A theocracy is a system of government where instead of independent leaders ruling the population, the duty of governing is given to religious leaders. The governing is then done in the name of God, Allah, or another religious entity. This is more common in the Middle East today than anywhere else in the world, but countries like the United States run a form of psuedo-theocracy where people believe that their leaders are elected because of God’s Will.
Are there advantages to living in a theocracy? Are there disadvantages to this form of government as well? Here is a look at the pros and cons of theocracy in the modern world.
What Are the Pros of Theocracy?
It makes it easier to create social reforms.
People who are united under one government and one church will be able to work together without gridlock to create social reforms that are desired. The leaders of the early Mormon church in the United States are a classic example of this. They moved out West to support their specific ideals and the religious leaders doubled as government leaders until their population officially joined the United States.
It becomes easier to find compromises within the majority.
Theocracy will bring a majority of the people together in some form of harmony over the issues that face their nation. This is because they are all basing the foundations of their opinions and actions on a specific holy book that is dictating those responses. This means more action and less debate can take place.
It may create more unity from a global perspective.
As fast as communication happens today, it is important to look at more than just local, regional, and national issues today. There must also be a global consideration. When theocratic governments are in place, then they have natural allies with each other if they are all following the same holy book.
Directives can be implemented much more quickly.
A theocratic government is usually an authoritarian government. This means one decree from a top leader can be filtered down to the rest of the population and become law much more quickly than the democratic process of representation. Debate is discouraged in this environment, but the result is faster movement on potentially problematic issues.
There is less red tape.
In a theocracy, everything revolves around the combination of church and state. This means there is less overall red tape that stands in the way of spending money on needed things. In theory, this could help alleviate poverty, hunger, and other low income issues because the dictation from the holy books would be in place to “help the least of these” as a mandate of governing.
Control is easier to obtain.
Society becomes compliance through fear, but it is still compliance nonetheless. The higher levels of control can lead to higher levels of productivity.
What Are the Cons of Theocracy?
Intolerance is common.
When theocracy is present, so is intolerance. This is because the government and church are seen as one identity. If someone in a theocratic state were to question their leadership, it would often be viewed as questioning the supernatural entity that is the focus of the ruling party as well.
Minorities may have no legal recognition.
If a person does not conform to the religious beliefs of the majority in a theocracy, then they run the risk of not having a legal status within that country. This is often seen with the Jehovah’s Witness population around the world. In Iran, the Baha’i faith followers do not have any recognition whatsoever. Even different denominations or practices within a faith may ban someone from hold a certain status.
Imitation is preferred over innovation.
A theocracy ultimately holds a society back from a development standpoint because anything that may run contrary to the dogma and theology of the religion is considered to be outside of what God has “approved.” The predominant government during the Dark Ages was theocratic Christian and the work of science was dramatically reduced for centuries because of it.
It may be viewed as hypocritical.
Many religions today speak of loving their neighbors as themselves. This would make it difficult to go to war with other nations from a theological standpoint because war, by its very nature, is violent and without love. This may cause others around the world to see the government as hypocritical. Because the government is specifically associated with a religion, then the general population may be opposed to anything that the religion teaches, even if the holy books predominantly teach peace.
People are fallible beings.
Even if humans believe in a perfect, unfailing God, it isn’t God that is actually ruling over the citizens of a nation. It is the imperfect humans who are prone to mistakes, bouts of anger, and greed. When someone is given the keys to a kingdom that is filled with great wealth, even the most devout and holy in a society will fall to the temptations of serving personal needs above the needs of others. The instant that happens is the instant that a theocracy fails to be an effective form of governing.
It ultimately boils down to a “follow or die” attitude.
If someone wants to be somebody in a theocratic government, then they must convert. If they don’t convert, then a threat of death is not uncommon. This causes people to go into hiding, be persecuted in the work place, and not have access to everything that a society has to offer. It also inspires people in the majority to bully and persecute the minority populations just because they are “different.”
A theocracy might seem like a good idea on paper, but the pros and cons of this form of government must be carefully weighed and measured before it is implemented. Only then can a truly accurate opinion be formed about whether or not the installation of a theocracy is a good idea.