Theocracy Worries

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A prevalent fear of the left and libertarian-minded is the onset of theocracy by the forces of right-wing Christianity. This Easter weekend the folks at Talk2Action and the blogger Blue Gal are sponsoring a “Blogswarm Against Theocracy” (a “blogswarm” is several blogs posting about the same thing at the same time in order to raise awareness) meant to highlight the continued need for a separation of church and state. But how real are fears of a Christian theocracy in America? Is this just paranoia? As a member of a religious minority that has often run afoul of the worst impulses of Christianity, it would be easy to produce a list of sins, but how much danger (if any) are we in?

One problem is the that the word “theocracy” like “fascism” has become so loaded a term that it instantly conjures up images of jack-booted thugs overthrowing our government and setting up some Christian equivalent to Sharia law. Only a small segment of conservative Christians are so blatantly plain in their desire for oppressive political power. So while it may be tempting to play the “theocracy” card (and several authors have done exactly that), it may obscure a more frightening (and subtle) reality.

The truth is that (socially) conservative Christians groups have an impressive grass-roots movement that has slowly built up political power from the ground-up. From school boards all the way up to senators. People like to say that Bush is the crowning achievement of this movement. But Bush has been an ongoing disappointment for many of the evangelicals who helped put him in office. In fact, we may see dissatisfied Christian conservatives stay largely on the sidelines for the 2008 elections. For while conservative Christians would love to see a “real” Christian in office, it isn’t nearly as important as planning for the future.

Youth movements like the militaristic BattleCry, the baby-machine politics of the “quiverfulls”, and the slow take-over of military academies by evangelicals point to a movement that knows it hasn’t reached its goal (yet), but hopes that the next generation just might. In the meantime, conservative Christian groups try to push laws on the state and federal level that will privilege the Christian majority without the violating constitutional rights outright. The ultimate goal isn’t supreme political power, but massive cultural power that will ensure that any who do rise in politics can’t ignore conservative Christian demands.

This is already taking shape. Not a single presidential candidate, no matter how liberal, dares to offend evangelicals (if they want to win). A Muslim congressman swearing in on the Koran instead of the Bible makes national news, and teaching the Bible in school is no longer seen as a fringe issue. What we are seeing isn’t necessarily the coming of a theocracy (though I suppose all things are possible), but the makings of an entrenched Christian population that has a powerful influence over our daily lives. No need to get rid of our Constitution, after all, we are a Christian Nation don’t you know?

For modern Pagans it means that as we grow, we will become bigger targets for those wanting to enforce that “Christian” character of America. This won’t mean being rounded up in camps, it will mean losing our jobs, our children, and our ability to safely practice our faith in public. The law won’t be changed, it will simply be used against us by Christian judges.

How can we fight this trend? By remaining in the public eye, by getting involved in local government, by making strategic alliances, and by growing our own vibrant culture and raising our children as proud Pagans and Heathens. This vision of a Christian power can only continue to grow if we fail to challenge it.