Ancient Israel was a republic for 200 years the time of Judges then turned to monarchy. The United States has been a republic for just over 200 years. We are now turning to monarchy as well.
The American president is not called a king, but he acts like one. He goes to war without a declaration by Congress (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11). He is an emperor in disguise. He has the power of a despot without the title.
There is a kind of freedom in bondage, wrote one student of history. Tyranny and license go together. The states, counties and cities even our individual families give up our sacred political power to the federal government so we can do as we please morally.
In ancient Israel, Greece, Rome and Britain before the American Revolution the central power offered food, drink, parties and sports to the people so they would not complain about the loss of their rights. In American today our biggest concern is "Who won 'American Idol'?" and "How far did the team go in the playoffs?"
After 200 years in Canaan, the people chose a man to be their king who supposedly believed in a power higher than himself. But, in reality, like recent American presidents, he seemed to be more interested in control and conquest than in protecting the rights of the people. King Saul broke up churches and killed their priests, imposed his will on local community leaders and persecuted good citizens. Israel survived a succession of kings who taxed the people ever more heavily and got involved in international intrigues. Each one tried to play power broker in the Mediterranean world, much as America's leaders do today.
Great prophets rose up who said, "We will talk to the people about education, local government, responsible morality and individual rights." But it was too late. The people wanted to hear the flattery of their leaders about how the nation was the greatest on Earth and how all was well in Zion.
The northern kingdom, Israel, and the southern kingdom, Judah, placed their hope in might instead of right. Because of this, they were menaced from all directions. In 50 or 100 years, America, too, will learn what Israel learned and Rome and Britain. We have not had a foreign power on our soil since the War of 1812, but the time is soon coming.
If America is to extend the lifetime of its democratic republic, it must reclaim it rather than neglect it. This will require that citizens read serious books rather than amuse themselves with other entertainments. Today we do what business advertisers, sports announcers, federal politicians and some lackadaisical church leaders tell us to do.
Those leaders were wrong in ancient Israel.
Robert Kimball Shinkoskey of Woods Cross is a former Deseret News Letter Writer of the Month. He has contributed to The Saturday Evening Post and other periodicals.