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Reply to Tovey

Reader comment on item: A Democratic Islam?
in response to reader comment: Why Fundamentalist Christianity Works in Democracy and Fundamentalist Islam Does Not.

Submitted by Peter Herz (United States), Apr 30, 2008 at 08:59

Speaking as a Calvinist Christian, I find no fundamental incompatibility in the theocratic and "democratic" ideals. Samuel Rutherford, the 17th century spokesman for Covenanting Scotland, spoke of government as divine _in radice_ (in its roots) and popular _in modo_ (in its method) at the beginning of his book _Lex Rex_ (1644). Churches stemming from the Swiss Reformation (including Scottish Presbyterianism and English Puritanism) practice a kind of democracy in that congregations elect their elders and issue calls to pastors. The "theocratic" Calvinist churches invariably came into conflict with the ideal of absolute monarchy, taking their stand on Biblical passages such as Deuteronomy 17, which subjects the king to law.

Contrary to popular opinion, "theocracy" does not mean rule by clerics. It means rule by God, and this was the meaning that Flavius Josephus seems to have intended when he coined the term to describe the ancient constitution of the Jews. For later Christians of the Reformed persuasion and its offshoots, the rule of God does not give free reign to earthly rulers, but imposes a number of moral and political constraints.

I cannot speak for Islam, for I must defer to both scholars like Dr. Pipes and the Ulama of islam itself for information. But I certainly agree with Mr. Tovey that Christian fundamentalism and the constitutional republicanism of the United States can and do support each other.


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