Friday, March 03, 2006

The Fundamentalists' Bad Bet

I'm tied up with other activities on Friday, so I'm reposting a slightly revised version of a post from November that, alas, isn't even close to being out of date.

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 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 make our laws. (Some would argue that this fight is occurring now and that progressives have already lost. However, that’s a discussion for anotherday.)

What fundamentalists are betting is that Christianity will win. Actually, they’re betting 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 Episcopal Church, which consecrated out-gay minister Gene Robinson as a bishop?

Perhaps even more frightening -- even for fundamentalists -- is the thought of what might happen if their own 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 only "good" Christians are allowed access to government 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. It's one I don't want to make because I believe the stakes are simply too high.

If religious dominationists get what they want and turn the United States into a theocracy, I don’t see how anyone, including the dominationists, will have won.

No comments: