July 20, 2006

What Does the Christian Right Want?

Under the administration of George W. Bush, large majorities now understand the country has gotten off on the wrong track. People, reflecting on how the country is fairing under Bush, for the most part now believe that Bush is not competent, has not been truthful, and does not care about people like themselves. In fact, the polls say that only 29% of the American public holds a positive opinion regarding the job Bush is doing.

It might be surprising to view this as a positive sign for our country, but in one critical aspect, this is a very lucky break for Americans and the world. The fact that vast majorities have decided that Bush is a terrible leader means those working to create the Cult of Bush have been dealt a grievous setback. The mess that Bush and his cronies have made of everything also reflects on the conservatives that foisted him upon us and it demonstrates the complete bankruptcy of their vision for the country.

When George W. Bush was nominated for President, the Religious Right saw him as the leader that would finally bring the country under the dominion of God. Bush and his backers talked about how he had been chosen by God to protect the country. So when Pat Robertson, the head of the Christian Coalition stepped down after 9/11, the Christian Right saw this as a sign that Bush was now the leader of conservative Christians.

"I think Robertson stepped down because the position has already been filled," said Gary Bauer, a religious conservative who challenged Bush in the Republican primary. Bush "is that leader right now. There was already a great deal of identification with the president before 9-11 in the world of the Christian right, and the nature of this war is such that it's heightened the sense that a man of God is in the White House."

Although many people know the Religious Right is very influential in the Bush administration, not so many know what their goals are in the long run. Their goals are nothing less than the destruction of our democratic society and the imposition of a society that would harshly punish unruliness, dissent and any disobedience to the rule of the theocrats – those who they believe God put in charge.

During the 1990’s the Religious Right succeeded in uniting various strains of Christian fundamentalism to support the take over of the American government in order to impose a philosophy of governing known as Dominionism or Christian Reconstructionism. As Katherine Yurica noted, "Be aware that Dominionism is in fact, a brilliantly executed road that leads to total power."

Frederick Clarkson laid out the route that Christian Reconstructionism planned to use to gain power: they planned to rewrite history to say the founding fathers wished to establish a Christian nation rather than a nation ruled by laws created by free citizens.

"Christian Reconstructionism is a stealth theology, spreading its influence throughout the Religious Right. Its analysis of America as a Christian nation and the security of complete control implied in the concept of dominion is understandably appealing to many conservative Christians. Its apocalyptic vision of rule by Biblical Law is a mandate for political involvement."

The laws that would govern us come the literal reading of the Old Testament. As Sara Diamond wrote in her definitive work on the Religious Right, Spiritual Warfare,

More seriously, Reconstructionists believe that society should be "reconstructed" to conform with the laws of the Old Testament. They focus particularly on Biblical prescriptions of capital punishment for homosexuals, adulterers and incorrigible criminals. A Reconstructionist society would include no prison systems – criminals would either die for their crimes or work as indentured servants to make restitution to their victims. Likewise, there would be no credit system; indigents would be forced to work off their debts. The economy would be based on a gold standard, children would be educated at home and there would be no property or income tax – instead everyone would give a ten percent “tithe” to the church which would administer welfare projects. -- pg 138

Recently, Michelle Goldberg wrote in her new book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism that the Religious Right sees themselves in a war against secularists.

Speaking to outsiders, most Christian nationalists say they're simply responding to anti-Christian persecution. They say that secularism is itself a religion, one unfairly imposed on them. They say they're the victims in the culture wars. But Christian nationalist ideologues don't want equality, they want dominance. In his book "The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action," George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, wrote:

Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less... Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land -- of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ."

Ms. Yurica is correct that Dominionism is a philosophy that is extremely dangerous to our country. If they succeed in taking power, they will impose a society in which most of us would not wish to live nor one in which we would wish upon our children. Gary North, one of the leaders in the Christian Reconstructionists, defines this society as one using harsh Biblical punishment to keep order.

The Biblically approved methods of execution include burning (at the stake for example), stoning, hanging, and "the sword." Gary North, the self-described economist of Reconstructionism, prefers stoning because, among other things, stones are cheap, plentiful, and convenient. Punishments for non-capital crimes generally involve whipping, restitution in the form of indentured servitude, or slavery. Prisons would likely be only temporary holding tanks, prior to imposition of the actual sentence.

Americans were shocked and horrified at the society created by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Yet, there is much in the harsh vision of the Christian Reconstructionists that reminds thoughtful people of the Taliban. They too stoned people and suppressed women in the name of religion.

The Christian Reconstructionists have gained too much power in our society. They are not a group with which we can compromise because they feel compelled to impose their vision on our country and on the world. They constitute a looming danger to our country. They tied their fortunes to George W Bush as their avenging leader and he was more than happy to debase our constitutional checks and balances for them. Now that he has been shown to be deeply unpopular, they will need to find another leader to lead the charge. And we will have time to awaken the American public to this danger. We cannot let them destroy our American ideals and values: ideals that say we are a people who believe in the rule of law based on our Constitution including the separation of Church and State; and values that say we are a tolerant and open-minded people who revel in our democratic, dynamic and creative society made possible by our diversity.

Posted by Mary at July 20, 2006 07:28 AM | Religion | TrackBack(2) | Technorati links |

I just finished reading Terry Jones' (of Monty Python) book _Who Murdered Chaucer?_, which is actually a collection of serious historical essays (by historians) on how Chaucer may have met his end. The authors believe Thomas Arundel, deposed archbishop of Canterbury, to be the chief suspect.

The time is 1400. The Black Death had wiped out a good portion of Europe, leading Catholics to question what responsibility the Church had for this. Wycliff had championed translating the Bible from Latin to English, so the people would be less dependent upon the Church for their religion. Kings were starting to get up the nerve to seize the assets of the Roman Catholic Church.

Arundel, a politician rather than a theologian, decided this needed to be nipped in the bud. He arranged for Henry IV to overthrow Richard II, and used paramilitary forces to eliminate political rivals, including perhaps Geoffrey Chaucer, poet laureate and champion of English literacy during the reign of Richard II. Arundel then attempted to rewrite history, saying that Richard II was mad and Henry IV saved England by taking over (instead, it appears Henry IV suffered from some mental illness, perhaps syphilis-induced dementia).

The point is, Arundel comes across as a thoroughly modern character, and his struggles against reforming the Church were really struggles to maintain his own power and prestige. He probably used blackmail to recruit Henry Bolingbroke, and he definitely used paramilitary forces, like some Third World dictator, to keep the King's hands from getting dirtied. He introduced burning heretics in England. He was able to forestall the Reformation for about 10 years, until he died, and then his work was undone. England is now Protestant, and most English speakers have some familiarity with King James' translation of the Bible.

We will always have social conservatives in socially powerful positions, who will unleash various horrors against us in order to protect their wealth and privilege. The Dominionists are just the latest in the lot. The particular ideology does not matter; the common thread is social conservatism (and thus the Catholic Center Party in Germany went in with the Nazis, and today is the "Christian Democrats").

Posted by: Chris Vail at July 20, 2006 06:51 PM

Chris, I really appreciate your comments. They are highly relevant and also make me think some more about what I've written and what I'm thinking about in these issues. What a gift. Thank you.

And yes, I agree, the hiper-conservatives come in all eras and in all countries and one thing they want is control. Unfortunately their "control" is usually bad for a number of people and also very likely to make a bad situation worse because they are so disassociated from reality.

Posted by: Mary at July 20, 2006 11:04 PM

They want a protestant theocracy like Salazar's Catholic theocracy in Portugal from 1932 to 1968. Any pro-science or medicine compromise is a "sell out" to them.

Posted by: jr at July 21, 2006 01:11 AM

Perhaps some Christian Reconstructionists or Dominionists or Fundamentalists, could view the Bush Presidency as a faithless, deceitful double-cross on the part of Neo-conservatives using theology as bait to capture political power to be used for unholy purposes.

Still, these Christian sects, the evangelicals, the mega-churches, unwittingly adhere to fundamentalist interpretation, as do all Christians sects to some degree, always with an underlying intent of establishing order and control. The leaders of these fundamentalist Christian sects are playing God in an ungodly manner.

The verse, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of that which is unseen", can be legitimately interpreted to mean that an absolute certainty of the existence of God is not possible. Evidence is not proof. The 'unseen' may be impossible to reveal. If the existence of God were provable, most people would fully and readily accept the proof. But, what would then be the meaning of faith and hope?

The best we can interpret from the bible in this matter is that we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. That may be the scriptural intention. Yet, fundamentalists act as if the existence of God is a certainty. Me thinks Jesus is not happy with these fundamentalists.

Posted by: Wells at July 21, 2006 12:03 PM

I was floored Friday evening, watching Bill Moyers new series "Faith and Reason", when he said verbatim, "We can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God", in his interview with Sir Houghton. I've been saying that carefully phrased statement for a couple years and am happy to hear it in a national media spotlight.

Bill strengthened this point with the verse "Lord, I believe. Help me mine unbelief." Which is to say, how can belief exist alongside unbelief, unless it is impossible to have an absolute assurity of God's existence?

Sir Houghton likewise doubted the fundamentalist creed.

Posted by: Wells at July 21, 2006 11:19 PM

great post--i still don't understand why so many Christians don't speak and act against those who would turn this country into The Handmaid's Tale made real. Those of us who aren't Christian (or straight) have been yelling about this for ages, but most people simply pooh-pooh it or don't want to discuss it, or they excuse and enable it by saying "oh, they're not real Christians" and stuff like that. Meanwhile, they rack up more and more victories and pack more and more school boards, local legislatures, etc...

Very few Americans (of any religion) want to live in the kind of world they're trying to make.

Posted by: amberglow at July 22, 2006 04:12 PM

I wonder how many have actually read the comments of the founding fathers of this nation. Flawed though they were, they certainly sound like a bunch of "neo conservative" bible thumpers and yet they founded a nation on those prinicples that has grown to be the greatest on Earth. Well, perhaps it just evolved that way instead of being by design.

Posted by: Baker at August 1, 2006 01:59 PM