A reader writes:
I followed with interest Ryan McMaken’s analysis of the “6 Myths Catholics Tell About Libertarians” and your subsequent response. I am a devout Catholic, which defines both my theological and political philosophy. However, in the interest of clarity, I tell people that, politically, I am a Christarchist. Christ is my King and I recognize no other “king” as legitimate. Christ never forces us. He never undermines the free Will with which He has blessed us. We either choose to love Him or not and He allows us to reap the natural consequences of our decisions. Our state, in fact all states, are the “king” described in 1 Samuel 8. This is something I pray more Catholics and other christians would wake up to. Supporting the state, (that which threatens, murders, steals, kidnaps, beats, lies, and destroys, etc.) is a rejection of Godly principles. Even validating the state’s legitimacy by willingly participating in their processes undermines the true freedom that God has given us. God is a voluntaryist. Thank you for your time.
I take your word for it that you are a devout Catholic. However, you don’t seem to really know what the Church teaches concerning our relationship to the state, because the Catholic Church does not and never has espoused anything even remotely resembling your description of “Christarchy” which is really just extreme libertarianism with bits and pieces of scripture and theology tacked on to it to season it to taste.
It is true that 1 Samuel 8 gives a devastating (and amazingly contemporary) critique of the state after Israel demands a king. But it is an *extremely* selective reading of Scripture that simply ignores another famous passage Catholics are bound to acknowledge:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. (Romans 13:1-7)
And the Catechism says:
1918 “There is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom 13:1).
1919 Every human community needs an authority in order to endure and develop.
1920 “The political community and public authority are based on human nature and therefore . . . belong to an order established by God” (GS 74 § 3).
1921 Authority is exercised legitimately if it is committed to the common good of society. To attain this it must employ morally acceptable means.
1922 The diversity of political regimes is legitimate, provided they contribute to the good of the community.
1923 Political authority must be exercised within the limits of the moral order and must guarantee the conditions for the exercise of freedom.
1924 The common good comprises “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (GS 26 1).
1925 The common good consists of three essential elements: respect for and promotion of the fundamental rights of the person; prosperity, or the development of the spiritual and temporal goods of society; the peace and security of the group and of its members.
1926 The dignity of the human person requires the pursuit of the common good. Everyone should be concerned to create and support institutions that improve the conditions of human life.
1927 It is the role of the state to defend and promote the common good of civil society. The common good of the whole human family calls for an organization of society on the international level.
The Church knows nothing of an either/or approach to the state and the kingship of Christ. All earthly authority derives from God who gave it. Caesar has legitimate authority, even when he’s a very bad Caesar (such as Nero, the emperor when Paul penned Romans). Of course, Caesar’s authority is not limitless. It is circumscribed by the law of God such that an unjust law is no law at all. But within its proper sphere, that state has real authority, even if the state if deeply corrupt (as states usually are). If you commit a burglary in the Nero’s Rome, the state as the right to arrest you. That authority is something misused does not mean there is no such thing as earthly authoriity. The state has a real role according to Paul and the Church. If we are not to participate in and obey the legitimate commands of the state then why did Jesus say “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”? Why did he and the apostles after him tell us to pay our taxes?
Christarchism is a Christian heresy. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, as he himself said, and he never intended to set himself up as an earthly king. Trying to make him one against his will is therefore doomed to failure. Jesus left the work of earthly rulers to earthly rulers just as he left the work of fathering to fathers. Jesus, in fact, leaves a great deal to us to do in our proper role as creatures, precisely because he respects our freedom.