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John Wayne's Holster: Is America Becoming A Theocracy?
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Monday, April 04, 2005

Is America Becoming A Theocracy?

With the outcome of last years Presidential election and the recent activism concerning the Terri Shiavo case, many on the Left, and even some on the Right, have expressed the belief that America is becoming a theocracy. They seem to harbor a belief that the Right is hellbent on tearing down the walls that separate church and state, and discarding the Constitution and replacing it with the Bible.

These seem like wild and outrageous claims to me. After all, this is not the Republic of Iran we live in. And Religious Right is not the Taliban. The United States a theocracy? What is the basis for this brand?

Those who contend that America is becoming a theocracy can cite a number of examples to support their claims. The Right wants to overturn Roe v Wade…wants a gay marriage ban…wants “God” kept in the Pledge…is against euthanasia…is against stem-cell research…wants to legislate their morality on the rest of us, etc, etc.

On the surface, it would seem that the Left has a point. The Religious Right does indeed stand for the issues listed above (and perhaps more that are not listed). But how does that translate into establishing a theocracy in America? The clergy is not running the government, there is no state-imposed religion, there is no religious affiliation required to run for office, and there is no affiliation required to vote. And last time I checked, we had democratic elections and America was a pretty secular nation that worshiped modernity. Nothing theocratic in that.

Perhaps the Left feels threatened that parts of their secular agenda- an agenda that they imposed on the Right via judicial activism - could be out the window. The Right feels alienated. They wonder why their tax dollars are used to support condom distribution, or to pay for "social services" (i.e. abortions), or promote anti-family agendas. Forget saying prayers in class, their children can not even organize voluntary bible studies on school property.

When you break it down, the so-called “Religious Right” is essentially a well-organized block of voters who have an agenda and will go to whatever means they can to see it implemented. They support (financially and otherwise) candidates who most-closely represent their values and beliefs. In that sense, they are no different from the Left.

It seems to me that the real problem that exists between the Left and the Right is that our leaders have polarized us. The Right has claimed the franchise tag on religion and morality. And it seems that the left is willing to let them have it. In fact, the Left seems to have gone a step further by distancing themselves from religion and morality. I think both sides are mistaken.

The Right certainly does not speak for God. While it is true that they support a “culture of life” when it comes to issues of abortion and euthanasia, their god-speak doesn’t come across as godly when it comes to issues of social justice. For their part, the Left, which has traditionally supported a progressive social agenda, has mistakenly placed religion and morality in exile, and instead have offered a godless and hedonistic agenda.

The two sides have come to be identified by their extremes, to the point where each can not be accepted by the other. I think we have failed to recognize the vast common ground that lies between us. I think Bono (U2) gets it right when he asks “How far should we go to try to understand each other’s point of view?”

3 Comments:

At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Mister B said...

Joe--

I agree about the left and right being misjudged by the words of their most extreme members -- but I do think it is objectively true that the extreme members (far, far, right) people have acquired not only more power, but the decisive power in the GOP. That is not the case on the Left. Just ask any activist. They'll tell you the opposite -- that the left is weak, that it has abandoned its social justice platforms, that it tries to mimic the most neutral tenets of Clinton Centrism. For me, the recent case in Florida was far beyond anything the far left has been able to accomplish by way of trampling (or rewriting, or reinterpreting) the constitution. Right now, the right is winning every inning, every at bat, everything. And they are doing so largely because of the bullying that comes from the religious right. There is a religious right. They are outspoken about who they are and they are outspoken about what they want. I do not want to add to the misunderstanding or fuel the antipathy that exists between the two sides. I find your stance admirable. But I think the left is getting trounced. And as far as anyone saying we are living in a theorcracy...apart from using hyperbole to make a point, I don't know of any credible democrat that has actually offered that as a real opinion. When George Bush identifies Jesus as the most influential philosopher and his guide -- its not that its inappropriate for the president to be moved and guided by spiritual, even religious principles, its that its unseemly in a pluralistic society to so frequently put Christianity at the forefront in public discourse. There is no other religion that could do so in such a regular way without the politicians citing it becoming attacked by the press for being compromised and undemocratic. We are not a Christian nation. We are a democratic nation. Christianity is part of who we are. Not who we are. The ten commandments in the Georgia courthouse. Terry Shaivo. The many blundering public pronouncements of Christian values by Ashcroft as he became the chief law enforcement offical in the country -- these things are bothersome on their face -- it matters less whether or not Christian principles are superseding rule of law-- it matters more that many of these Christian politicians (who I feel violate so many of the ethics I associate with Christianity, having been raised a Catholic)use religion, exploit their faith, flaunt their nonsecular beliefs inside of what is supposed to be a secular forum. That is what I find so unctious. And I find it unctious regardless of party affiliation. It just so happens that more of these types of looney tunes are swinging to the right. The left has its own brand of loonies, for sure, but when it comes to giving Jesus a bad name in public, the GOP kicks ass up and down the aisle.

 
At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Joe Verica said...

Hey Robert

Thanks for the reply. Your points are well stated.

I do agree with you that the Religious Right is a very powerful political force that has a major role in charting the course that the GOP is taking. Some may say that it is dangerous to have the extreme elements of the party dictate the party’s platform. I believe that there is merit in that claim. In fact, I abandoned my affiliation with the GOP about eight years ago for that reason (among others). I am now a registered independent.

That being said, the Right, as you correctly point out, is outspoken about who they are and what they want. They are very up front about that. Voters know that when they go to the polls and they choose accordingly. Certainly, there are some Jesus-happy loonies out there, but are 51% of the people in this country teetering on the edge of religious zealotry? I don’t think so. Rather, I think that most who come down on the Right are moderates. The decision between left and right usually comes down to a small handful of key issues.

With the 51-49 split in the electorate, one has to wonder why, as you have stated, the Left is getting trounced. For starters, I am not sure that the Left is getting trounced. The Left was successful in getting the Ten Commandments removed from the Georgia courthouse, and they prevailed in the Shaivo case. The Left also has the ACLU and 9th Circuit Court. However, I do agree that the pendulum is swinging and the Right is making a lot of headway. Why? Because the Left has given them the clout to do so.

The Left has abandoned its base. The Right recognizes this and has gone out of its way to accommodate these political orphans. The Left accuses the GOP of being controlled of by the bullying of extremists. I wound tend to agree with that statement. But the Left needs to look in the mirror. They too have allowed extremists in their own ranks to set their agenda. This has driven their moderates over to the Right.

Having a secular democracy and maintaining the separation of church and state does not require that any God be ostracized from the public forum. Why has the Left distanced itself from any mention of God or morality? Most Democrats believe in God don’t they? Why has the Left abandoned the social justice platforms it has traditionally supported? Why has the Left aligned itself with the extreme positions of the ACLU?

As far as politicians evoking the name of Jesus at every opportunity goes, I agree with you that this is unseemly. But I understand why they do. Politics is politics. And politicians are among the most practical creatures around. They are “for” an issue when it is politically expedient to do so, and they are “against” it when it is not. The fact is that Jesus gets votes. It almost doesn’t matter what you do while you are in office as long as you talk about Jesus – just ask Tom DeLay.

I think one also has to look at the flip side of this. Certainly, no one enjoys listening to John Ashcroft reel of a few verses of “Let the Eagle Soar”, or listening to Bush drone on about how much he prays. But at the same time, most people do want to be assured that their leaders have some moral foundation, be it religious or otherwise. The problem today is that we are involved in a volley between extremists who evoke Jesus at every opportunity and those who want to see His name stricken from all public discourse. There should be a happy medium.

 
At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is an exaggerated, yet all too truthful, thought that I have.
Be

I, _________________ (fill in the blank), being of sound mind and body,

do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means. Under
no
circumstances should my fate be put in the hands of peckerwood
politicians who couldn't pass ninth-grade biology if their lives
depended on it.

If a reasonable amount of time passes and I fail to sit up and ask for
a
cold beer, it should be presumed that I won't ever get better. When
such
a determination is reached, I hereby instruct my spouse, and
attending physicians to pull the plug, reel in the tubes and call it a

day.

Under no circumstances shall the members of the Legislature enact a
special law to keep me on life-support machinery. It is my wish that
these
boneheads mind their own damn business, and pay attention instead to
the health, education and future of the millions of Americans who
aren't
in a permanent coma.

Under no circumstances shall any politicians butt into this case.
I don't care how many fundamentalist votes they're trying to scrounge
for
their run for the presidency in 2008, or any other year. It is my wish

that they play politics with someone else's life and leave me alone to
die in
peace. I couldn't care less if a hundred religious zealots send
e-mails to legislators in which they pretend to care about me. I don't

know these people, and I certainly haven't authorized them to preach
and
crusade on my behalf. They should mind their own business, too.

If any of my family goes against my wishes and turns my case into a
political cause, I hereby promise to come back from the grave and make

his or her existence a living hell.

_______________________________________
Signature

____________________________________
Witness

 

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