What I learned about politics and good governance from reading 1 Samuel

As we are in full political swing right now - I thought I would share a post I wrote about what the bible can teach us about - politics. Humanist Bible Study

I have been - off and on - reading the Bible and posting my thoughts about it - at my Humanist Bible Study blog - http://humanistbible.blogspot.com/  I stopped after my father died - but am planning to get back into it when time allows.  I do have enough to publish a Humanist Bible Study of the Pentateuch though. 

This post is from 2014. And it's about - the book 1 Samuel. 

As I keep reading, I get more and more and more into the stories.  This one is one of my favorites so far. Partially because it's political.  I'm a Humanist - so the moral politics and what the moral lessons for politics intrigue me. Especially since the lessons weren't what I thought they would be given what political Christianity looks like and advocates for in the United States.

Anyway - here are the political lessons I took away from 1 Samuel:

  • Fair and impartial judges are essential to peace among people. (1 Samuel 7)
  • Monarchy’s are against the will of God. (1 Samuel 8)
  • Don’t suppress dissent with violence (1 Samuel 11:13)
  • If you want peace, don’t appoint a man of war to rule over you. (1 Samuel 14) 
  • You get the government you deserve (1 Samuel 12:12)
  • God does not support preemptive attacks. (1 Samuel 13) 
  • Sometimes you win by not fighting. (1 Samuel 26)
  • Violence begets violence (1 Samuel 30)
  • Plotting to overthrow a government? Even if you have god on your side, you still need to be a bit sneaky. (1 Samuel 16)

The entire story is one of corruption vs. honesty in governance.  The people want a king. God warns them that kings are bad. They demand a king. God chooses one for them, this is Saul. Turns out - Saul doesn't obey God in quite the right anal retentive way God wants him to and so God starts to plot against Saul by choosing and mentoring David through lots of political maneuvering and fighting. Saul becomes increasingly corrupt in his quest to maintain power and it is this corruption that serves as the moral heart of the story.

What surprised me was that god is pro-judges and basically anti organized government. Not sure how you have judges without a way to pay them, but I guess since at the time the priestly class were the judges, they got paid as part of their priestly duties to the people. That's why they got to keep a portion of all the sacrifices.

Regardless, the preference is clearly for a type of theocratic based self rule.  I'd call it libertarian, except that it's clearly theocratic. Rule by priests/judges - when you need them.  But, there were lots of priests and judges and people were free to follow whichever one they thought most "godly" with individuals really only standing out as good from time to time.

This book also makes the case against nepotism and biological succession. Because whenever someone was godly/goodly - his sons were inevitably not.

The final thing that really shocked me about this story is the homosexual love story between Saul's son Jonathon and David - the king in training. Whatever political Christians try to say about what god thinks about gays - is wrong. They just haven't read this book. 

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