Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion, Chris Hedges’s American Fascists, Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation, and Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great all claim that radical Christians in the United States want to turn the government into a religious theocracy. Just like the Taliban1 and other Moslem theocracies, these Christians would make the Bible the law of the land and remove freedoms from all Americans. Is this a realistic appraisal of the plans of the "religious right?"
Rhetoric of the right
The "religious right" tend to focus on just a few issues, including homosexuality, immigration, abortion, and stem cell research. These moral issues are often coupled with fiscal conservatism. So, the religious right comes across as being anti-people and pro-business, seemingly with more regard for their pocketbooks than with the lives of people. As in virtually all political movements, opponents of the religious right tend to portray the "enemy" in the worst light possible. Extremists are quoted liberally and presented as being representative of every conservative Christian.
Rhetoric of radical anti-theists
The "new atheism" has gone on a rabid attack against all religious people (with an extra emphasis on Christians). Here is what Chris Hedges claims in his book, American Fascists:
"The radical Christian Right calls for exclusion, cruelty and intolerance in the name of God. Its members do not commit evil for evil's sake. They commit evil to make a better world. To attain this better world, they believe, some must suffer and be silenced and destroyed. The worst suffering in human history has been carried out by those who preach such grand, utopian visions, those who seek to implant by force their narrow, particular version of goodness. This is true for all doctrines of personal salvation, from Christianity to ethnic nationalism to communism to fascism. Dreams of a universal good create hells of persecution, suffering and slaughter." Chris Hedges American Fascists, p. 205.
While it is true that great suffering has been perpetrated by those in absolute power, it is not true that the majority of this suffering has come at the hands of Christians. The number of atrocities committed by those claiming to be Christians pales in comparison to those of atheists, who have only become a political force within the last one hundred years. The problem is, and always has been, the inherent evil present within each human being - when given the absolute power do as they please.
Whatever Christians do or do not do regarding politics, the Bible does give limited advice to Christians. Both the apostles Paul and Peter advised that Christians should be obedient to governing authorities and submit to their rule.2 The Bible specifically addresses the issue of paying taxes, and commands Christians to do so.3 The only exception to submit to authority would be if the governing authorities commanded Christians to disobey God's laws, in which case Christians are told to obey God rather than men.4 Christians are advised to pray for all who are in authority.5
The advice given by Paul and Peter was given at a time when the governing authorities were part of a totalitarian state. So, any rebellion would have been met with serious consequences (including execution). In fact, the historical record reveals that Christians were executed just for being Christians.6 So, in today's democracies, Christians would be expected to participate in a godly manner in the political process.
Participation in politics
The United States of America was founded as a constitutional republic under a mostly democratic7 form of government. For this reason, all people8 are encouraged to become involved in the election process. Many in the secular left feel threatened when Christians get involved in politics, as if Christians should be disenfranchised for some reason. The reality is that the democratic process works best when people from diverse backgrounds and worldviews compete in the political arena.
Christians are involved in politics because they want their interests represented whenever new legislation is considered. Their primary concern is that they don't want to be forced to compromise their moral values due to politically-correct legislation. One example is forcing pharmacist to dispense abortifacients, even though they are morally opposed to abortion. In another example, Roman Catholic adoption agencies were forced out of Massachusetts because they would have been forced to place children in homes with homosexual couples. In California, the legislature has passed bills instituting gay marriage directly negating a proposition passed by the voters banning such marriages (bill was vetoed by the governor). Also, in California, the legislature has passed bills restricting free speech of those who speak against certain sexual orientations, even if such information is medically correct. Recent California legislation mandates a positive portrayal of homosexuality in the public schools, even though such behaviors negatively impact the health of its participants. With the California legislature's current obsession to limit free speech, it won't be long before the Bible will be a banned book based upon its condemnation of certain kinds of sexual behaviors.
The secular left is concerned that Christians want to hijack the political system altogether, and institute some kind of religious theocracy. Of course, theocracies have failed miserably in the past (and in the present). In fact, the Bible describes how a theocratic monarchy would be bad for the people of Israel.9 Still, the Hebrews chose to be governed in that way, and suffered through a succession of bad kings. The reason that theocracies fail is not due to the religious component, but due to their totalitarian component. Secular totalitarian regimes have committed similar, if not greater atrocities than religious regimes.10 History has proven that evil people will use religious or secular reasons to obtain power to perpetrate their own agenda. Christians probably understand this principle as well or even better than the general population, since we believe that the Bible is correct in claiming that all people are sinners and have a tendency to be self-centered.11 I personally know no Christians who wish to establish a Christian theocracy in the United States. The Bible describes how it says the world will end, and it doesn't involve a Christian theocracy. Instead, it involves an anti-Christian theocracy,12 in which Christians and Jews are persecuted and executed.13 I guess that's good news for those who are concerned about the possible implementation of a Christian theocracy.
The solution to the "Christian problem"
The solution to the "Christian problem" is now being implemented on several fronts. The goal of the new atheism is to marginalize Christians by claiming that all Christians are stupid or deluded. The primary technique is accomplished through generalizations involving a few, well-chosen "examples" of Christian through or actions, none of which represent mainstream Christianity. The goal of the secular left is to limit the free speech of Christians through "campaign reform" laws that primarily target conservative-run organizations (such as the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act), and "hate-speech" legislation aimed at prevention of speech about certain kinds of sexual behaviors.
The so-called "Fairness Doctrine" was introduced after World War II to require media to give equal broadcast time opposing political viewpoints. However, as conservative broadcasting became dominant, "Fairness" was used to stifle free speech,14 since it required an equal time response from opposing viewpoints. Recent legislation has attempted to reinstate "Fairness" in an attempt to challenge the dominance of conservative talk radio, since liberal talk radio seems unable to compete in the marketplace.
Yes, Christians are involved in the political process in the United States, as they should be. No, Christians don't want to initiate any kind of religious theocracy. We just want our rights protected so that we are not required to participate in the godless decadence that our society seems to be heading into.
- Why are Christians So Intolerant? Wasn't Jesus All Accepting?
- Why Do Christians Lie So Much? Truth and Christianity
- Hypocrites Defined: What About Hypocrisy in the Christian Church?
- Why are Christians So Judgmental? Doesn't the Bible Say, "Do Not Judge"
- Self-righteous Christians Defined: Is This the Norm?
- Sexism in the Bible: Is Christianity Sexist?
- What About Atrocities That Have Been Done in the Name of Religion
- 'People are Basically Good' - Proof to the Contrary
- The American Taliban by Richard Rapaport.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there
is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they
who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)
Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. (1 Peter 2:13-14)
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, (Titus 3:1)
and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, (2 Peter 2:10)
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. (Jude 1:8)
For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God,
devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to
whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
"Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?"... Then He [Jesus] said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:17-21)
- But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29).
- First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Pliny the Younger as governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD wrote
(in his Letters
10.96-97) to Emperor Trajan
regarding the early Christian church, their devotion to Christ, and how he persecuted,
tortured, and murdered them:
"They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god... Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.... Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished."
- In order to be completely democratic, a republic must count all votes equally. The representatives within state and local governments, in addition to the U.S. House of Representatives are elected in this manner. However, U.S. senators are elected two for each state, regardless of population. In addition, the electoral college results in all electoral votes going to one candidate, even if he/she receives a simple majority of votes. So, strictly speaking, the United States is not 100% democracy.
- "We hold these Truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness — That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed." — United States Declaration of Independence.
- So Samuel spoke all the words of the LORD to the people who had asked of him a king. He said, "This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants." (1 Samuel 8:10-17)
- See What About Atrocities That Have Been Done in the Name of Religion.
- See 'People are Basically Good' - Proof to the Contrary.
- they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?" There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Revelation 13:4-8)
"By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward
the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take
action. "Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the
many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for
many days. (Daniel 11:32-33)
"But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. (Matthew 10:17-18)
"Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. (Matthew 24:9)
"But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them... "You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Mark 13:9-13)
"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. (Luke 21:12)
"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you... If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you..." (John 15:18-20)
It was also given to him [the "beast" of Revelation] to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. (Revelation 13:7)
- According to Bill Ruder, Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Kennedy administration, "Our massive strategy [in the early 1960s] was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue." (The Good Guys, The Bad Guys and The First Amendment: Free speech vs. fairness in broadcasting by Fred W. Friendly, Random House, 1976)