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Spengler

Two Cheers For Monarchy

July 23rd, 2013 - 6:38 am

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In the Mosaic magazine debate, the University of Chicago scholar Yuval Levin quotes John Locke and other Western political philosophers in support of a role for the Jewish religion in the State of Israel. That is well and good, but  the Jewish sources in my view are more pertinent than the Anglo-Saxon philosophers.

The nations of the West are all made in the image of ancient Israel, from the Visigoths and Franks of the low Middle Ages through to the Tudor monarchy. Political systems cannot survive without a higher authority; peoples cannot survive without the hope of life beyond mere physical existence. This great insight I learned from the German-Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig. That has a dark side, as I discussed in my 2011 book How Civilizations Die. If each nation believes itself to be chosen in the flesh like the Jewish people, it may justify wars with other nations on such grounds (that influenced Franco-Spanish rivalry during the Thirty Years War). Or it may turn into a Satanic parody of Election, as with Hitler’s “master race” delusion. The United States has the great advantage of lacking an ethnicity, and understanding itself (at its best) to be “almost chosen,” as in Lincoln’s famous joke.

It is appropriate for modern Israel, therefore, to provide a case in point for the relationship of theology and constitutional theory. Wyschogrod’s remarkable essay has broad implications for constitutional theory in general. We Americans will not install a monarch, but we must remember that our Constitution rests on a religious premise, as de Tocqueville understood so well a century and a half ago.

Here is a relevant extract from How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too):

Christian chroniclers cast the newly-baptized European monarchs in the role of biblical kings, and their nations in the role of the biblical Israel. The first claims to national election came at the crest of the early Dark Ages, from the sixth-century chronicler St. Gregory of Tours (538-594), and the seventh-century Iberian churchman St. Isidore of Seville.

St. Gregory’s History of the Franks conflates the deeds of the Merovingian dynasty in Gaul with biblical events, in a salvation history intended to persuade the Frankish kings of their divine calling as leaders of Christendom. “One can see the historico-theological drama in Book II of the Histories Gregory’s conception of Gaul as a holy land, a New Israel,” writes Notre Dame University historian Phillip Wynn. “Here the author comes to grips with events central to his contemporary society, the establishment by Clovis of a Frankish kingdom in Gaul ruled by the Merovingian dynasty. How this happened within the framework of a divinely-actuated history and what lessons this past had for Gregory’s present explain many of the peculiar aspects of his narrative in Book II, including its disordered chronology and historical errors.’”[i]

            And the historian Réne Rémond  notes, “It was perhaps in France that the identification of religion with national destiny was oldest, because it was one of the oldest nations. At a very early date, a tradition accredited by the abbey of St. Denis presented the kingdom of France as the chosen nation, called upon, after Christ’s coming, to be the one to carry on the Israel of the Old Testament; hence the adage Gesta Dei per Francos—the deeds of God through the Franks.”[ii] The election of the Frankish king Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor in 800 C.E. provided a foundation for the French claim to chosenness.

            If the Franks were the first European nation to discover their own national election in the manner of biblical Israel, the Spanish were not far behind. Seventh-century Spain was ruled by the Visigoths, “who considered themselves to be a chosen people with all the associated privileges and obligations. And in support of this proposition, the great Visigothic chroniclers such as St. Isidore, St. Julian, and Juan Biclarense argued that the Visigothic people was God’s instrument on earth,” literary critic Jack Weiner writes in his study of the theme of the “chosen people” in medieval Spanish poetry.[iii] It’s no accident that the Visigoth King Ricared I (586-601 C.E.) promulgated the first anti-Semitic laws on the European record, prohibiting circumcision, preparation of kosher food, observance of the Jewish Sabbath and festivals, and other forms of observance, on pain of death by burning. The nations that sought to replace Israel—rather than seek adoption into Israel—always viewed the continued presence of the Jewish people as a stumbling-block before to their own pretensions to Election.


[i] Phillip Wynn, “Wars and Warriors of Gregory of Tours’ Histories,” in Francia Forschungen zur westeuropäischen Geschichte Vol. 28, 2001 (Ostfildern 2001).

[ii]              Religion and Society in Modern Europe, by Réne Rémond (Wiley-Blackwell 1999), p. 110-111.

[iii] Jack Weiner, El Poema de mio Cid (Edition Reichenberger 2001), p. 6.

*****

Cross-posted at PJ Lifestyle

images courtesy shutterstock / Zvonimir Atletic /  egd

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Mr. Goldman,
While this was not likely something you considered in your argument, I could predict that such a claim of Davidic monarchy sans monarch would likely be supported by Christian Zionists. As Christian belief holds that Jesus of Nazareth is the rightful heir of the throne of David, (The book of Matthew makes this a primary theme), this would be seen as preparing the way for His return, and not as an insult.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"A constitutional monarchy with an empty throne would conform to the thrice-daily prayers of the Jewish people for redemption...But it would also allow Israel’s democracy to function without theological interference of any practical kind."

David, are you seriously calling for Israel to install a King Empty Chair? The USA has one already and I don't think we should wish anything similar on anyone, anywhere!
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hmmm...there are a few surviving Romanovs around. How do you feel about a real Tsar succeeding the elected one in 2018 when Putin decides to retire, David?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"That is not the way that classical political rationalism looks at the matter, but Wyschogrod’s logic is sound."

And it's wrong. The hard left elite believes free speech means pornography, and the right to bear arms only means muskets. It uses judicial fiat to twist and pervert the constitution into meaninglessness. But, it is impossible for ordinary citizens of the majority who honor its principles to ever have any influence on it. It becomes unholy.

Theology is possible in flesh, not law, because kings can discipline leftist elites or can be overthrown and replaced if necessary, usually for not doing enough to discipline leftist elites. Putting any constitution, including scripture, as the "spiritual" base of a government fails. Long before the written constitution the Anglo-Saxon people always understood its rights, by nature.
52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Israel does not have a written constitution because it has never reconciled its secular parliamentary democracy with its Jewish character."

I had always thought that it was because Israel was following the Westminster Model. The mother country does not a written constitution either, because the can be no limit to Parliamentary sovereignty. Or at least that is what I thought.

52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
Or because Moschiach Ben David has not (re)appeared.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I blame Bismarck for all this democracy nonsense, as well as the welfare state. Otto von B. thought he could use the vote to accomplish his Kaiser's goals. But then the Kaiser died and in 1890 Wilhelm II fired Otto, only the first of his many blunders. Democracy stayed like the cancer it is, and soon consumed the German spirit.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Here in Canada, we have a monarch who only shows up in country about once every five years for a week. I argue that this is an ideal head of state, calling minimal attention to self. But my arguments still seem unconvincing to anti- monarchists. There is an idolatrous desire for some figure to "represent us as Canadians".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
After Prince(ss) of Wales, you could have the Pince(ss) of Ontario?? (or in deference to Canadian needs, Prince(ss) of Onto-Quebec)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wales is the right model. Go West, young man....
1 year ago
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