(repost) Because Theocracy Leads to Permissible Extremism

(original posted on Mock, Paper, Scissors on March 23, 2008)

I cannot recall how many people I’ve spoken with, either via blogs or in-person, who reacted with the word “But nobody wants a theocracy in America” whenever I bring the subject up. And indeed, until recently, there wasn’t really a specific push to alter our Constitution in any formative way, and the only reason the American public has come to recognize that there are some minority movements in that direction is because of the thankfully-failed presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee. Thanks to his “charming” southern style and disarming smile, however, even given the suddenness of the our coming to understand that conservative fundamentalists DO want to turn this nation into a Christian Nation, many still don’t realize the true threat that impetus represents. And since nobody in that campaign ever used the term “theocracy”, these very same people who were “a bit put off” by Huckabee’s stance on altering the Constitution still don’t believe that anyone is creating, or has ever made any attempt to create, a theocratic state.

Head in the sands, their worldview is written on the backs of their eyelids, and its name is sciolism. But I’ve already spoken enough about that.

When the Buddha was destroyed in Bamyan by the Taliban back in 2001, everyone here in America seemed taken aback. But at least on the part of some of us, that incredulity was largely feigned. After all, we already live in a society which unapologetically and unabashedly forces galleries and museums not to display works of art that are uncomplimentary to the Christian Deity and Its Holy Progeny. We already live in a society which disallows admittance to certain schools to those who are openly homosexual, refuses military service to the same and withholds benefits to service men and women whose homosexuality becomes known. We already live in a society where religious-sponsored abstinence-only education is taught in public schools, where religious-sponsored “alternatives” to centuries-established science are required to be taught alongside the scientific curriculum, and where educators must mark as correct responses from students whose religious doctrine define the Universe as a 6,000-year-old mechanism created and overseen by the Christian Deity. We already live in a society in which the government sets up programs exclusively available to religious organizations, and subjectively requires candidates for political office to publicly hold at least some form of religious belief that is not Muslim, Wiccan, Satanist, or Pagan.

In many ways, America is already not very far removed from being a theocratic state. Hence this blogswarm and the absolute important it holds to those of us who recognize the potential impact of the things I detailed in the paragraph above. And of other things, I’m sure. One of the things that frightens me the most about the permissiveness with which religious bigotry is handled in our society is the impact it has on our children. Even in what has become a largely progressive society on many levels, these children still grow up thinking that only members of their religious denominations will share the “Kingdom of Heaven”—in some cases, only members of their particular congregation. Children are being home-schooled in higher numbers, and this only produces more insularity, more misunderstanding, and a greater sense of that misplaced entitlement that is already so pervasive in our world today. I do honestly look upon this treatment of our children as a form of child abuse. They are not prepared for the world at large whenever they do leave home, and that is the gravest error any parent can make: worse even than the rote teachings of intolerance, bigotry, self-righteousness, and duplicity they are given before they leave the house. And as adults, these children live in a society in which their intolerance and bigotry is tolerated, even encouraged, by the news media, by politicians, and of course by the company they keep in their insular segments of the society. In turn, those who do not eventually see the silliness (or perhaps the abject cruelty) of their ways, will start the cycle all over again with their own children.

What the Taliban did to Buddha in March of 2001 in one brazen act is no different than what conservative fundamentalists in America do each day to our nation as a whole through a measured, implacable series of legislation. The reason why we blog against these acts is to make people more aware that they even exist. Since ours is a society largely defined by convenience, attempting to recognize the patterns left behind by the religious fundamentalists takes work, and work is awful inconvenient. Even those who recognize these issues largely feel that anything they could do about them would be too limited, too small of a scale, to have any impact. That’s not true.

This is just the third blogswarm on the topic of theocracy, and if I’m not mistaken, sometime during yesterday, we surpassed the number of posts from the last one. We blog, people read, people begin to understand. We are not helpless in our fight against theocracy, for our readers begin to recognize that the theocratic movement has many faces, many subtle nuances, and the most recent public expression of that desire was probably communicated out of sheer ignorance on behalf of Huckabee. The fundamentalists like to work in the dark, behind closed doors, sending hand-picked groups out into the open to whine and complain and argue and fight, knowing that they cannot be trusted to reveal the true mission, couching it instead in the simple terms of “Freedom of Expression”—the very same Freedom, in fact, they would hope to deny so many others.

So, over this weekend we have blogged again. But we are reaching a point where blogging, helpful as it is, is by no means enough. I believe it is time to do more than blog. I believe it is time to actively, even proactively, fight the elements of theocracy in our courts, our schools, our universities, and yes, even our churches, synagogues, and mosques. Religion has no formative place in our government. We can be proud of the fact that many religious people fought and died to earn this country its independence without having to hold every election under a cross. We can celebrate this country’s Judeo-Christian roots without turning every courtroom into a prayer service. And we can remind our friends and neighbors who have no problem with the efforts to make this a Christian Nation exactly where such ideas got the people of Afghanistan. Help them envision what life would be like without the Freedom of choice, the Freedom of expression, the Freedom of Art.

Here are some helpful questions you can ask those who don’t think this is a real issue:

  1. Would you love your God if the Law said you had no other choice but to do so?
  2. Would you want your children to attend a public school where Baptism was the first pre-requisite?
  3. Would you be excited to go to Church on Sunday if you were required to sing praises at work each day?
  4. Would you uphold the Law and stone your child to death for disobedience?
  5. Would you want to live in a Democracy where all the candidates were ministers? or priests? or rabbis?
  6. Would you want to live in a society where “choice” amounted to whether you go to mass on Saturday or Sunday?

Our freedom is at stake. Let’s not just leave it to a collection of postings once or twice a year.