By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
The Enlightenment of the 17th century was a major turning point in the evolution of religion, politics and law in the Western world. It was initiated by advances in knowledge and reason, and it transformed a politics based on the sovereignty of God and the divine right to rule into a politics based on the sovereignty of man and governed by the libertarian concepts of democracy and human rights.
The Roman Catholic Church was the source of political legitimacy in the Western world until the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century opened the door to change. The seemingly endless medieval religious wars were testimony to the dominance of religion in politics until the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 superseded the sovereignty of God with Hugo Grotius’ concept of national sovereignty that paved the way for international law, democracy and human rights.
Martin Luther was the most influential theologian of the Reformation. He was a “Renaissance-era disruptor” whose subversive ideas were given wide-spread coverage through a new means of social media (the printing press). Alec Ryrie has compared Luther with Donald Trump. It is a useful, if far-fetched, comparison of two men of power who shared egocentric and authoritarian personality traits, and who were hostile to those who criticized them.
Like Trump, Luther was audacious enough to challenge the dominant power structure of his day, the Roman Catholic Church, and he did so using vulgar language and crude tactics. And like Trump, Luther demanded unquestioned loyalty. He used political alliances with secular rulers to deny any Protestants who questioned his rigid Lutheran doctrines the same freedom to dissent that he had demanded for himself when he challenged rigid Catholic doctrines.
Ryrie noted that Luther would not likely have identified himself with Trump, but instead identified Trump with Henry VIII, a contemporary secular despot who, like Trump, used religion to promote his personal ambitions:
Henry VIII was a man who combined narcissistic self-importance, bearish charisma, intellectual laziness, a throwaway attitude toward women, a degree of real shrewdness that he himself persistently overestimated, and a lack of any sustained interest in the nitty-gritty of government. A man who first struck a very public pose against the Lutheran cause when it suited him politically and who performed a 180-degree turn a few years later. His new Protestant allies never quite trusted him, but they couldn’t resist the opportunities he offered them. Only a handful of lonely figures in England, bolstered from afar by Luther himself, stayed true to their Never Henry principles.
Luther, Henry VIII and Trump mixed religion and politics to promote their power and then used their power to oppress dissidents. In Luther’s day, religious and political power were virtually indistinguishable. In our day, Trump and his Christian evangelical supporters have sought to replicate that volatile mix of religious and political power. In so doing they may have unintentionally initiated a new Reformation—or revolution—in both religion and politics.
Could Trump—or any populist despot for that matter—take America back to the future? Ryrie suggests that’s possible if the populist despot can find a person “…like a Cardinal Wolsey or Thomas Cromwell…who can be left alone to manage the business of government capably while his boss looks after the show business and takes the credit. That has happened in U.S. politics at the state and local level, so it’s not hard to imagine at the national level.
The Enlightenment changed the trajectory of history in the Western world with the libertarian concepts of democracy and human rights. But democracy is not enough. Liberty and justice for all depends on human rights to protect minorities from a tyranny of the majority. Our Founding Fathers knew that, but recent presidents have been ambiguous in promoting human rights, and President Trump has been even more inconsistent than his predecessors.
Fared Zakaria has characterized Trump’s refusal to promote human rights as “a step back to a not-so-liberal world order.” It is little consolation that Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, has railed against nations on the UN Human Rights Council for ignoring human rights when the U.S. no longer promotes them. Until the priority of human rights is restored in U.S. foreign policy, the evolution of religion, politics and law could well move back to the future.
Notes and related commentary:
The seminal work of Hugo Grotius On the Law of War and Peace (1625) set the stage for the sovereignty of man to replace the sovereignty of God following the Treaty of Westphalia (1648). Grotius introduced the concept of national sovereignty governed by international law.
On Alec Ryrie’s comparison of the attributes of Martin Luther, Henry VIII and Donald Trump, see http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/23/martin-luther-was-the-donald-trump-of-1517/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Flashpoints%205-23&utm_term=Flashpoints.
On Fareed Zakaria’s views on how Trump could spur the rise of a new, not-so-liberal world order, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-could-spur-the-rise-of-a-new-not-so-liberal-world-order/2017/06/01/1e9aeff2-4707-11e7-98cd-af64b4fe2dfc_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1.
On Ambassador Haley’s condemnation of the UN Human Rights Council, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-warns-it-may-pull-out-of-un-human-rights-body-over-abuses-treatment-of-israel/2017/06/06/3a42b78e-4a9b-11e7-9669-250d0b15f83b_story.html?wpisrc=nl_evening&wpmm=1.
On Lawrence Summers’ view that the U.S. has experienced “a hinge in history,” moving from 75 years of progress in human betterment to a period of regression based on the inept and counterproductive actions of a post-rational, unpredictable and unreliable president. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/after-75-years-of-progress-was-last-week-a-hinge-in-history/2017/06/04/2085b91e-47cf-11e7-bcde-624ad94170ab_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1
On President Trump’s foreign policy as a regression that has made the Middle East worse, see http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/09/making-the-middle-east-worse-trump-style-saudi-arabia-qatar-iran-israel/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=FP%206-9&utm_term=Flashpoints.
On freedom and human rights as an integral component of U.S. foreign policy, and comparing the record of President Reagan on freedom in foreign policy with that of President Trump, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2017/06/08/the-unbridgeable-difference-between-trump-and-reagan/?wpisrc=nl_popns&wpmm=1.
On the inconsistency of Trump’s selective focus on human rights, see http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/17/politics/trump-human-rights-cuba/index.html.
On religion and reason, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2014/12/religion-and-reason.html.
On God and country: resolving conflicting concepts of sovereignty, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/03/god-and-country-resolving-conflicting.html.
On religion, human rights and national security, see
On liberty in law: a matter of man’s law not God’s law, see
On the evolution of religion and politics from oppression to freedom, see
On religion, liberty and justice at home and abroad, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/11/religion-liberty-and-justice-at-home.html.
On irreconcilable differences and the demise of democracy, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/11/irreconcilable-differences-and-demise.html.
On the need for a revolution in religion and politics, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/02/the-need-for-revolution-in-religion-and.html.
On human rights, freedom and national security, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/04/human-rights-freedom-and-national.html
The comparison between Trump and Henry VIII is intriguing. I suspect that Henry was more politically savvy, though. Henry didn't need even the semblance of the consent of the governed, but Trump does. An unpopular King of England is still King of England. An unpopular president loses power fast. That's why I have hope that the future of American democracy can still be very bright.ReplyDelete
You're right about kings and politicians, Jon, but Trump (and other billionaires) are more like kings than politicians. They can be unpopular and still be billionaires. What bothers me most is that after more than 5 months in office almost 40% of our electorate still consider Trump to be their political messiah.ReplyDelete
A delightful perusing for any individual who adores perusing online journals.ReplyDelete
Just this once, I just might make it home without my back and neck in a knot from tension. I decided today was not a day for fighting traffic, if the guy on my left wants to dive in front of me, they are welcome to do so.ReplyDelete
sacral chakra meaning
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Extraordinary things you've generally imparted to us. Simply continue written work this sort of posts.The time which was squandered in going for educational cost now it can be utilized for studies.Thanks auto accident lawyerReplyDelete
Just admiring your work and wondering how you managed this blog so well. It’s so remarkable that I can't afford to not go through this valuable information whenever I surf the internet! https://www.gpwlaw-mi.com/new-york-mesothelioma-lawyer/ReplyDelete
I'm gratified that you considered my commentary interesting and informative.ReplyDelete
The guidance you get could send you off on the wrong digression with contact with shady legal specialist co-ops. You ought to get a prompt address a genuine lawyer.Click HereReplyDelete
On the off chance that you have been paying your lawyer constantly, and particularly on the off chance that you are current and don't owe them any cash from past solicitations, this is simple; simply reveal to them you wish them to quit dealing with your judgment and evacuate themselves as the attorney of record.Drunk driving punishmentReplyDelete
Numerous states have due dates for recording lawsuits particularly for individual wounds. These supposed "legal time limit" laws are intended to urge individuals to immediately approach and present their case.תביעה ייצוגיתReplyDelete
Issues identified with family law regularly expect customers to work intimately with their picked lawyer. click hereReplyDelete
Like weeds in the characteristic world, there is a development of criminals in enlightened social orders. Who these criminals are? For what reason do they develop?law offices of thomas nowlandReplyDelete
Such lawyers are a prized asset of any law firm and they are paid high fee to fight the cases. pittsburgh injury attorneyReplyDelete
Through this post, I know that your good knowledge in playing with all the pieces was very helpful. I notify that this is the first place where I find issues I've been searching for. You have a clever yet attractive way of writing. Application for Unlawful TerminationReplyDelete
Law schools usually prefer to have a multidimensional aspect in the class, especially apparent today as law becomes increasingly integrated within multiple dimensions of our daily lives. https://dr-goz-peter-ugyved.business.site/ReplyDelete
Notwithstanding, it appears to be consistent to permit the adjudicator made law to test the enactment at whatever point it is so needed by the adjustment in conditions which can be offered impact to without any difficulty as in correlation with the enactment cycle. injury law firmReplyDelete
In most cases, an unwed father cannot win custody from the mother if the mother is fit to raise the child, but he may be able to gain priority over other relatives, foster parents or potential adoptive parents. child custodyReplyDelete
The term civil law derives from the Latin word ius civile, the law applicable to all Roman citizens. This was established in the sixteenth century. https://www.bestdivorcelawyerdelhi.in/ReplyDelete