Friday, May 12, 2006
How Do You Spell Christian?
I had a long dream last night about being lost: about looking at road maps that had no discernible symbols, no locations that matched where I thought I was. When I finally ripped myself out of that troubled sleep this morning, I figured that reading the chapter, "Church, State, and National Decline" in American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips had probably contributed to my disorientation. As someone who was raised with the idea of a loving Jesus, I can say that the groups that Phillips describes --and I see in action-- make me wonder where I am today.
Phillips cites several indicators of decline: the delusion that the United States is different in its unassailble supremacy (these and the following illusions and patterns shared by earlier, once-great empires like Roman, Holland, Spain, and Britain); the interplay between faith and science; the economic decay and social polarization; finally, the widespread perception of a pre-millenarian time frame, in which the influence of religion feeds a willingness for war. (pp. 220-230, passim)
With the Republicans theological correctness has replaced the political correctness of liberals. Phillips sketches Republican candidates as they try to "get it right" by adopting positions that are either in alignment with radical right theology or in avoidance of it.
When it comes to pleasing the radical Christian Right, there are lots of groups to placate. We've all been hearing from Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and the various incarnations of Bob Jones for years. Theological positions have been staked out on obvious topics, like sex, morality, scientific research, and birth, and on less obvious areas like business, economics, and wealth. (These last three are just find with the radical right, Jesus' own poverty notwithstanding.) Of the various groups, the Christian Reconstructionists seem to capture the least ink and attention. They're among the most interesting, however, in their zealous efforts to lead the charge on establishing the USA as a Christian nation. While the radical Christian Right has called on presidents to make decisions in accordance with Scripture, the Christian Reconstructionists want to establish their doctrine as the rule of law. This would mean replacing public schools with religious education and imposing biblical law and limiting the right to vote to male Christians. Penalities for non-conformity would be in alignment with the Bible: therefore homosexuals, prostitutes, and adulterers would face Old Testment-style executions.
Although not all members of the Christian Right adhere to the principles of the reconstructionists, the influence of reconstructionism is more pervasive than appears on the surface. Even non-members adhere to some ideas if not others; the Christian Right in general hope to rule by majoritarianism, never mind that the Constitution is designed to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority.
I don't recall seeing the Christian Reconstructionists on the hate lists of the Intelligence Report of the Southern Poverty Law Center. It's time to make sure that they're included.
Thanks for giving us more of Kevins book :)