Christian republic

Christian republic

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A Christian republic is a governmental system that comprises both Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

 and John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

 considered the idea to be an impossibility, a self-contradiction, but for different reasons.

In A Letter Concerning Toleration
A Letter Concerning Toleration
A Letter Concerning Toleration by John Locke was originally published in 1689. Its initial publication was in Latin, though it was immediately translated into other languages. Locke's work appeared amidst a fear that Catholicism might be taking over England, and responds to the problem of religion...

, Locke wrote that "there is absolutely no such thing, under the Gospel, as a Christian Commonwealth". By this he meant that political authority cannot be validly founded upon Christianity. Rousseau, in On The Social Contract (in book 4, chapter 8), echoed this, saying that "I am mistaken in saying 'a Christian republic'; the two words are mutually exclusive.". However, Rousseau's point was subtly different, in that he was asserting that a civic identity cannot be moulded out of Christianity. David Walsh
David Walsh (psychologist)
Psychologist, educator, author and parent of three, Dr. Walsh is a self-proclaimed authority on parenting, family life and the impact of media on children and teens. David Walsh was the president and founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family based in Minneapolis, MN until it closed...

, founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family
National Institute on Media and the Family
The National Institute on Media and the Family , founded by psychologist Dr. David Walsh in 1996 and closed in 2009 was a non-profit organization based in Minneapolis, MN. It was a nonsectarian advocacy group which sought to monitor mass media for content that it deemed is harmful to children and...

, acknowledges that there is a "genuine tension […] between Christianity and the political order" that Rousseau was acknowledging, arguing that "many Christians would, after all, agree with him that a 'Christian republic' is a contradiction in terms" and that the twain live "in an uneasy relationship in actual states, and social cohesion has often been bought at the price of Christian universalism". Robert Neelly Bellah has observed that most of the great republican theorists of the Western world have shared Rousseau's concerns about the mutually exclusive nature of republicanism and Christianity, from Machiavelli (more on which later) to Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in...


Rousseau's thesis is that the twain are incompatible because they make different demands upon the virtuous man. Christianity, according to Rousseau, demands submission (variously termed "servitude" or "slavery" by scholars of his work) to imposed authority and resignation, and requires focus upon the unworldly; whereas republicanism demands participation rather than submission, and requires focus upon the worldly. Rousseau's position on Christianity is not universally held. Indeed it was refuted by, amongst others, his friend Antoine-Jacques Roustan
Antoine-Jacques Roustan
Antoine-Jacques Roustan was a Swiss pastor and theologian, who engaged in an extensive correspondence with Jean-Jacques Rousseau....

 in a reply to the Social Contract.

Rousseau's thesis has a basis in the prior writings of Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He is one of the main founders of modern political science. He was a diplomat, political philosopher, playwright, and a civil servant of the Florentine Republic...

, whom Rousseau called a "bon citoyen et honnête homme" and who alongside Montesquieu was one of Rousseau's sources for republican philosophy. In his Discoursi Machiavelli observes that Christianity in practice has not met the ideals of its foundation, and that the resultant corruption leads, when mixed with secular political ideals, to something that is neither good religion nor good politics. Further, he argues, whilst Christianity does not preclude love for one's country, it does require citizens to endure damage to republican government, stating that the best civic virtue in regards to a republic is to show no mercy to the republic's enemies and to put to death or to enslave the inhabitants of an opposing city that has been defeated.