Saturday, September 23, 2006

Neo-Theocracy:

See Joe Carter's post criticizing the rhetoric directed against the religious right as wanting to impose "theocracy" and arguing that what the religious right wants to do -- impose religious values through the secular laws -- is not theocracy.

Two points. First, I agree with Carter that some of the theocracy rhetoric is overblown. For instance, I don't think George Bush wants to impose theocracy in the United States. And I don't think the theocrats -- "the Christian Nationalists" -- represent mainstream conservative or even Christian conservative thought.

But I disagree in that contrary to Carter's assertions, they didn't all vote for Michael Peroutka. And it's simply not true that "Their actual numbers, however, are rather negligible and their political influence almost non-existence." These "dominists" who make up the right wing of the "religious right," number in the millions and do have some significant influence in the Republican Party. I'm referring to men like D. James Kennedy's Center for Reclaiming America for Christ and David Barton's Wallbuilders, and many other lesser groups.

Now, onto whether they technically qualify as a "theocracy." One could argue that technically they don't. As Carter notes, "After all, more than half of American evangelicals are either Baptists or non-denominational. We don't even want a centralized church government much less a central government controlled by the church." Further, a commenter answers what these folks are really all about:

Conservative Christians do want a say in the democratic process, as is our right. If we want to preserve traditional marriage and other Christian values, that is also our democratic right, just as it is the democratic right of secularists to oppose that. Excersing our democratic right to have views that are different, even "offensive", and to advance our views in democratically voted legislation, has nothing at all to do with theocracy. A conservative Christian government that is democratically elected is a democracy, not a theocracy. A theocracy only exists when it is imposed by force on a majority population that does not want it.


This relates to a major dilemma in bringing "democracy" to the Middle East. We don't just want to bring "democracy" that is majority rule, but rather liberal democracy, meaning that certain rights exist antecedent to majority rule. We know that in many of these nations, they will "democratically" vote Sharia into law. Indeed, one reason why Israel, though it is a "Western" democracy, can't do what the norms of liberal democracy logically dictate it do to "solve" its problem with the Palestinians -- a one state solution where Palestinians have equal rights including voting with Jewish Israelis -- is that Palestinians will likely use the democratic process to take over the government, implement Sharia, and then cleanse the area of Jews. (Note: I'm open to the notion that I am wrong as I haven't studied this issue in detail. If I am, then I would support a one state liberal democratic solution for the Israel problem.) Indeed, much of Islamofascism can be and has been vetted by democratic majority rule.

So what do these "dominists" want to do? Like their Muslim counterparts, they want to use the democratic process (or whatever process they could) to write the Bible wholesale, or at least entire parts of it, into the civil law. And they justify such actions by remarks like "if it's in the Bible, it should be part of the civil law." Now, technically, that might not be "theocracy," but it sure looks something like it. Perhaps we could call it "neo-theocracy."

Now, I also believe that the Constitution, properly understood, prevents this. Though, I would disagree that the Establishment Clause is the sole or even primary device which makes such "neo-theocracy" unconstitutional. Consider, the Lawrence v. Texas decision prevents the dominists from writing the Biblical prohibitions against "sodomy" into the civil law. And Lawrence was not decided on Establishment Clause grounds. Nor should it have been. The fact that we have a foundational unalienable right to liberty, that is part of the Declaration of Independence, the 9th Amendment, and Privileges or Immunities Clause of the 14th, and that we have a federal government of limited enumerated powers that doesn't even mention God and concerns itself entirely with earthly secular matters is actually far more important than the Establishment Clause in preventing such "neo-theocracy."

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Then of course there is this event going on at the moment in DC.

Christian leaders, activists and politicians have gathered in Washington, DC for the Values Voter Summit, a slick conference sponsored by the Family Research Council, Americans United to Preserve Marriage, the American Family Association, and Focus on the Family in an effort to shore up lagging Christian support for Republicans. The group is discussing abortion, school prayer, gay marriage, judicial reform, feminism, liberal media, the "millions of Muslims" who want us all dead, and "the role of the church in political issues" – and they even have a session on "exposing liberal groups." The conference is clearly Christian and Republican, and its name smacks of the ignorant belief that only Christian Republicans have "values."

Noteworthy speakers at the Values Voter Summit include Senator George Allen (R-VA) (of "macaca" fame), Gary Bauer, Bill Bennett, Brent Bozell, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Anne Coulter, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Newt Gingrich, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Sean Hannity, Katherine Harris, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Ron Luce (Founder of Teen Mania youth ministries), Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), Tony Perkins, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Tony Snow, and Paul Weyrich. Notably absent are John McCain and Rudy Giuliani.

Rich Knapton said...

I think the move by the “Religious Right” should be put into perspective. Since around the 1950s the Religious Right have been told that they should not impose their religious views on others. In the mean time abortion has become a reality, school prayer has been banned, gay marriage has been pushed down their throat, feminism has greatly weakened the family (in their view). While all this was going on, they had been quite. Finally they said enough is enough. They organized to fight what they considered the changing of the moral climate in America. They realized they had just as much right to express and vote based on their moral values as did the secular left.

This is not so much a move to theocratize America as it is to defend the moral values they hold sacred. As far as being Christians, they have just as much right to organize as any other group in America.

Jon: So what do these "dominists" want to do? Like their Muslim counterparts, they want to use the democratic process (or whatever process they could) to write the Bible wholesale, or at least entire parts of it, into the civil law. And they justify such actions by remarks like "if it's in the Bible, it should be part of the civil law." Now, technically, that might not be "theocracy," but it sure looks something like it. Perhaps we could call it "neo-theocracy."

As far as what’s in the bible should be law, I’m sure they don’t want to being back things like stoning. As far as the sodomy laws, I don’t see any groundswell of support for new sodomy laws by the Christian Right. What they are fighting is the efforts to change the moral climate of America by the secular left. If you view it in its historical setting you will see that the movement of the Religious Right is really a conservative movement. By the way, Jon, I have never heard the Religious Right say that if it’s in the Bible it should be civil law.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Why isn't listed under "trackbacks" on Carter's blog?

Jonathan said...

Thanks.

No idea why the trackback didn't register.