News Intelligence Analysis

 

[Yurica Report Editor's Note: Mr. Lefever's article is answered by Katherine Yurica in her essay "Outing Creeping Dominionism."]

From the Washington Times

Why theocracy can't happen here


By Ernest W. Lefever
May 16, 2005

 

Recently, Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches and former Pennsylvania Democratic congressman, warned a conference of People for the American Way and 500 other secular liberals the religious right was hell-bent on imposing a "theocracy" on America.

Another speaker, Joan Bokaer, founder of Theocracy Watch, said the U.S. was "not yet a theocracy." Earlier, Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee chairman, lamented: "Are we going to live in a theocracy where the highest powers tell us what to do?" He did not define "highest powers."

The American Civil Liberties Union and other secular left voices keep warning us that if Protestant evangelicals got their way, America would become a theocratic state. Nonsense. Their dire prediction is as plausible as another giant meteorite crashing into Earth like the one killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The democratic West has long rejected theocracy, once known as Caesaropapism, a state in which Caesar and the pope are one. Two thousand years ago in a Roman outpost when the issue of conflicting loyalties was raised, Jesus of Nazareth said: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" -- an eloquent forecast of the American Founders' "separation of church and state."

The current film "Kingdom of Heaven" dramatically portrays the arrogance and bloodshed of zealous Christian medieval crusaders who attempted to impose their rule over Jerusalem, then held by Muslims.

Today, no serious Christian or Jewish leader in America advocates a theocratic state. They recognize welding political and ecclesiastical power would corrupt both religion and politics and lead to tyranny, chaos, or both.

America's Founders were committed to a democratic and pluralistic state where every citizen is free to believe as he wishes. Whether Calvinists or Unitarians, they held liberty was a gift from the Creator or Nature's God. "The God who gave us life," said Thomas Jefferson, "gave us liberty at the same time." As long as we are faithful to the Founders' dream, America will not become a theocracy.

Further, Article I of the Constitution rejects the "establishment of religion" and any act of Congress "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion. All citizens are free to worship in churches, synagogues or mosques and to educate their children as they see fit as long as they don't violate the law.

Early on, the Congress authorized the words "In God We Trust" on our coins and currency. We have government chaplains in the Congress and the armed forces. The Lincoln Memorial, Library of Congress and Supreme Court display numerous religious images and quotations. And the Pledge of Alliance, recited in public schools, carry the words, "one nation under God," that reflect the spirit of the Mayflower Compact of 1620 that began with: "In the name of God, amen."

These time-honored manifestation of religion in American life have not curtailed freedom of belief or conscience, nor pointed to a theocracy. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, agnostic and atheist citizens have equal rights and opportunities.

Some Americans erect symbols of their "faith" in the public square, but others seek to banish the Ten Commandments, Christian creches and the Menorah from public spaces. If secular humanism became the established "religion" perhaps the only thing liberals would have to fear is liberalism itself.

Modest government grants to "faith based" social service agencies, such as the Salvation Army, are hardly breaches of the separation of church and state. After all, since the republic's beginning, church property has been tax-exempt.

In addition to the Founders' safeguards against a theocracy, that dire outcome is made virtually impossible by America's religious and cultural diversity and the fact no religious leader wants his "church" or any other religion to run the government. When citizens of any faith support the phrase "under God" in the Pledge or insist the Bible be taught as literature in public schools they do not call for theocratic government.

On the other hand, when some Evangelicals insist "evolution" should not be taught in public schools and "creationism" should, they attempt to stifle diversity and debate. Some literalists believe Earth was created 6,000 years ago, but they should not insist public schools teach only their views. They can freely teach their beliefs in their churches and religious schools.

On reflection, religious citizens and secular humanists may not be that far apart. They all are beneficiaries of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition. Many secularists drink from wells they did not dig and are refreshed by water they are reluctant to acknowledge.

 




Ernest W. Lefever is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of "The Irony of Virtue: Ethics and American Power."


Send a letter 
to the editor 
about this exhibit

Related Articles

Outing Creeping Dominionism

A Response to an Evangelical’s Attack

By Katherine Yurica

Katherine Yurica digs into the Dominionism
movement and exposes the true nature of the
doctrine millions of American Christians have
taken to heart. For the first time, she introduces
her readers to the man who is credited with
writing and inspiring the religious doctrines that
provided a new theological basis for regressive
economics and politics that would counter
traditional Christian progressive thought. One
man and his followers have turned not only
Christianity upside-down, but the future of America
is at stake. It was the insertion of “free enterprise
capitalism” onto the fabric of the scriptures that
enabled a small group of men to convert Christianity
into a tool that serves the purposes of regressive
conservatism. It is at once alarming and revealing
of the ingenuity and source of power behind the
spreading acceptance of dominionism. In fact, the
combining of conservative economics with edicts
that appear to be out of the mouth of God, may be
seen as one of the most brilliant and powerful
political concepts ever written. The man who
founded Dominionism has empowered the greedy
as no man has ever done: he’s made greed a virtue!

 


Directory on the Rise of Christian Dominionism

Strategies, Communication and 
Propanda Techniques

Directory on Religious Trends

 


This article is copyrighted material, the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

 

Back to The Yurica Report Home Page

Copyright © 2006 Yurica Report. All rights reserved.