696) a hereditary one.

Islam[edit]

For years, Islam implemented a theocracy, starting from the time when Muhammad established the Muslim territory in Medina in the 7th century all the way to the early 20th century when the Ottoman Empire was dissolved in Turkey. Caliphs (from the Arabic word Khalifah which means successor) although did not claim to receive revelation directly from Allah, as did Muhammad, claimed that they based their decrees on the Quran.

Buddhism[edit]

Unified religious rule in Tibet began in 1642, when the Fifth Dalai Lama allied with the military power of the Mongol Gushri Khan to consolidate the political power and center control around his office as head of the Gelug school.[29] This form of government is known as the dual system of government. Prior to 1642, particular monasteries and monks had held considerable power throughout Tibet, but had not achieved anything approaching complete control, though power continued to be held in a diffuse, feudal system after the ascension of the Fifth Dalai Lama. Power in Tibet was held by a number of traditional elites, including members of the nobility, the heads of the major Buddhist sects (including their various tulkus), and various large and influential monastic communities.[30]

Political power was sometimes used by monastic leaders to suppress rival religious schools through the confiscation of property and direct violence.[29][31] Social mobility was somewhat possible through the attainment of a monastic education, or recognition as a reincarnated teacher, but such institutions were dominated by the traditional elites and governed by political intrigue.[30] Non-Buddhists in Tibet were members of an outcast underclass.[30]

The Bogd Khaanate period of Mongolia (1911-1919) is also cited as a former Buddhist theocracy.

Zoroastrianism[edit]

During the Achaemenid Empire, Zoroastrianism was the state religion and included formalized worship. The Persian kings were known to be pious Zoroastrians and also ruled with a Zoroastrian form of law called asha. However, Cyrus the Great, who founded the empire, avoided imposing the Zoroastrian faith on the inhabitants of conquered territory. Cyrus's kindness towards Jews has been cited as sparking Zoroastrian influence on Judaism.

Under the Seleucids, Zoroastrianism became autonomous. During the Sassanid period, the Zoroastrian calendar was reformed, image-use was banned, Fire Temples were increasingly built and intolerance towards other faiths prevailed.[32]

Fictional theocracies[edit]

Depictions of a fictional society dominated by a theocracy recur in science fiction, speculative fiction and fantasy. Such depictions are mostly dystopian, and in some cases humorous or satirical; positively presented theocracies are very much the exception.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Theocracy; Dictionary – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  2. ^ "Theocracy - The rule of law is derived from religious doctrine and its decrees are absolute. This type of government is evidenced by a strict Islamic state (a rule of law under the religious code of the Islamic religion)."
  3. ^ "theocracy - Rule by religion. A government that is based on theistic beliefs. Iran is a theocracy. As well was ancient India, in some forms of Hinduism."
  4. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia "A form of civil government in which God himself is recognized as the head."
  5. ^ English form the 17th century (OED). The Greek term is explicitly coined by Josephus and isn't attested elsewhere in Ancient Greek; Josephus marks it as a nonce coinage by calling it a "strained expression". W. Whiston tr. Josephus, Against Apion ii. §17 (1814) IV. 340: "He [Moses] ordained our government to be what, by a strained expression, may be termed a Theocracy", translating ὡς δ'ἄν τίς εἴποι, βιασάμενος τὸν λόγον, θεοκρατίαν
  6. ^ Stephen Palmquist, Biblical Theocracy: A vision of the biblical foundations for a Christian political philosophy (Hong Kong: Philopsychy Press, 1993), introduced these more precise uses of the terms in arguing that theocracy (in this pure sense) is the only political system defended in the Bible. While Palmquist defends theocracy in this pure form as a viable (though "non-political") political system, he warns that what normally goes by this name is actually ecclesiocracy, the most dangerous of all political systems.
  7. ^ a b c d "CIA World Factbook – Holy See". Cia.gov. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  8. ^ Fundamental Law of Vatican City State, Art. 1 §1
  9. ^ http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/vatican.htm
  10. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2006: Nigeria". Bureau of Democracy, Human rights and Labor. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c "CIA World Factbook – Iran". Cia.gov. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  12. ^ While articles One and Two vest sovereignty in God, article six "mandates popular elections for the presidency and the Majlis, or parliament." source: JULY 27, 2009, Iran, Islam and the Rule of Law. FRANCIS FUKUYAMA
  13. ^ Iran - Constitution
  14. ^ article 109 of the constitution states the among the "essential qualifications and conditions for the Leader" are "scholarship, as required for performing the functions of mufti in different fields of fiqh" Chapter 8 - The Leader or Leadership Council Constitution of Iran
  15. ^ "Who's in Charge?" by Ervand Abrahamian London Review of Books, 6 November 2008
  16. ^ Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Articles 107-112.
  17. ^ "Understanding Iran's Assembly of Experts" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  18. ^ Constitution of Iran, Article 157: In order to fulfill the responsibilities of the judiciary power in all the matters concerning judiciary, administrative and executive areas, the Leader shall appoint a just Mujtahid well versed in judiciary affairs and possessing prudence, and administrative abilities
  19. ^ Donovan Roebert, Samdhong Rinpoche: Uncompromising Truth for a Compromised World (World Wisdom, 2006) ISBN 978-1-933316-20-8 (On August 20, 2001, Venerable Professor Samdhong Rinpoche was elected Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) of the Tibetan Government in Exile, receiving 84.5% of the popular exile vote.)
  20. ^ The Charter of Tibetans in-Exile, Article 20 of the Constitution of Tibet, retrieved 2010-03-19.
  21. ^ The Charter of Tibetans in-Exile, Articles 19, 30, & 31 of the Constitution of Tibet, retrieved 2010-03-19.
  22. ^ Dean Nelson Lobsang Sangay: profile, The Telegraph, 08 Aug 2011
  23. ^ Tibetan Parliament changes 'Kalon Tripa' to 'Sikyong'
  24. ^ "Kalon Tripa to be now referred to as Sikyong". Tibetan Review. 2012-09-22. Retrieved 2012-12-11. 
  25. ^ "International Support Groups Meet in Dharamsala to Deal with Critical Situation In Tibet". Central Tibetan Administration. 2012-11-16. 
  26. ^ [1]
  27. ^ a b Nadeau, Randall L. The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Chinese Religions, pp. 54 ff. John Wiley & Sons (Chichester), 2012. Accessed 22 December 2013.
  28. ^ The Byzantine Theocracy: Steven Runciman
  29. ^ a b Davidson, Ronald M. (2004). "Tibet". In Buswell, Jr., Robert E. Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism. USA: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 851–859. ISBN 0-02-865910-4. 
  30. ^ a b c Lopez, Donald S. (1998). Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-226-49311-3. 
  31. ^ "Friendly Feudalism – The Tibet Myth". Michaelparenti.org. Retrieved 2009-08-10. [dead link]
  32. ^ Zoroastrianism under Persian rule retrieved 5 January 2012
  33. ^ http://www.amazon.com/review/RJQPCXXO0IGKJ
  34. ^ http://www.sfreviews.net/noninterference.html

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]