Ben Carson has been applauded and derided for his statement that he could not support a Muslim for U.S. president unless such a candidate denounced Sharia law.
Carson later broadened his view, stating he would not support a theocrat of any faith.
Even with that clarification, Carson could have gone further.
"Persecution is not an original feature of any religion," wrote Thomas Paine, "but is it always a strongly marked feature of all religions established by law."
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are often classified as the "law religions" because they share a common high view of Moses and the Ten Commandments. Also, they have volumes of added commentaries extrapolating more regulations from the basic laws. All three can be infected by the law-disease resulting in rigid legalism and the determination to establish a theocracy.
By that they mean direct rule of God over the nation. This is actually oxymoronic because they really mean the indirect rule of God through themselves and their institutions.
I would add a fourth, "anthrocracy," the rule of the human in willful ignorance or open defiance of God. In some ways it is the most dangerous of all because it is religion parading as secularity. Anthrocrats pose as the hero-liberators from the "crazed" religionists. There are members of the vast faith-system who, in their hubris, prefer the title, "free-thinkers" or, in the case of some atheists, the "brights."
Commenting on a 1961 Supreme Court case, Justice Hugo Black noted that some secular humanist groups had received religious tax exemption. Secular humanism, therefore, is "among the religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in God," he wrote.
Secular humanism is thus a denomination in the church of anthrocracy. Anthrocrats preach rigid separation of church and state to the point of excluding any kind of relationship. However, by separation they mean that no church has the right of influence in government and public institutions except theirs, and they sue frequently to make the point.
There are two viruses that infect a religion with legalism and give them theocratic fever: writings considered sacred and authoritative, and the doctrine of church and state held by the religious system.
With respect to the first — sacred authority — there is no question that the Judeo-Christian Bible and the Koran and associated Islamic literature include powerful law-systems for individuals and societies. Political Correctness and the lofty tomes providing expositional treatment of its many mandates help constitute the sacred canon of anthrocracy's legalisms.
The distinction that can save Christianity is the presence of Jesus and the New Testament. He announces that He has fulfilled the Law for all people, and His innocence is available as a gift if they will receive it. This is an act of grace that replaces the law-system. It is unique to New Testament Christianity.
Without the New Testament, all humanity has left for being reconciled to God and meeting the requirements of His holy character are law and ritual. But, as history shows, Christianity has sometimes strayed from grace and taken the path of legalism too. However, when some branches of Christianity try to establish theocracies there are other Christians who challenge and resist them. This is not the case of most of the other religions of law.
All legalistic-theocratic systems depend on four dynamics to control people — manipulation, intimidation, condemnation, and domination.
If some Orthodox Jews had their way, the modern state of Israel would be theocratic rather than democratic. The messianic Jewish community there has felt the heavy hand of the would-be theocrats. Even Reform and Conservative Judaism has faced restrictions in contemporary Israel.
Islam is political and theological simultaneously. Many of its scholars and preachers do not hide the fact that there is no separation between mosque and state, and that the goal is a worldwide caliphate dominating under Sharia.
The Christian Pilgrims came to America questing for religious freedom, but ultimately some of their descendants fell desperately ill with the theocracy bug and created the same spiritually and culturally oppressive environment their ancestors had crossed a huge ocean to escape.
Now, great universities and even major corporations have bowed the knee to the demands of anthrocracy's legalisms. Whole glossaries have become necessary to keep people from committing the sins of micro-aggression. Anthrocratic priests known as consultants, trainers, and facilitators (among other categories) endlessly disciple people in the sensitivities and intricate magisterium of Anthrocratism.
The major goal of some — and in some cases, most — in all four of the law religions is political control.
God's ideal government is internal, that of each person restraining himself or herself. Humanity's fall into sin necessitated external government.
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary," James Madison wrote in Federalist 51.
Even then, government should recognize the ideal.
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people," said John Adams. "It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Sadly, as long as men and women do not exercise that inner restraint, governments led by other sinful human beings will be necessary. The worst are those that pretend to hold transcendent power over others — whether a heavenly deity or the god they consider themselves to be.
That's why Ben Carson did not go far enough in stating his concerns.