Why Leftists Love Both Authoritarianism and Anarchy
How can a leftist believe the fundamental principles of leftism—without contradicting other fundamental principles of leftism? For example: Should you stay locked down at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus? Or should you join the crowds in the streets to protest systemic racism?
Recent weeks have exposed a stunning paradox.
First was an unprecedented exercise in authoritarianism. With covid-19 as a justification, governments implemented unprecedented authoritarian oppression, closing businesses, restricting travel, shutting down schools and churches, enforcing empty streets and public places, mandating social distancing and mask-wearing, imposing massive fines, and arresting people for such crimes as going to the beach. They invaded people’s privacy; they followed them with drones; they tracked their movements through cell-phone data. They said this was needed for society to heal. Governors and other officials flexed their muscles, talked like dictators, and showed people who was boss. They spoke the language of law and order; they directed that all people do exactly as they were told. They replaced constitutional rights with their own directives. Their word was the law. Anyone who violated it was ignorant, irresponsible, anti-science, lawless and dangerous.
Then suddenly came an unprecedented exercise in anarchy. These same people turned on a dime. They told us that since George Floyd was killed, it was imperative not to respect the law, but to defy the law. It was not time to comply with every detail of every absurd, confusing, conflicting government directive. It was time to rise up in protest, in anger, in violence against even the most basic, fair, uncontroversial laws. Mobs moved in great throngs to smash windows, loot businesses, burn cars, attack police, destroy cities and create mayhem, and law enforcement was ordered to back down. The same police who had been told to stringently enforce quarantine measures against citizens who committed crimes of walking down the street or failing to wear facemasks or visiting family members—were now told to stand down and watch as citizens committed crimes of vandalism, arson, robbery and assault. For weeks people have been permitted to hold a miniature insurrection controlling several city blocks in Seattle. As anarchy has reigned, government officials are explaining to us how this is all justified, appropriate and necessary. They say this is what is needed for society to heal. They actually say the need for violent protest outweighs the need for containing covid-19.
Just days before, containing this virus was worth shutting down entire sections of the national economy. But overnight, the opposite was true: Containing this virus was not worth shutting down these destructive, lawless protests. Peaceful economic activity had to stop—violent subversive activity could proceed.
At the snap of a finger, the authoritarians turned into anarchists.
It makes your head spin. How is this possible? How does the same mind harbor these two seemingly contradictory convictions? How can the left in America and Britain simultaneously believe in tyranny and rebellion, in totalitarianism and revolution?
This is an important question, because what has happened here actually reveals a lot about the nature of American leftists. What seems like a paradox is actually quite consistent.
In some ways, authoritarianism and anarchy are two sides of the same coin.
To truly grasp what is happening and what a threat our nation is under, you have to understand a few things about God.
A God of Freedom
God created human beings. He created us for a marvelous purpose, with an incredible potential. He gave us intellectual ability and creative capacity that He did not give to animals. He gave us emotion, relationships with others, love, a sense of morality, of right and wrong. He created us to learn to think, plan, design, produce and even create as He does! And He has thrilling, exciting plans for our future.
To help us grow in our capacity, our capability, our responsibility, our character, He gave us dominion over the material world. This gives us opportunity to learn how to build and care for things. He created marriage and family to teach us how to care for others, to develop teamwork and unity, selflessness and sacrifice. He also gave His law, governing our relationships within family and in society, and even how we take care of the Earth and material things. He created an economic system based around private property ownership to teach us opportunity and accountability, stewardship and hard work, industry and creativity, and voluntary charity toward our neighbors.
Our Creator wants to help us grow up. By being accountable for our own choices, we learn to strive for excellence, to grow in duty, authority and capacity to help others. He wants us to live productive, noble lives, where we build strong families, prosperity, right ambition, strong moral fiber and solid character. As we do that, we are preparing for the wonderful future He has in store for us. You can read what the Bible reveals about that by reading our free book by Herbert W. Armstrong The Incredible Human Potential.
God is a God of freedom. He wants people to be free to fulfill our fullest potential.
This truth about God is beautifully expressed in America’s Declaration of Independence: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
In modern times, God has used America (and Britain) to give more freedom and prosperity to more people than anyplace else in history—people of every race, color and creed, it should be noted. This is something that all of us in these nations should be extremely grateful for.
With the Creator’s goals and purposes in mind, turn your attention again to the two seemingly contradictory trends at work right now in this country. Do you see the common denominator? Both strip people of the freedoms God gave us. Both prevent people from fulfilling their God-given potential.
First let’s talk about anarchy. It is clear how the people running around destroying everything are enemies of civilization. They indiscriminately tear down what others have painstakingly built. They do not know how to build—only how to destroy. There is nothing positive or uplifting or godly about this force. It plays to the worst in human beings: It is antithetical to reason; it is fueled by anger and hatred. To whatever degree this force actually succeeds in toppling the existing order, it is incapable of replacing it with anything better and will leave only ruin in its wake.
History shows that civilization is actually a fragile thing. It is always threatened by the forces of barbarism. God wants to keep these forces in check in order to guarantee people’s rights and to help us attain our potential. One tool He uses to do that is the national governments He has allowed human beings to form. These governments keep the barbarians at bay. We should be thankful for that—and pay heed to those authorities.
The Apostle Paul writes about this in Romans 13. He says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (verse 1). That is an extraordinary statement. “[T]he most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Daniel 4:32). The Bible shows that this is not God’s world—it is actually governed by Satan the devil. But even though God does not directly govern, He does rule! He is involved in choosing who rules over other men.
“Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2; New King James Version). Paul calls the authority of human governments “the ordinance of God”! This is what holds society together.
“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. … For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (verses 3-4). God wants these governments in place! Society without government is chaos. If there were no government, this world would look like Lord of the Flies.
Anarchy seems like the ultimate freedom. But in reality, it is the opposite, because there is no structure in place to protect freedom—to secure it and defend it. The strong do what they will at the expense of the weak.
“So the prime task of government is to establish order,” wrote Will and Ariel Durant; “organized central force is the sole alternative to incalculable and disruptive force in private hands” (The Lessons of History).
Thus, this passage in Romans 13 tells us to be subject to those authorities, “for they are God’s ministers …. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour” (verses 6-7). God’s Church and true Christians set an example in this, even in response to the covid-19 massive government overreach. We proclaim the truth about what is actually behind those directives, but we also submit to them as long as they do not conflict with obeying God.
Have you thought about government officials being God’s ministers? Obviously they govern quite imperfectly. But imperfect government is better than no government.
The forces of anarchy aim to undermine God’s plan and debase human beings, denying them the blessings of an ordered society that enables all people—of every color, old and young, strong and weak, great and small—to thrive. It is fundamentally an anti-God movement and force.
Authoritarianism looks like the opposite of anarchy, but its fundamental goals are the same. And in most cases, authoritarians use anarchy and chaos as a tool to impose their authority.
Everything God seeks to accomplish in the lives of human beings, authoritarians work to dismantle. God encourages freedom within His moral law—true liberty that comes from strong individual character. Authoritarians often encourage moral license, permitting all sorts of immorality that debase individuals, fragment families and destroy lives. But such behavior destroys true freedom. As Jesus Christ said, “[W]hoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34; nkjv).
The weaker the families are, the more they need to rely on the government for support. Authoritarians encourage dependency. They always tend toward socialistic and communistic practices, taking decision-making power away from individuals and families and transferring it to government officials. As governments take people’s wealth and redistribute it as they please, this inevitably suppresses people’s personal motivation and ambition. It strips people of responsibility and makes them shiftless and idle. Rather than striving for excellence, people settle into self-satisfaction and mediocrity.
And the bureaucratic process of redistributing wealth always costs a lot of wealth, which causes the overall standard of living to drop. It also kills off the opportunity and desire to demonstrate individual charity. The government takes care of the poor—and it’s taking your money to do it. There is nothing voluntary about it. And when the poor receive such charity, rather than feeling gratitude, they feel entitled, and get very agitated and angry if anything interrupts the flow of those benefits.
By contrast, God encourages private property ownership and thereby industry and stewardship. This prepares man for ever greater capacity, duty and authority. It also obliges people to be accountable for their choices. But socialist government insulates people from the consequences of bad decisions. It robs people of their individual dignity and turns them into wards of the state.
At heart, authoritarians aim to put themselves in place of God. They want people looking to them instead of to God. The more authoritarian the leader, the more he creates a kind of religion of the state.
On top of that, the greater the role the government plays in people’s lives, the more power it has to trample economic and social freedoms. Which is exactly what it inevitably does.
This is all exactly the opposite of what God wants for us.
And that exposes the true nature of this two-headed monster—this movement that is somehow simultaneously anarchic and authoritarian. Leftists embrace both tendencies because both express the same satanic impulse to destroy people, strip them of freedom, and prevent them from growing, building and creating as God intends. Satan always comes as an angel of light and couches everything he does in marvelous language about social justice, equality and compassion. But at its core, this movement is anti-God. It is against God and destructive of God’s plan for human beings.
The better you come to know God, the easier it is to recognize a counterfeit like the one taking over our nations.