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Our choice: Theocracy, theonomy or pluralism

April 14, 2007|By ALLAN POWELL

Michele Goldberg's "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism," is a must-read for anyone who wishes to become informed about the power, overreach, aspirations, obsessions and theological absurdities of the evangelical right.

Using the words of the leadership of this loosely interlocked social movement, Goldberg makes several points with clarity and force. Perhaps the most important: The religious right is very serious in its efforts to control government policy regarding the place of religion in public life. The goal is the domination of all branches by having persons with their values, world view and conception of law in office.

They do not accept the long-standing principle of the separation of church and state because they want a thoroughly Christian order to replace secularism and pluralism. Some of the more radical zealots would force an outright theocracy on us. Theoretically, we then would be ruled by God. Actually, preachers and priests - "men of God" - would be in charge.

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In tandem with a theocracy is theonomy in which Biblical law (read: God's law) would replace important areas of secular law. How many non-evangelicals would relish the enforcement of the Fourth Commandment? Would they accept stoning women accused of committing adultery? Would they approve of the execution of children for being rebellious? A look at the rhetoric of evangelical spokespersons does not indicate any restraint suggested by reason.

George W. Grant, formerly associated with Coral Ridge Ministries is quoted as claiming that, "Christians have an obligation, a mandate, 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 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."

One way to fulfill the mission of Christian domination is to strip the federal courts of power to decide cases involving separation of church and state. In 2004 the Constitution Restoration Act was introduced in both houses of Congress by politicians in service to the religious right. If passed, it would have stripped federal courts of their power to hear cases dealing with any state or local government's "acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty or government."

Fortunately, it did not survive the legislative process in 2004 or 2005. But a look at the list of high powered supporters is tantamount to a promise that the attempts would continue. Sens. Sam Brownback, Lindsey Graham and Trent Lott head the list. How is it possible that the time honored practice of judicial review would be at risk?

The power to declare acts of congress unconstitutional was set as a precedent in 1803 in the now famous Marbury v. Madison case. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist No. 78, was prescient when he wrote in support of the restraint of legislators by independent judges. They would be "an essential safeguard against the effects of occasional ill humors in society". The religious right qualifies as an "ill humor."

The religious right now senses that the reason it now has the power to assault the venerable practice of judicial review is its phenomenal growth. Meanwhile, mainline denominations are declining. In 1970 there were only 10 mega-churches (churches with more than 2,000 or more members). At present there are 880 and their growth is predicted to continue.

In addition, special-interest organizations expressing the power and purposes of radical evangelicals are flourishing and their lobbyists are omnipresent. They are indeed aware of their new-found power. Meanwhile, the general public shows little interest in gloomy jeremiads about troublesome religious social movements.

But one insightful analyst has compared the social situation with the cooking of a lobster in a pot. As the temperature of the water increases to boiling, the lobster is not conscious of the point at which it succumbs.

Powerful political and religious social movements with their peculiar programs are equally stealthy. They infiltrate until, before it becomes evident, they are in control. Do we want to be like the lobster?

This whole idea that God has given the religious right dominion over anything is ludicrous and downright scary. Anyone with any knowledge of former theocracies and their theonomic view would cringe at the prospect of giving up pluralism for these oppressive and authoritarian systems of government and law.

Allan Powell is a

Hagerstown resident who writes

for The Herald-Mail.

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