Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The fundamentalists' bad bet

By Diane Silver
It’s no secret that many fundamentalists want to demolish the wall between church and state in the United States. They’re not particularly shy about their wish to tear down the two-century tradition of forbidding government from promoting religion.
“We must fight against those radical minorities who are trying to remove God from our textbooks, Christ from our nation. We must never allow our children to forgot that this is a Christian nation. We must take back what is rightfully ours.” – Moral Majority founder Rev. Jerry Falwell, 1993 sermon
“This is our land. This is our world. This is our heritage, and with God’s help, we shall reclaim this nation for Jesus Christ. And no power on Earth can stop us.”- Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church pastor Rev. D. James Kennedy in the 1997 book Character and Destiny
What strikes me as odd about this is that campaigning for religious government is like making a truly bad bet.

Tearing down our traditional wall between government and religion will result in a fierce struggle over which religion will control government and which religion will make our laws. (Some would argue that this fight is occurring now and that progressives have already lost. Alas, that’s a discussion for another post on another day.)

What fundamentalists are betting is that Christianity will win. Actually, they’re betting that their narrow version of Christianity will end up in control.

What if they’re wrong?

What if Islam with more than 1.5 million followers in the United States and 1.3 billion worldwide won the fight? What if a more liberal form of Christianity won? What if the victor were the progressive arm of the Episcopal Church, which consecrated out-gay minister Gene Robinson as a bishop?

Here’s another scenario, one that could have an even greater impact on fundamentalists and, yes, even on their own souls.

What if their narrow form of Christianity does become the one, government-approved religion? What happens then? Can they keep control forever? What do they have to do to us who don’t agree with them? How far will they have to stray from teachings of Jesus to keep hold of our government?

I’ll tell you right now that I’ll never give up my beliefs. I don’t intend to accept Jesus into my heart, at least not the way fundamentalists mean it.

What will they do with me and the people in my church and the people I’ve sat with in Zen meditation? Will they make us into second-class citizens who pay taxes but receive nothing in return because we would have to subscribe to their religion to receive services?

Will our churches be closed?

Will there come a day when atheists or people who believe in other religions are banned from teaching, serving as judges or running for political office?

What if we protest? Will fundamentalists put us in prison?

Will we only be allowed to survive as long as we pretend to be good fundamentalists?

Separation of church and state isn’t about destroying religion. It’s about allowing all of us, including fundamentalists, the right and the space to worship the way we want.

To destroy the wall between government and religion is to take the worst kind of gamble. The stakes are simply too high.

If fundamentalists get what they want and turn the United States into a theocracy, I don’t see how anyone, including those supposedly victorious fundamentalists, will have truly won.


Sue Lange said...


You make some very valid comments. I too, have been frightened by the recent push by people saying they represent Christianity to restrict freedoms in this country. I used to despise people that disparaged "Christians" putting them all into one puritanical box. "There are many Christians," I would say. Then after the Christian Coalition seemed to have such an effect on the last presidential election, I too began disparaging Christians and thinking that perhaps the communists were right after all.

I came across something that gave me hope, though. Alexis du Tocqueville's "Democracy in America," has a section on separation of church and state. This book was written in the early 1800's in a time when the US Constitution was still young and no one was 100% sure it was going to work (as if we are now). The Civil War had not been fought and states still had all their rights so it was a different time. Separation of church and state was really being tested then and not well understood. For research on this section du Tocqueville interviewed members of the clergy to see what their take was on it. He determined that the clergy were the ones most behind the separation in this country between the two entities. Their argument was that in a governmental system such as exists in the U.S. the church will not survive if it allies itself to the government. In other words, when whoever is in power in the government falls, as they always do in our system (Democrat to Republican to Democrat to Republican: We've all experienced this in our own time), the church will fall with it if they ally themselves to the government. We will see this with the Christian Coalition. They have backed their man and the country seemed to agree with that at election time, but now the party of the president is running scared. What will the Christian Coalition do if the worst happens? Will they then ally themselves with those satanic Democrats? The ones they have been badmouthing for so long? They will have to if they want to keep their power, but then everyone will see them for what they are: not religious leaders at all but politicians, the worst sinners on the planet. It does more harm to religion than it does to the people when there is no separation of church and state.

5:40 AM
Justine said...

Interesting article on Fundamentalism. As an atheist, I certainly share your concerns about what some people call the "christofacist' forces in the country. I think the alarm bells are going off in many places, however. I read an article in Salon saying that now some Jewish organizations are beginning to worry as well, in spite of the fundi support of Israel's seizure of all of Palestine (a necessary step in their 'final days' scenario). Secular Jews have distrusted these fundies all along, but now some conservative groups are beginning to see the viciousness under the facade.
Keep on hoping, and keep on talking and writing, as I do.

8:03 AM
Silver said...

Sue and Justine, I agree with what you're saying. Many people of faith and religious organizations have always supported the separation of church and state as a way to protect religion. It's ironic that one, narrow slice of Christianity is now claiming that keep the government out of religion is somehow an attack on faith.

11:51 AM
Tracy said...

Reclaim this nation for Jesus Christ? Huh?
It's very clear to me from the words of the man himself that being the head or figure-head of nation(s) is the exact opposite of what the man wanted.
I have to laugh at the irony every time I see a new, expensive vehicle with a liscense plate that says JESUS. Exactly the kind of thing he would have despised.
If they want to be TRULY FUNDAMENTAL they should sell their belongings and give to others.

These are the views I get from reading his words. Am I the only one? Thought I might need a second opinion. If Jesus wants and/or needs the mightiest military nation in modern history, then I must be reading about the WRONG Jesus!

1:23 PM

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