Posts tagged with: Theocracy

Peter Paul Rubens 139Now that conservative Christians are something of a favored group by the executive branch of the US government again after a two-term hiatus, it’s time for many to dust off those old memes regarding the theocratic tendencies of the Christian Right.

To wit, Julie Ingersoll throws some Reconstructionist shade at Betsy DeVos: “Opposition to public education for the religious right is rooted in a worldview in which education is solely the responsibility of families (and explicitly not the civil government), and in which there are no religiously neutral spheres of influence.” There’s a lot wrong with that sentence.

What is more interesting to me, though, is that Ingersoll goes on to invoke the figure of Abraham Kuyper, among others, as influential for DeVos, an influence that has been noticed elsewhere, too. Ingersoll grants that holding to views like those of Kuyper does not necessarily make one a Reconstructionist: “These views were popularized in the work of Rushdoony and the Christian Reconstructionists and became dominant in the religious right, which is not to say that everyone who holds them is a Christian Reconstructionist.”

But this shouldn’t prevent one from being suspicious. Perhaps guilt by association is legitimate in this case after all. So if there is a distinction between Christian conservatism, Kuyperianism, and Reconstruction, we shouldn’t be too careful in distinguishing them, because, after all, “It’s a mistake to think of these distinct movements with hard boundaries that prevent cross fertilization, particularly since Christian education as a replacement for public education is a place where this happens.”
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Blog author: jballor
Friday, December 30, 2011
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In part 1 of “Secular Theocracy: The Foundations and Folly of Modern Tyranny,” David Theroux of the Independent Institute outlines a history of secularism, tracing the complex relationship between religion and the spheres of society, particularly church and government. “Modern America has become a secular theocracy with a civic religion of national politics (nationalism) occupying the public realm in which government has replaced God,” he argues.

One of the key features necessary to unraveling the knotty problems surrounding the idea of secularism is distinguishing between the separation of church and state on the one hand, and religion and public life on the other. Hunter Baker does an excellent job describing this distinction and its consequences in his book, The End of Secularism. Secularism, as Baker and Theroux use the term, is a far more vigorous concept than the institutional separation of church and civil government. As Baker writes,

Secularism is much more than a formal financial and legal separation of church institutions and state institutions. It is a way of living together in community that emphasizes clean conceptual boundaries over organic beliefs and traditions. Here we come to a critical point. Secularism is not and should not be synonymous with the separation of church and state.

George Weigel recently observed the thirty year anniversary of the imposition of martial law in Poland. He noted the “weakness” of the tyrannical government, which had to resort to such tactics. “Politics and economics are important,” he writes. But “what drives history over the long haul, however, is culture: what men and women cherish, honor, and worship; what men and women are willing to stake their lives, and their children’s lives, on.”

So what we need to be most concerned about, it seems, is a kind of cultural and conceptual secularism, a secularist worldview, that provides the basis for a more far-reaching and insidious form of secular political tyranny.

Look for part 2 on “Secular Theocracy” from Theroux in January. And in the meantime you can check out a controversy feature in the Journal of Markets & Morality between Hunter Baker and Jonathan Malesic on the question, “Is Some Form of Secularism the Best Foundation for Christian Engagement in Public Life?” Issue 13.2 of the journal will be publicly available shortly, but you can also get instant access by becoming an electronic subscriber.