American theocracy?

11 Apr

The Poet, again surfing the wee hours of the morning, sent me among other things How the GOP became God’s own party by Kevin Phillips, author of American Theocracy: The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.

…Besides providing critical support for invading Iraq — widely anathematized by preachers as a second Babylon — the Republican coalition has also seeded half a dozen controversies in the realm of science. These include Bible-based disbelief in Darwinian theories of evolution, dismissal of global warming, disagreement with geological explanations of fossil-fuel depletion, religious rejection of global population planning, derogation of women’s rights and opposition to stem cell research. This suggests that U.S. society and politics may again be heading for a defining controversy such as the Scopes trial of 1925. That embarrassment chastened fundamentalism for a generation, but the outcome of the eventual 21st-century test is hardly assured.

These developments have warped the Republican Party and its electoral coalition, muted Democratic voices and become a gathering threat to America’s future. No leading world power in modern memory has become a captive of the sort of biblical inerrancy that dismisses modern knowledge and science. The last parallel was in the early 17th century, when the papacy, with the agreement of inquisitional Spain, disciplined the astronomer Galileo for saying that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of our solar system…

I really think Phillips overstates his case, though it is a scary enough scenario as it is. Bush is not a shining light either in religious thought or political strategy, and history will judge him very harshly, in my view.

Jim Wallis — and he is far from alone in this — is especially interesting in this respect.

I was finally exposed on National Public Radio – a Christian who hadn’t consistently voted for Republican candidates. How could I ever again claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, who, as we all know, was pro-rich, pro-war, and pro-American?…

I happen to think that both abortion and gay marriage are important issues, but they are not the only issues. Many Christians are getting tired of the tirades of the Jerry Falwells who repeatedly claim that all values issues have to do with sex and that every Christian must vote for their Republican friends. Family values are important to many Christians, but so are social values. And many Christians are pro-family without being anti-gay the way Falwell is. And many of us believe that a deep commitment to the sacredness of human life requires a consistent ethic of life, which also regards the destruction of war, the death penalty, and the scandal of global poverty as deeply moral concerns, not just abortion.

The future of American politics should be a real discussion of values; that would be a very welcome development. And we may be reaching a “tipping point” when many other Christians and the media who cover faith and politics will decide that the Religious Right should no longer dominate the discussion. Let them have their say, but let other Christian voices be heard. The control of right-wing fundamentalists over the “values” conversation may be coming to an end. And the uncritical alliance between the Religious Right and the Republican Party should be named a theocratic mistake and idolatrous allegiance (as is any religious left’s uncritical alliance with the Democrats)…

I hope to hear and see the man himself tonight, provided I can get from tuition to Sydney University in time.

See also this related post on my old Lines from a Floating Life: Cindy Jacobs: A Charismatic Jezebel: “From Paw Creek Ministries, Charlotte North Carolina, a site to examine with breathless disbelief. ‘Harry Potter And The Antichrist’ may be to your taste. Or grab the DVD of ‘America, Our Prophetic Place Among The Nations’ while stocks last. Or read ‘Iraq: The First Steps To Democracy’.”

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One response to “American theocracy?

  1. Owner

    April 14, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    See also a more recent article: Theocons and Theocrats also by Kevin Phillips. Evangelicals, Southern Baptist Convention adherents and others oppose government social and economic programs because they interfere with a person’s individual responsibility for his or her salvation. Others were diverted by rapture and end-times possibilities. “Overall, this kind of teaching has certainly stifled social consciousness among evangelicals,” said Tim Weber, professor of church history at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. “If Jesus may come at any minute, then long-term social reform or renewal are beside the point. It has a bad effect there.”

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