I don’t see how you can be President without a relationship with the Lord.
-President George Bush, 2005
The second coming of Christ is everything that I’m living for. I hope the rapture comes tomorrow.
-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, 2007
America has no King but Jesus
-Attorney General John Ashcroft, 2004
The Republican Party of Texas affirms that the United States of America is a Christian Nation
-Official platform, GOP, Texas
Apparently some people think it can’t happen here in America – at least according to many of the comments on the various places my last article appeared. (See part one: “What will happen when the Christian right takes over”.)
Well, let’s discuss this.
Can you think of other examples throughout world history in which fundamentalist, right-wing, religious extremists have gained power and plunged their country into a dark ages-like society of ignorance, oppression and fear? I’m sure you can – I can think of probably eight examples right now, without even using Google. So why couldn’t this happen here? All it takes are four ingredients, all of which are present right now in America.
1. A large group of religiously inspired fundamentalist leaders who are committed to seeing their religious texts made to be the law of the land. Check.
2. A large group of religiously inspired citizens willing to follow and support said powerful people. Check.
3. A perceived enemy. Check.
4. A persecution complex. Check.
Let’s briefly take these one at a time:
A large minority of religiously inspired fundamentalist leaders who are committed to seeing their religious texts made to be the law of the land.
Dominionism, as I’ve written about previously, simply means that Christians have the responsibility to take over every aspect of society and to govern solely in accordance with Biblical law. These Christians believe that until we have a theocracy, Jesus will be delayed in His return.
In short, Jesus will come only after Christians succeed in establishing Christian rule over the earth.
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.
-George Grant, executive director of D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries, in “The Changing of the Guard.”
Let’s go back to 2005. By that time, the Christian right was well on its way to gaining control. James Dobson and his ilk had succeeded in bringing their brand of fundamentalist Christianity from the fringes of American life to the heart of political power.
By 2005, 42 out of 100 US senators were entirely supportive of the Christian right agenda, holding ratings of 100 percent from the Christian Coalition. Extreme fundamentalists entered the US Senate, including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (calling for the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions) and Jim DeMint (wanting to ban unmarried pregnant women from teaching in public schools). Fundamentalist Christian theology was already driving our federal policy on medical research (with the ban on stem cell research), sex education (which the government decreed should focus exclusively on abstinence), and US foreign policy in the Middle East (where an important driver of US policy was the need to have Jerusalem in the hands of the Jews in order to satisfy a biblical condition to the second coming of Christ). The federal government was channeling billions in taxpayer funds to evangelical organizations.
And new legislation was being introduced almost weekly. A few examples, among hundreds: Have you heard of the Constitution Restoration Act? This law would have prevented federal courts from hearing church/state separation cases. Seriously. How about the House of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, which would have allowed tax-exempt churches to engage in partisan political activity?
And all this has continued, and it has actually picked up speed.
Did you know that in Oklahoma, to name just one example, most state-wide executive offices are held by evangelicals, along with over 85% of the legislature? And most of them support the entire agenda – criminalization of homosexuality, adultery and blasphemy (seriously!), the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions, reinstatement of mandatory school prayer, a requirement that Genesis be taught in science classes – all based on the Bible as ultimate law. They call their vision of America a “Christian Nation,” and all that stands in the way of that vision is the federal court system.
A large group of religiously inspired citizens willing to follow and support said powerful people.
73%-76% of Americans self identify as Christian.
Six-in-ten white evangelical Protestants say that the Bible should be the guiding principle in making laws when it conflicts with the will of the people.
Seven-in-ten white evangelicals (69%) believe God gave Israel to the Jewish people and a solid majority (59%) believes that Israel is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Significantly, those who believe that God gave Israel to the Jews and that the state of Israel fulfills biblical prophecy are much more likely than others to sympathize with Israel in its dispute with the Palestinians.
An overwhelming percentage of Christians (79%) say they believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ, and fully 62% of white evangelicals say the Bible is the actual word of God, to be taken literally.
A perceived enemy
Anti-Semitism served other totalitarian movements well, but it is currently off-limits. Communism worked for a while, but has faded as a credible threat following the fall of the Soviet Union. So which enemy did American fundamentalists choose? They picked two:
1. Secularism is the big one, which, they argue, is really a competing religion. It’s what they’ve been fighting for years.
2. The “homosexual agenda.” Preachers preach that the rise of homosexuality is the surest sign of the coming end times. Conservative preachers remind the faithful over and over that the rise of homosexuality is God’s way of testing humanity – if we tolerate the abomination, then we are irrevocably lost and abandoned by God.
The official platform of the Texas Republican Party states:
Homosexuality is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.
A persecution complex
A common strategy of fundamentalists the world over is to claim victimhood, and our country’s evangelical preachers have successfully tapped into the “persecuted church” paradigm. The growth of a modern, secular, and tolerant society, they argue, really is about the tyrannical suppression of Christianity, because the idea of a secular and tolerant society is inconsistent with Christian claims to dominion over civil society. In an Orwellian twist, “religious tolerance” becomes, to the right-wingers, intolerant and tyrannical. Extension of basic civil liberties to those who engage in a sexual practice that is taboo to fundamentalists becomes an attack on the Christian church in which Christians are the true victims. Permitting gays to marry becomes an attack on marriage in which married people are somehow victimized. Abortion is seen as an attack on God and, by extension, on Christians. Not allowing teachers to teach scripture as science is now “persecution” of Christians. See how this works? Basically, if they can’t have things their way, they are being persecuted.
Pat Robertson kicked this whole thing off in the early 1990’s when he stated:
Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to Evangelical Christians. It’s no different. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media, and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority group in history.
Do you hear how bizarre, how sick this thinking is? A former candidate for president asserting that the treatment of evangelical Christians by “liberal America” was more terrible than the treatment of Cambodians at the hands of Pol Pot, of the Tutsi minority by the Hutu majority in Rwanda, the Bosnian Muslims by the Serbs, the Jews by the Nazis, the early Christians by the Romans, the Native Americans by the Spanish, the slaves by the slave owners? Just…wow.
According to the fundamentalists, if our society does NOT base its laws on the bronze age morality found in the Christian Bible, then it’s Christians who are being persecuted and victimized.
So, again I ask – why do people think that religious extremists could never plunge this country into the kind of hell that’s going on in Afghanistan and so many other countries around the world? Because our extremists follow a different religion and read a different set of sacred texts?
In Salem, Massachusetts, in 1683, 83% of taxpayers stated that they “had no religious allegiance.” There is not a single mention of God in the US Constitution. And although deists and theocrats and religious dissidents of all stripes were among the earliest settlers of the New World, the political project that was America was first and foremost a project of the enlightenment, where freedom from state religion – the source of so much turmoil and tragedy in European history – was among the core objectives.
See part 3: Lock and Load! The new Christian Right rhetoric