Theocracy: 2600 Years--From Zoroaster to Bush. Part One
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 03:38:42 PM EST
Theocracy? Not a new idea. So every blogswarm needs a timeline.

Part One---Part Two---Part Three

600-500 BCE. The ideas of Zoroaster, the Persian (think Iran) religious thinker spread throughout what is now the Middle East.
These ideas of Zoroaster include one God (Monotheism) and Dualism: the idea that there is an earthly struggle between absolute good (God) and absolute evil (like Satan). Thus spake Zarathustra, Zoroaster's aka. These themes picked up by Nietzsche, Strauss (the composer) and the 2001 space flick; and let's not forget George W. Bush. Yup. It all starts with Zoroaster, but don't blame him for how things have turned out.

597-538 BCE. The Jews are conquered and kidnapped by the Chaldeans and are sent into slavery in Babylon, the Chaldean capital. Some Jews figure they are being punished by God for failing in their religious duties, so they seek a heroic rebirth through religious orthodoxy. This idea of heroic rebirth after a period of decline and chaos is now called "palingenesis," (hold that thought). These Jews start thinking if they purify the religion enough, a "messiah" will come and save them. Instead, Cyrus the Persian (remember Zoroaster?) whacks the Chaldeans and liberates the Jews. Cyrus is a Godly dude, and he sees the Jews are Godly, and sends them back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of Solomon, destroyed by the Chaldeans. The returning Jews rethink the Messiah stuff, but hold onto the idea, along with monotheism and, for a time, dualism, influenced in part by Zoroastrianism.

1-35 (about). Jesus of Nazareth is upset with the Jewish leaders who seem to have lost track of some core ideas of Judaism. As an observant Jew, he takes them to task, gathering a following in the process. This band of palingenetic Jews seek to restore the power of the religion. Jesus is executed as an annoying rebel demagogue upsetting Church and state. Don't blame "the Jews" no matter how many times you watched that Gibson film. What really matters, though, is the belief in the resurrection of Christ after his death, and the debate about his return as the Messiah in a "Second Coming," maybe tied to something called the "End Times" when there is this huge apocalyptic battle between good and evil involving an agent of Satan called the "Anti-Christ."

35-200 (about) This band of palingenetic Jews claim Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. They open up the new religion of Christianity to non-Jews. One dude in particular, Paul, is into institutionalizing everything.  Elaine Pagels explains this stuff better than me.  Check out her books.

250-350 (about). Illuminating religious current called Manichaeism combines Christianity and Zoroastrianism. Sprouts up in south Babylon, (Iraq). Highly dualistic. Denounced as a heresy by the ruling claque of Christianity. Keeps popping back up.

250-350 (about). Constantine the Great. Flavius Valerius Constantinus to you, if you are walking around back then. Turns Roman Empire into a Christian State and carries the religion across Europe and even to those pesky Celts up in those big islands.

350-450 (about) Augustine is no pinhead, he is a great scholar and intellectual and merges classic scholarship with Christian thinking to create a durable theology.

1095-1291. The Crusades. The idea is the liberate the city of Jerusalem, especially the Temple Mount (formerly site of the first and second Temple of Solomon built by the Jews) from the "infidels," who are really Muslims. The Muslims think Jerusalem is their holy city, because they see Jesus as a great prophet, but their messianic narrative involves their central prophet Mohammed, and the idea that in the "End Times" their prophesies require Islamic religious events to take place on Harem el-Sharif, aka the Temple Mount. Some Christians argue that Jesus can't return as messiah until the Temple Mount is rid of the Muslims.

1483-1546. Martin Luther. This dude had a real attitude problem, and nails the honchos. He attacks several ideas and practices of the rulers, theologians, and priests of Christianity. There is no separation of church and state at this time, so he is also the bane of government officials. His protests eventually split Christianity into three main branches: Roman Catholicism, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and Protestantism, the latter based on the protests of Luther. As a priest and scholar, Luther is palingenetic in that he wanted to restore and purify Christianity, and this in his mind involved seeing the Roman Pope as perhaps the Antichrist who undermines the Godly and seeks to prevent the return of the Messiah, Jesus.

1509-1564. John Calvin. Takes Protestantism and crafts the idea of an ideal theocratic state run by Godly men.

1559-1660. Puritans & Pilgrims. Take Calvinism to new heights and new shores with migrations to the "New World" between 1620 and 1640. As settlers, some thought the native population, being non-Christian and a breed apart, had no souls. They saw themselves as building a "New Jerusalem," a "City on a Hill" to shine a beacon of the purified faith of Christianity throughout the world (thus Beacon Hill in Boston). These palingenetic Pilgrims and Puritans thought the ideal nation state was a Protestant theocracy run by Godly men. When the "New Jerusalem" was established, they believed it would hasten the second coming of Christ. Agents of Satan who might prevent this included witches, who shared the Devil's skills. Any straying from theological or secular orthodoxy needed to be corrected through punishment, shame and discipline. Witches and other handmaidens of Satan were put to death, along with religious rebels who refused to obey banishment.

In part two, also posted at, we will explore how these historic legacies, transmuted through the American experience, have resulted in the palengenetic push to "purify" our land of the sins of abortion, the feminist movement, and gay rights, (among other things) so that Godly men can establish Dominion (thus the term "Dominionism") over the United States, or even build a full Theocracy. And all this is tied to Monotheism, Dualism, Messianism, Apocalypticism and Demonization--and the Palengentic idea that before Jesus comes back-- Godly Christians have to whip folks into shape.

Part One---Part Two---Part Three
But keep in mind that most conservative Christian evangelicals do not support the idea of a Theocracy; and that exaggerating the threat or painting all Christian evangelicals with a demonizing broad brush is both wrong and unconstructive.
Blog Against Theocracy - April 6-8, 2007. Visit the home page of Blogswarm Against Theocracy for many more posts. Technorati Tags:

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates
The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates - - - Chip's Blog


I think your idea of a theocracy timeline is great!

I just think you've started the timeline too late.  I'd push the beginning of the time line back at least to the Pharoah's.  The idea of the kingship and divinity of the Pharoah's made ancient Egypt a form of theocracy.

The divinity of the king was a common idea in antiquity, so, theocracy probably predated the Pharoahs.

by Mainstream Baptist on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 04:28:08 PM EST

OK, You are probably correct, but I like Zoroaster and Dualism.  What can I say?  Never try to outslick a bunch of theological eggheads.
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 04:34:26 PM EST

I'd also add that he came up with theological ideas that supported the new economic system that was forming- capitalism.  By the early 1500's, the theological idea that developed out of his theology was that the poor were that way because they'd sinned (along with a lot of other errors).  So we have religious support of the new economic system (you could say the state).

That is also a consistent theme running through the rest of Calvinist history.

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 07:05:02 PM EST

That's part of the trail I am following, via von Mises and Christian Economics magazine, etc.
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 11:29:15 PM EST

On the Axial Age (the age that saw the birth of Buddhism and Zoroastrianism,) I recommend Karen Armstrong's The Great Transformation. Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman have some good books on how the beliefs of ancient Israel became enshrined as law in their books The Bible Unearthed and David & Solomon.

by khughes1963 on Sat Apr 07, 2007 at 10:39:22 AM EST
One of the great aspects of the Talk2Action Blob (a blob of bloggers), is the way in which we help each other deepen our knowledge, sharpen our critique, and polich our prose.

(There's a postmodern country and western song in that phase someplace.)

Anyway, thanks. More reading for me!

_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 03:50:13 PM EST
Talk to Action offers a certain warts & all approach to all this. We learn not only from the things we do well, but from our mistakes; and we all have the opportunity to make them, and we sometimes take advantage of the opportunity.

I think that the quality of thought and writing gets better all the time around here, and that we are setting pretty high standards for ourselves.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Apr 08, 2007 at 09:39:22 PM EST


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