Last Sunday at Cascade Hills, we talked about a central idea in the book of I John: that what we believe to be true drives what we do. It's obviously important, then, to seek out and thoroughly explore what is true, and equally important that we consciously shape our actions to line up with that truth. As part of my sermon, I mentioned a quote from Adam Kirsch from the New York Sun: "All of America's great strengths - our diversity, tolerance, pragmatism - finally depend on our ability to keep public reason and private belief strictly separate. [more]" I went on to mention that Kirsch is attempting to protect the concept of separation of church and state, but that such thinking has gone far beyond mere separation. In today's culture, it is easy to see that (Christian) faith is not welcome in any public sphere. Any value or moral stance, and certainly actions that derive from those values, that has root in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is simply inadmissible at the social gathering, the marketplace, the courthouse, or the congressional floor.
Given this current cultural reality, I am utterly mystified by the fears that America is somehow becoming a theocracy espoused in some political realms. I mentioned this a while back in another blog post inspired by reading The Nation. I have since seen the proliferation of titles on display near the entrance of Borders: American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century; The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans for the Rest of Us; and others. The centerpiece of this new genre of literature is the equating of the Bush administration with the Mullahs and Ayatollahs of Jihadist Islam (and thus the fun picture at the head of this post.) Here is a sample of the genre, written by Rabbi James Ruddin (who is the American Jewish Committee's senior interreligious advisor):
“All government employees—federal, state and local—would be required to participate in weekly Bible classes in the workplace, as well as compulsory daily prayer sessions,” as would employees of any company or institution receiving federal funds. There would be a national ID card, identifying everyone by their religious beliefs, or lack thereof—and “such cards would provide Christocrats with preferential treatment in many areas of life, including home ownership, student loans, employment and education.” Non-Christian faiths would be tolerated, “but younger members . . .would be strongly encouraged to formally convert to the dominant evangelical Christianity.” Gay sex would be prosecuted, and “known homosexuals and lesbians would have to successfully undergo government-sponsored reeducation sessions if they applied for any public-sector jobs.” Political dissent would be squashed, religious censors would keep watch over the popular culture, and “the mainstream press and the electronic media would be beaten into submission.”Once again, the clear-thinking folks over at First Things have explored and soundly answered the sort of thinking behind this trend. While I am still flabbergasted that anyone could seriously entertain these silly fears, at least now I see how silly they really are.
No, America is not a theocracy, has never been one, and is not becoming one. Yes, those who profess to walk in the way of Jesus and to know the truth that He reveals--should we not allow that truth to inform every area of our actions, including those actions we claim for ourselves as people who constitute a democratic society? Should we not allow what we believe to be true to drive what we do?
But even if that were true of all Christians who are also Americans, there would still be no worry of becoming a theocratic society, since the way of Christ is foolishness to the world of secular America and a stumbling block to our culture, for it is the way of the cross. Ours is not a kingdom of legislative victories and cultural imperatives, ours is the Kingdom of the Crucified One, the One who overcomes by laying down His life for those who hate Him. Ours is the way of Jesus.