C.S. Lewis on the Evil and Corruption of Theocracy

To follow up on my recent blog posting, “Obama’s New Theocracy,” and now with the brutal crackdown and news blackout by Iranian government officials on the huge peaceful protests of the corruption and repression in Iran (see here, here, here and here), C. S. Lewis’s discussion of the enormous dangers from theocracy (faith-based statism) is most timely:

I fully embrace the maxim (which . . . borrows from a Christian) that “all power corrupts.” I would go further. The loftier the pretensions of the power, the more meddlesome, inhuman, and oppressive it will be. Theocracy is the worst of all possible governments. All political power is at best a necessary evil: but it is least evil when its sanctions are most modest and commonplace, when it claims no more than to be useful or convenient and sets itself strictly limited objectives. Anything transcendental or spiritual, or even anything very strongly ethical, in its pretensions is dangerous and encourages it to meddle with our private lives. Let the shoemaker stick to his last. Thus the Renaissance doctrine of Divine Right is for me a corruption of monarchy; Rousseau’s General Will, of democracy; racial mysticisms, of nationality. And Theocracy, I admit and even insist, is the worst corruption of all.

—From The World’s Last Night: And Other Essays, by C.S. Lewis

David J. Theroux is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Institute.
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