A Question for the Court Evangelicals: Are You Following Machiavelli or Christ?


Dave Denison, an associate editor at The Baffler, argues that the court evangelicals–he names Robert Jeffress, James Dobson, and Paula White–appear to be more Machiavellian than Christian.

His piece “You Gotta Serve Somebody” draws heavily from Isaiah Berlin’s essay: “The Originality of Machiavelli.”

Here is a taste:

What Machiavelli accomplished, Berlin says, struck deeper. He wasn’t proposing that morality was one choice and politics another, or that evil wins the day; he was recognizing two distinct moralities. One was found in Christ’s teaching in the New Testament. The one he preferred was a pagan morality that looked back to the halcyon moments of the Roman empire. “The choice is painful because it is a choice between two entire worlds,” Berlin writes. “In choosing the life of a statesman, or even the life of a citizen with enough civic sense to want his State to be as successful and as splendid as possible, you commit yourself to rejection of Christian behavior.”

In Machiavelli’s eyes, moral actors must choose between a Roman (pagan) idea of how to achieve a strong and virtuous republic and a Christian ethic of kindness, meekness, and suffering in order to join the Kingdom of God. In our own time, the available choices, for the citizen at least, seem not quite that binary. One could attempt an end run around Machiavelli by following Gandhi. One could attempt to subvert the brunt of Machiavelli’s counsel, as James Madison et al. did, and envision a multiply constrained executive leader, bound by constitutional law and separation of powers. One could move back to the land, get off the grid, and ignore the teachings of Machiavelli, Christ, Gandhi, and Madison. You could do that in the suburbs, too.

But for a certain kind of Christian warrior, the question really is as stark as this: Are you following Machiavelli or Christ?

Read the entire piece here.