Thursday, September 23, 2004

Theocracy American Style,

Let me state for the record, while I am not a fundamentalists Christian, being a reluctant Theist, that I was raised in a community of them and have the greatest sympathy for their kindness, generousity, and moral example to this day. Any deviance I may have displayed is entirely of my own choice or destiny in life, and as such I still respect the moral authority of the truly righteous.

However precisely because I liked these people, I think that this is rather a bad idea all around. (CSM)

Does US law mute voices of churches?

By Jane Lampman | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Religion is striking a high profile in the 2004 campaign. But there are those eager to see it take on a much larger role - both now and in the future.

More than 130 members of the US House of Representatives want to amend the law that prohibits partisan activity - such as political rallies, fundraisers, distribution of political literature, and direct endorsements from the pulpit - by pastors and houses of worship. They hope to do this by inserting a provision into a bill that is already before a House-Senate conference committee - thus avoiding public debate or votes in either body.

Supporters say the provision is needed to restore free speech to religious leaders. Barring political endorsements from the pulpit curtails the First Amendment rights of pastors, they say.

There is a strong tradition of activism by American religious movements. Billy Graham has had a great deal of influence over several Presidents from Nixon to Bush43. The Catholic fundamentalist movement has a great deal of influence now, and is openly banning or supporting various candidates and positions. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as Malcolm X were religious leaders as well as proponents of social movements. Several popular figures from the religious establishment such as Pat Robertson have actually run for the Presidency. President Wilson's father was a theologian, and Thomas Jefferson edited his own version of the Bible which is still in use by some churches today.

The separation of church and state in America, has always been merely but importantly pro forma. The only thing that has been barred from religious activity is open attempts to organize and form governing coalitions. De facto many laws on the books reflect already an imposition of morality by certain groups on all others, and it is entirely legal for them to advocate the expansion of such public morality laws (repealing Roe v. Wade, etc.). Whether or not you agree with the present legal state of abortion legality, it is entirely legal to attempt to advance your point of view including if it is based purely on the idea of imposing your morality upon others.

The only thing that is barred is a divisive endorsement of the state of specific sects and the legitimization of the imposition of morality per se as a raison detre for legal authority. That is while you can impose your morality legally if you can find a governing political coalition willing to impose that regulation, you cannot claim that your specific morality and its imposition is the proper and sole legal basis for government to impose regulation.

And that is the essence of theocracy as opposed to political activism, that it advocates a dogmatic sectarian monopoly upon the monopoly of violence of the state in the governing of society. To prevent this, formal political organization and the formation of political coalitions that can take direct political power are banned. This has been enforced by civil rather than criminal consequences, effectively creating an economic incentive to respect the pro forma seperation of church and state. In the past, religions have consented to this principally because to allow any one of them to enter the political struggle for direct power would incite a socially Darwinian struggle for survival amongst them all.

These are the desperate game board rules that we see the Iraqis maneuvering in, on one hand hoping to avoid such a death struggle and on the other feeling forced to participate in it because to do otherwise is to ensure one will end up on the losing end of a theocratic power struggle.

It is for this reason that wars in Europe erupted for centuries as tiny differences in the practice of a monotheistic religion that for all intents and purposes was identical to outsiders, wracked all of Europe, and sent variously in turn Germany, France, and England into prolonged bloody civil wars. It also was a factor in inciting international wars, and an egregious insult on top of injury rendering foreign occupations even more unstable than they usually are. It is for this reason that Europe is more secular than America today, because even as Americans fled here to get away from religious controversy or persecution, the ones left behind had to live with the consequences and so became soured on the whole proposition.

This change in legislation cannot be emphasized in importance. It is an act of historical and monumental proportions, ranking with the Iraq War, 911, the fall of Russia in dictatorship (again), etc. as acts of trauma in the world history. Arguably, with all due respect to those who suffered because of 911, this is bigger than 911. A little religion is a very good thing, and more is generally advisable, but if it is too much then it is fatal.


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