The Modern Myth of the Secular State

People Reacting against “Theocracy” Should Really Look in the Mirror

NBC’s Chuck Todd recently devoted a Meet The Press segment to what he called “Rising Theocracy” with the apparent intention to first, scare our pants off, and second, give the call for pitchforks. See here and here.

So, let’s think about this.

One of the most invaluable gifts I received in my undergrad days at a small Christian classical college was an understanding of the inescapable concept of, “Not whether but which”: not whether education will form the soul, but in which direction it will be formed; not whether a story has the power to shape the imagination, but which imaginative landscape it is creating; not whether we will worship something, but which something we will worship. This inescapable concept speaks to those things that are inherent in nature and in ourselves. God spoke this world into being in a particular way, and that means we necessarily function along certain lines. It also means that if we attempt to live outside of these realities, there will be certain inescapable consequences.

Theocracy is one of those concepts. So let’s run with that word for a minute, shall we? Humanity is inherently religious and inherently political. The original sense of the polis meant man’s necessary community. This means our political life will necessarily be related to our religious life. While the two words denote different realms of activity in which we as humans participate, they cannot be completely divorced from one another. A Christian will be (and act as) a Christian, no matter what office he or she holds. As will a Buddhist, as will a Muslim, and as will (are you ready for this?) a secularist.

Secular Deities of the Day

“Theocracy,” by the accepted dictionaries of our day (dictionaries — another inescapable concept: not whether we will use one, but which one we will use), means a system of government in which a divinity (theo-) is recognized as head of the civil realm, and his or her (or its) laws are taken as the foundation of civic rule (-cracy).

The rejection and destruction of a theocracy has been the principal aim of the secular project from the very beginning. In no way, secularists cry, can there be a free, neutral state while that state is also submitted to the lordship of some deity. Freedom of religion really means freedom from religion, at least in the halls of power. The state cannot impose morality. The state cannot impose religious beliefs. The state cannot impose any one particular worldview.

Perhaps you begin to see the irony?

Despite all the secularists’ best efforts, the secular state has only succeeded in creating more deities whose lordship must be submitted to: one more system of morality, one more system of religious belief, one more worldview to be imposed on all. While they may not have classic names recognizable as deities like Zeus or Molech, the gods and goddesses of Autonomy, Choice, and Expression have dominated the political and cultural scene for decades, and the secular state has endorsed, if not imposed submission to and worship of, these concepts as overlords. This has been accomplished through all three branches of government, as well as the major media outlets. The worship of these false deities lies behind such movements as the push to indoctrinate kids with “gender-theory” and the defense of trans ideology in schools.

These deities come with their own blasphemy codes that demand certain kinds of speech, and prosecute others. They come with their own holiness codes that elevate certain lifestyles, while ridiculing and undercutting others. They lead to their own bill of rights; witness House Resolution 1209, the “Transgender Bill of Rights.”

All of this forms the very backbone of the secular project. It is not just the sidelining of the Christian faith; it is a rejection of elemental truths of reality. And that leads to nowhere good. As C.S. Lewis clearly saw in That Hideous Strength, modernism and scientism, despite appearances, if left unchecked by a higher moral order, lead straight to demon worship. Well, we’ve had decades of modernism and scientism left unchecked. What do you think it is we are we seeing today?

A Secular Stateocracy

We are already living in a theocracy. We already have a political order submitted to a deity (or deities), whose laws and demands form the foundation of our civic life. Secular neutrality is a myth. There is no posture-free existence. There is no fence to sit on. We are defined by a posture toward some religious principle, something that we worship, be it Jesus or self or some imagined multicultural utopia where every different perspective lives in harmony with each other, as if the law of non-contradiction never existed.

As Francis Schaeffer taught, if there is no God above the state, the state becomes its own god. Again, it is not whether there will be a theocracy, but which one will we live under. The question before each one of us boils down to this: do we want a system of government that works with the grain of reality or against it? Those are the only two options. Regardless of what name the secularist puts to it, we will have Christ or chaos. Take your pick.

(MA Humanities) is a poet and translator living in the DFW metroplex with his wife and son. His new blank verse translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, as well as accompanying reader’s guides, are available at

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