At Sunday school (where they study the Bible before the actual worship service) we watched a 23 or so minute video from R.C. Sproul on monarchy in the Bible. (I think this is the link to it, but it’s $2.)
Libertarian Christians like to show not only atheists but also neoconservative Christians just how much God was against monarchy (with a human head). When Israel demands a king to be like the other (pagan) nations, here is what God told Samuel:
6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. 9 Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.”
10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. 11 And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to beperfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men,[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”
19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
Like I said, it’s understandable how libertarian Christians would say, “See guys? Stop equating religion with the State. Yes, religious officials throughout history have used theology as a club against their sheep, but they were perverting the true doctrines. God sounds like Nock when the people want to grow their secular State.”
But I want to bring up something else. Notice that God lets them choose something that He knows is wrong. As Sproul says in his lecture, here God is acting like the father in Jesus’ famous parable of the prodigal son. The man lets his son go off and make disastrous life choices, in order for him to eventually come back and be welcomed again into the family, wiser.
I admit that there are some passages in the Old Testament that are…difficult. But the character of God is far more nuanced than the caricature of a petulant tyrant that you get from Hitchens et al. I’m pretty sure if a town in North Korea asks to secede and join South Korea, Kim Jong-un wouldn’t say, “Well, they’re rejecting me. OK let them go, but warn them that with free speech comes the annoying paparazzi. And wait to see how gross Burger King fries are.” No, he’d probably have the leaders of the region imprisoned or shot.