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On Theocracy and an inclusive Democratic Party (LONG RANT)

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Essene Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 12:42 PM
Original message
On Theocracy and an inclusive Democratic Party (LONG RANT)
Edited on Sat Jan-26-08 12:46 PM by Essene
I see a ton of christian bashing on this forum. I'm not above heated debates over the history and theology of the church, myself. However... i think it's vital that folks be clear and differentiate some issues. Let me review a few common themes. I hope this is a useful rant.

1. The idea that USA is a "christian" nation must be addressed with care

2. The premise of a secular public sphere and the unstated "Secular Religion" of the founders

3. The real risk is that of a Theocracy

4. The Democratic party needs to reach out to more christians, even evangelicals



1. The idea that USA is a "christian" nation must be addressed with care

Our founding fathers were mostly DEISTS.
  • President Thomas Jefferson
  • President James Madison
  • President James Monroe
  • President Abraham Lincoln
  • Ben Franklin
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • John Adams
  • Ethan Allen
  • Thomas Paine
  • etc

I don't wish to get into a huge religion discussion in this post, but the fact is that while our Founders believed in the idea of a Creator, it most certainly wasn't in the conventional christian sense of today.

In their time, government authority and legitimacy was grounded on the idea of divine sanction from churches. Monarchies were ordained by God's authority. Sovereignty was solely the power of the Monarchy. This was the standard model in one form or another, in the West.

However... it was the Age of Reason & Enlightenment... love of science ("natural philosophy") emerged out of radical protestantism. This had RELIGIOUS dimensions back then. The idea that humans could and should read the Bible for themselves... or study God's Creation themselves... was radical. Reason was emerging as a more powerful source of "authority" than Church authority or dogma. Read for yourself. Think for yourself. Debate. Test. Observe. God's Creation was all around us and perhaps as important if not more important... than any religious text. Science itself... Reason itself... were spiritual tools.

As deists, many of our founders took this to heart. Thomas Jefferson himself re-wrote the Bible to remove "supernatual" stuff.

The entire premise of our government was based on the humanist notion that instead of a government grounded in God's authority via a church, it would instead be a covenant among men themselves grounded in God's "laws" (both natural and philosophical - as in Rights, etc). We cut out the middle men, basically, with faith in Reason. The epitome of the OPPOSITE approach to governing was "papistry" in the words of the founding fathers.

USA was not a "christian nation" in the sense folks want to pretend in 2008. There certainly were many radical protestants involved in the revolution and new government. And certainly america has been mostly christian as a de facto demographic reality. However, the principles and core basis of the government most certainly was not.

2. The premise of a secular public sphere and the unstated "Secular Religion" of the founders

I personally do not think the founders themselves fully appreciated the ramifications of their vision, mostly because society for them was predominantly protestant. Society wasn't perfect and didn't exactly express all the principles of the Constitution in actuality. It would be years, for example, before publicly funded schools would drop broad christian (protestant) religious study.

However, the core premise of the Republic was a semi-religious tone.

In fact, the images of Washington at the time were often semi-religious in symbolism. The entire revolution had strong religious zeal, with many of the generals being "great awakenings" preachers. What's interesting, however, is that the zeal was focused on a common vision for a new SECULAR society. Almost utopian at times, the commitment to a secular, public sphere as the basis for GOVERNING was practically religious for americans. The analogy might be enlightenment scientists who saw science as the ultimate expression of spiritual understanding... to literally discover God's Laws.

Our founders truly saw our secular society as based on God's laws... as under the terms set by the Creator.

When they embraced ancient greek philosophy or Iroquois philosophy, it represented to them this idea that there were underlying laws to be expressed through a sound Republic. The irony is that today's attacks on the Separation of Church and State fundamentally assaults this Age of Reason & Enlightenment zeal... and it's spiritual vision.

3. The real risk is that of a Theocracy

Being religious or even "fundamentalist" in no way implicitly conflicts with american society. Even those who may reject the premises of the secular state may still find a home in america, as ironic as it may be. Groups that fundamentally reject the tolerance and premise of Reason in the public sphere may be a political threat to the Republic, but they have every right to exist in america.

The problem is when fundamentalists who reject the core premises of the secular state begin to garner actual political power, and act in ways more akin to Theocracy than democracy.

For those concerned about these movements, it is vital to focus on the Theocratic elements rather than to start bashing religious faith or religion itself. Today, we have one candidate running for President who's made numerous statements that explicitly indicate Theocratic tendencies... even if he can spin that image away when on national TV.

  • Huckabee said he won iowa because of god.

  • Huckabee said god was helping him answer at the debates.

  • Huckabee implied that the question of evolution is a question of faith in god.

  • Huckabee said we need to "amend the constitution so it's in god's standards."

To be blunt, most attacks on this type of rhetoric can easily be spun into lefty, elitist attacks on faith. Just watch his 2nd response to the "evolution" question and keep in mind that many MODERATE people found his explanation acceptable.

Our founding fathers would be extremely angry at this rhetoric. Huckabee would have to watch his back around Hamilton (lol).

What i'm getting at is that america needs clarity and vision on religion in america. I consider this a time of another "Great Awakenings." Faith movements are growing exponentially in america. It's not all BAD, ok? They aren't all religious fundamentalists and in fact many evangelicals strongly avoid strict dogma.

There needs to be articulation of caution EXPLICITLY about Theocracy.

We spent decades living in fear of Communism. Frankly, in this century, we need to take a similar "united" turn against Theocracy. That goes for domestic and foreign policy. Instead of pushing FOR our values about democracy, freedom, etc (which we usually contradict and try to define on our terms case-by-case)... we should be arguing AGAINST the idea of Theocracy. This can easily be combined with a strong emphasis on religious freedom.

Why? Because the Age of Reason is gone... the Enlightenment instincts are gone... and we must take a stand.

Humanism must be redefined and defended in what's going to be a turbulent century.

4. The Democratic party needs to reach out to more religious types, even evangelicals

With all that said, the Democratic party needs to be more inclusive. It needs to have christian leaders who insist that war mongering, imperial hubris and such are not christian. This association between "christian" and republican needs to be challenged, at the root.

That means the concept of the "secular left" needs to be redefined, both by (a) reaching out to more religious communities and also by (b) making the Founder's case for the secular sphere... in spiritual terms.

Republicans have "litmus tests" for their candidates defined around religious doctrine: pro-life, etc.

The Democrats do as well, frankly. The democratic party needs to stop pandering to EVERY single indignation and even reach out to churches that may just not support gay marriage, for example. If such communities can be embraced because they reject Theocracy... that means they aren't about to push the matter as a policy issue. These types of issues are way too prominent in both parties.

Among democrats, there are serious and divisive differences about class, labor, free markets, race, gender, etc. The party needs to be more inclusive if it wants to aim to be a party of change for the 21st century. That means being clearly opposed to Theocracy and then reaching out to folks on the "other side" who can accept that even with strongly differing views on many social issues.



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Essene Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 07:55 AM
Response to Original message
1. (opportunity) A Baptist Coalition Aims for Moderate Image


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/us/27baptists.html?hp

Carter is trying to unite moderate baptists into a coalition to bridge the divisions among them.

This is PRECISELY the kind of thing the democratic party should show open, full support of... even if some of these groups have views that are counter to where progressives want to go.
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