The Bible Vs The Prince

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This article is an excerpt from the author’s upcoming book, Heaven’s Viewpoint:  God’s Perspective on Various Life Issues

By Akilah Holder

IT has been said time and time again by different politicians throughout the years, that politics has a morality of its own. Even former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago Basdeo Panday has made that statement; but is that true?

The idea of politics having a morality of its own, or none at all comes from Niccolò Machiavelli’s political treatise, –  The Prince. In it, Machiavelli rejects the moralistic view of political leadership. He posits, essentially, that the belief that a ruler should be ethical in order to be a good ruler is misguided and would not lead to a successful reign. In his view, it is better for a leader to be feared than loved. Moreover, his concern is basically the acquisition and maintenance of power.

He writes, “If you take control of a state, you should make a list of all the crimes you have to commit and do them all at once. That way you will not have to commit new atrocities every day, and you will be able, by not repeating your evil deeds, to reassure your subjects and to win their support by treating them well… Do all the harm you must at one and the same time, that way the full extent of it will not be noticed, and it will give ‘least offence.'”

Machiavelli calls this method of securing rule “Well used cruelty.” Therefore, he advocates the skilful use of cruelty to keep a population in check.

Furthermore, he posits, “Above all, do not be upset if you are supposed to have those vices a ruler needs if he is going to stay securely in power, for, if you think about it, you will realise that there are some ways of behaving that are supposed to be virtuous (che parrà  virtù), but would lead to your downfall, and others that are supposed to be wicked, but will lead to your welfare and peace of mind.” In other words, moralistic behaviour will result in a ruler losing power, and wicked behaviour will keep a ruler in power.

He theorizes that if a ruler is loved, citizens and officials will be more likely to offend him; however, if a ruler is feared, they are more likely to think twice about offending him in any way.

Machiavelli, then, views moralistic theories of governing a state as harmful to a ruler’s reign. He presents generosity on the part of rulers as weakness, and a characteristic that could lead to the ruler’s demise. He views and sanctions cruelty as a necessity for maintaining power; he believes that a ruler is better off feared than loved.

Noteworthily, the Bible asserts that a ruler can preserve his rule through being kind and having steadfast love.  Proverbs 16:12 states, “It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness.” Additionally, Proverbs 29:14 states, “If a king faithfully judges the poor, his throne will be established forever.”

God sees things very differently when it comes to running a nation. His view is diametrically opposed to Machiavelli’s. If a ruler is benevolent, Solomon, inspired by God, posits, then he preserves his rule forever.

However, dictators in the past have contradicted this assertion. For example, German dictator Adolf Hitler used cruelty to preserve his rule, yet several nations joined forces against him and ended his rule.

Even more, Machiavelli’s The Prince, is about gaining and maintaining political rule. It is a blueprint for rulers on how to run their states in such a way that they stay in power. It is not concerned about the purpose of government and the welfare of citizens. But politics, by God’s standards, is not about securing power and maintaining it. In effect, it is not about power for power’s sake in God’s view. Romans 13:4 affirms that, “… the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.” Therefore, a government is established to seek the good of the people.

In fact, Romans 13:1 says that God establishes leaders, and Romans 13:8 affirms that rulers “are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.”

Thus, the government was established by God to do his will. Where the word of God is concerned, therefore, morality has every place in politics.  God did not establish government for power sake, but as his instrument to do good and enforce it.

A former adjunct lecturer of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York Akilah Holder holds a BA in Political Science and Spanish, with a minor in French.  She also has an MA in political science from the same university.  In 2016, she published her first book, Apart from Me, You Can Do Nothing:  A Spiritual Explanation for the Origin of Mankind. She teaches and continues as an author and social commentator. The comments expressed in this column is not necessarily those of AZP News, a Division of Complete Image Limited.


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