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Making a theocratic government (For the purpose of toppling it) (1 Viewer)

Stormcat

Senior Member
Religion and Politics is never a good mix.

In the world of my story, a theocratic government has been ruling the land for the past thirty-odd years, and a group of rebels (including my protagonist) are planning to topple it. I've got the "religion" part of the theocratic government down, but I'm having trouble with the "Government" part.

Basically, I need to make a sort of hit list of characters so that the rebel resistance can work their way up the ladder to finally oust the "prophet" and restore a secular government to the land. So far the only characters I've got are the feeble-minded emperor and the silver-tongued prophet. A government can't work with just two people in it!

So, If anyone has any ideas on how to draft this government, that would be a huge help. :)
 
How about priests, priestesses, oracles, shamans, bishops, servants, preachers, clergymen, etc. etc. etc.? A church as big as a government would have to have its own highly intricate and complex hierarchy, with hundreds of different people at each level.

And... when in doubt, research.

You might look at ancient Egypt, which was a matriarchal theocracy, or the Vatican and its roots, and how those were/are organized. Look at the Spanish Inquisition. History is rich with material for story and character inspiration.
 

Stormcat

Senior Member
How about priests, priestesses, oracles, shamans, bishops, servants, preachers, clergymen, etc. etc. etc.? A church as big as a government would have to have its own highly intricate and complex hierarchy, with hundreds of different people at each level.

And... when in doubt, research.

You might look at ancient Egypt, which was a matriarchal theocracy, or the Vatican and its roots, and how those were/are organized. Look at the Spanish Inquisition. History is rich with material for story and character inspiration.

Actually, The Government came before the church, so to infiltrate it and pass laws in their favor, the church just sent people sympathetic to their goal of domination into the government to pass laws in their favor, until there was no one else left to oppose them.

The church itself is a mix of all the worst aspects of Fundamentalism (of all religions), Rejection of the "magic" in my story,(In the story all characters are capable of using magic, but this church forbids it.), and devotion to purity by making everything they can be white, including people!
 

thepancreas11

New Writers' Mentor
WF Veterans
I would design the religion first, then the structure. Why do they hate magic? What do they do when they come across it? Was there some event that started it all? Do they have a foundational myth? What does a religious ceremony look like to them? Aspects of the religion should speak to your thematic material, of course (It's impure! Only impure people can use it! Maybe white can't use it so they fear it and thus suppress it?)

"A Handmaid's Tale" has something like this. I would highly recommend reading it. There's no magic, but there are definitely some serious religious overtones. I also read "The Priory of the Orange Tree" which has another highly interesting religion (this one centered around magic as well). That's some really useful research. ("Priory" is pretty long, but it's a surprisingly quick read.)
 

Stormcat

Senior Member
I would design the religion first, then the structure. Why do they hate magic? What do they do when they come across it? Was there some event that started it all? Do they have a foundational myth? What does a religious ceremony look like to them? Aspects of the religion should speak to your thematic material, of course (It's impure! Only impure people can use it! Maybe white can't use it so they fear it and thus suppress it?)

They hate magic due to an incident called "The flare" where a solar flare hit the planet and caused several magic user's powers to overload and cause massive destruction and death. It was a freak accident, but they never want to repeat the thing. They execute all "witches" they find, or people accused of witchcraft... or people they just plain don't like such as Homosexuals and "heathens". They also believe that magic is "forbidden knowledge" which caused the people to be cast out of heaven by their jealous god. They figure if they just say their sorry hard enough and keep repenting for their imagined crimes against god, they'll be let back into heaven in a rapture-like event.

The head of this religion is the Prophet, Caiaphas Kaiser. He was modeled after Fred Phelps Sr, who was known to picket funerals because of gays. Not a nice guy. He conveniently has the ear of the Emporer of the land (Modelled after a certain ex-president), so he can have his will turned into law, sorry, the "WIll of God" turned into law.

The only religious ceremony I've written about is a wedding, which was basically saying the bride was now the groom's property instead of her father's property. I'm coming up on a funeral scene, so I imagine there will be more fire and brimstone preaching and whatnot with very little actually said about the deceased.

The color White actually has no effect on magic users, it's just the Emperor's favorite color so to kiss up to him, the Prophet decreed everything possible must be white.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
You might check out Revolt in 2100 (Heinlein) as a popular example in the field.

As far as other characters, you can have law enforcement officials -- possibly a "Religious Police" organization has been set up to enforce strictly religious doctrine, and they'll need to be dealt with ... draconian taxation with its collectors ... propaganda ministers. Think: How does the government keep and enforce its power? The answers to that question will give you the answer to your question.
 

Stormcat

Senior Member
You might check out Revolt in 2100 (Heinlein) as a popular example in the field.

As far as other characters, you can have law enforcement officials -- possibly a "Religious Police" organization has been set up to enforce strictly religious doctrine, and they'll need to be dealt with ... draconian taxation with its collectors ... propaganda ministers. Think: How does the government keep and enforce its power? The answers to that question will give you the answer to your question.

I have a Secret Police in force called the Watchtower, but they need somebody to lead them...

I guess for propaganda ministers I have the Prophet himself and his radio station where he broadcasts daily sermons the people are forced to listen to. I originally wanted the Church to be based on "Seven Mountains Dominionism". Basically, it states that (Pentecostal Evangelical Christians) must rise up to take over the US and seize control of the "Seven Mountains" of American life.

https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com...-to-conquer-seven-mountains-of-american-life/
https://www.texasobserver.org/dominion-theology/
https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com...iracies-confirmed-the-revelation-god-gave-me/

So I was thinking of basing the church propaganda around these "Seven Mountains" family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government. The Prophet is the minister of Religion, I just killed off the minister of families and their replacement is based on the patriarch of a certain infamous family with too many children who got a TV show about it, and the Emporer is the "minister" of government. I still need four more ministers!
 

RachelR

Senior Member
What services were provided by the government that are still provided (and will need a minister or board or director to function), or are no longer provided (and thus are issues people can coalesce around)? Unsexy but necessary things like water/sewers, education, roads, garbage collection/disposal? Things people tend to take for granted can spark outrage when they’re removed, and make the person in charge a target.
 

Stormcat

Senior Member
Unsexy but necessary things like water/sewers, education, roads, garbage collection/disposal? Things people tend to take for granted can spark outrage when they’re removed, and make the person in charge a target.

With the exception of Education, all those things are provided on a municipal level and thus, the church has little concern for them. However, this could be a good way to kick off the toppling...
 
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Stormcat

Senior Member
Oh! Oh! Oh! I just had a thought!

In the 1920s, Germany had a (badly) functioning government, and we all know what happened in the 30s to it. Also, the Nazis had some pretty out there religious beliefs, one could even argue that Naziism is a cult in itself. What if I start looking into how the Nazi government operated to help flesh out this government?

But! that still leaves the problem of how this government will topple and be replaced. A war toppled the Nazis, but my Bad guys don't have any other nations on their planet to possibly wage war with! Unless it's a civil war, of course.
 

BadHouses

Senior Member
As far as character inspiration:

Ambrose of Milan (aka St. Ambrose) - Certified bad-ass. Stubborn promotor of Nicene Christianity over its Arian enemy. Rose to the Bishopric of Milan by being cool and popular. Got into tiffs with the Emperor and Empress. For example when the Empress wanted to repurpose a Church so she could worship heretical Arianism, Ambrose said no. He was threatened in various ways and summoned by Imperial decrees, but he again refused, at one point barricading himself in a church. Ex-communicated an Emperor.

Being an incredibly popular guy, bold and a rhetorical prodigy, he would make a formidable impediment or a super-weapon for your resistance people. His staunch religious positions could serve your needs:
  • Influenced the outlawing of paganism and violent purges
  • Disparagingly called the Emperor a Jew
  • Dying in 397 BC, his body is still around for viewing
  • Now venerated as a saint by the Church

Sejanus (Leader of Praetorian Guard) - The son of the Praetorian Guard Prefect, this guy rose rapidly due to his family connection. Eventually he was co-Prefect with his father. The Praetorians in that time were a boon and hindrance to the Emperor. The Emperor used the Praetorians as bodyguards and as polite discouragement for any dissenters, but the history of armed groups in Rome is that they have a habit of getting uppity when they realise they're the ones with all the swords and abs. Sejanus consolidated the Praetorians and basically reformed his way into a very powerful position of influence including jobs that his class would normally have prevented him from holding. All his conniving put him at odds with imperial heirs who saw him as a threat. That's a pretty typical situation.
From la wik:
"Tiberius was already in his sixties, thus the possibility of Drusus succeeding his father in the near future loomed large. To secure his position, Sejanus secretly plotted against Drusus and seduced his wife Livilla.[7] With her as an accomplice, Drusus was slowly poisoned and died of seemingly natural causes on September 13, AD 23."

Spartacus - Gladiator cum general, this guy might serve as inspiration for your resistance. Spartacus waged a highly effective (though ultimately defeated) slave revolt against much better armed legions, in part by taking advantage of their pre-occupation with other engagements. Some of the details of his tactics are quite interesting. If I remember correctly they holed up in a mountainous region so that the legions they were fighting had to dig them out and couldn't use their usual, killer formations.

While these people do not fit with your story temporally, their machiavellianism, betrayal, ambition, feuds, and powerful personalities of course can be transplanted with little adjustment.

Chinese Hair Politics: The Queue - Your thing about making everything white reminded me of this. A documentary I watched had a quote: "Lose your queue, lose your head."

If I may, I'd also like to comment on your approach to the religious and political topic. Specifically "Religions and politics is never a good mix." I think this has some misunderstanding. Since the time of Mesopotamia governments have been religious to their core. As an elite and non-productive group they must always be mindful of their position relative to the powerless. Kings from Gilgamesh to FDR have rooted their political legitimacy in some way by divine right. It makes recruiting soldiers, obtaining obedience, justifying pet causes, raising or lowering the status of underlings, and other governmental things easier. Far from never being a good mix, I would say that these are two elements of one beast as opposed to something that can be fixed or mitigated or untangled. Typically, religion serves more as a cudgel which can be as violent or peaceful as the man wielding it - Victorious religious warriors always seem to end up with more gold, land, and women. (Another Roman example illustrates this: Constantine calling the Nicene Council to get everybody on the same religious page so that in-fighting is reduced and his position is more secure. He was not especially concerned which sect took precedence.)

I obviously don't want to derail the thread into a political discussion, but I do think that how the author conceptualizes these ideas will affect how they treat them. Just a thought.
 

Stormcat

Senior Member
RIght. So I've got the church all planned out, got Ministers for everything, But still no idea on how this government will fall.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
I have a Secret Police in force called the Watchtower, but they need somebody to lead them...

I guess for propaganda ministers I have the Prophet himself and his radio station where he broadcasts daily sermons the people are forced to listen to. I originally wanted the Church to be based on "Seven Mountains Dominionism". Basically, it states that (Pentecostal Evangelical Christians) must rise up to take over the US and seize control of the "Seven Mountains" of American life.
The Watchtower is a good name for such a force. In view of the nature of the material, might it be taken as a swipe at the Jehovah's Witnesses - not that there is anything wrong with using a story to take a swipe at some of these organisations? 'The Watchtower' is their headline magazine and some erroneously call them by that name, and they do promote theocracy, albeit by direct rule from above.

As far as the government falling goes, several things have already been mentioned, such as removing something that people have got used to having.
Social reform usually happens following a period of great hardship such as war, famine, disease etc. A government that refuses to respond appropriately would be in jeopardy, especially if the ability exists for people to communicate (such as the internet). Or maybe a predicted rapture didn't happen and people are starting to question the core beliefs. Sexual scandal doesn't mix well with piety either. Those are three things that could be entwined to weave sufficient desire to overthrow a government. Maybe bear in mind that tensions can mount but the spark that sets it off may not be a major incident in its own right. But someone kicks off and it escalates. Maybe a member of the public being arrested knifes one of the oppressing force and a fight starts that draws in others and escalates.
 
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Stormcat

Senior Member
The Watchtower is a good name for such a force. In view of the nature of the material, might it be taken as a swipe at the Jehovah's Witnesses - not that there is anything wrong with using a story to take a swipe at some of these organisations? 'The Watchtower' is their headline magazine and some erroneously call them by that name, and they do promote theocracy, albeit by direct rule from above.
I am well aware of that and chose the name deliberately because of it. But not to worry, in this story, all religions will be swiped at equally!
 
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