Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Blog Against... Theocracy?

Although I'm a strong believer that both Church and State are morally unjustifiable institutions, I'm still somewhat sympathetic to the concept of keeping them in separate spheres, as much as I would prefer different mob bosses not to join in an alliance.

But even as I voice my disgust at the idea of such an immoral double-teaming, I must confess that I'm more than a little skeptical that a real threat is truly imminent.

As I've mentioned in the Apologia discussion, as well as over lunch with my fellow North Texas Church of Freethought members, I really think that the spectrum of American Christianity is far too diverse to support anything truly resembling Rushdoony's wet dream of America re-imagined as Calvin's Geneva. Especially telling, as I see it, is the core group of theocracy's advocates: Greg Bahnsen, Gary North (Rushdoony's estranged son-in-law), Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry... these are all hardcore Refomed Christians, whose theological influence on most Christians is minimal. The farther away you get from this core, the more liberal (yes, this is a relative term) the approach, which doesn't seem to translate into mainstream success. The initial effort to infuse American politics with down-home religion, Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority," sputtered and died in 1989 (though it was recently zombified as the "Moral Majority Coalition"). Pat Robertson's "Christian Coalition of America" was his concession prize for losing the presidential nomination in 1988, but also has lost significant power and influence. I'm just not convinced that at a time where not only do we have a political group devoted to the interests of atheists, humanists, and freethinkers like the "Secular Coalition for America," but which could also be argued to enjoy a more stable position than Pat Robertson's group, we should entertain any serious fear about theocracy.

Admittedly, there is special consideration given to conservative Christians in the present administration, which has been fomented by a relatively recent relationship between Christian evangelicals and Catholics. One of Bush's advisers, "Father Richard" Neuhaus, is a converted Lutheran who has worked together with Chuck Colson to promote an ecumenical association between Catholics and evangelicals - clearly, a move that has paid off, as both of Bush's Supreme Court appointments have been staunch Catholics. But I'm not convinced that this is anything more than political maneuvering on the part of conservative Republicans- staunch Catholics they may be, but they're also (and, I think, more importantly) closely aligned politically with most conservative Republicans.

But just imagine for a a few frightful minutes- what would an American Christian theocracy look like? Which denomination is going to be in control? Are the Methodists going to sit idly by while Presbyterian theology is written into law? Would Southern Baptists be content to let the Episcopal Church gather up the reins of powers? Not on your life- and not any more than was the case when this country was founded. A major motivation for the separation of Church and State back then was the outrage other denominations felt at the Anglican Church's privileged position as the official ecclesiastical beneficiary of the colonies. If there is any consistency at all to the history of Christianity since the Reformation, it is that Christians are intractably inclined to disagree with each other on any and all possible theological points. The concept of an officially "Christian" government assumes an official "Christian" religion which does not exist. Ecumenism may be possible when working from a minority position- there is strength in numbers, after all. But if John Calvin is any example, once State power falls into Church hands, the motivation for this drops very low indeed.

My thinking on this may be naïve- there may, in fact, be credible movements in the direction of theocracy in this country. But if there are, I'm not aware of them. Even here in Texas, the Church of Freethought was given tax-exempt status by the State- begrudgingly, to be sure, but given all the same. It's just hard for me to imagine that the majority of Christians even want, let alone would be capable of achieving theocratic control of America.

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