What would a theocracy look like?

Joe Carter looks at the “theophobes” who are all worried about America becoming a theocracy, as if evangelicals who don’t even believe in a central church authority would institute a central government authority.   He tries to calm their fears, pointing out that the number of “Reconstructionists” who might be interested in going for a theocracy is so small they could all fit into the conference room of a Holiday Inn in Helena, Montana.

But then he launches into a thought experiment, wondering what such a theocracy would look like:

What would the nation look like if we became the Dominionist States of America?

Here is the most plausible scenario I can imagine:

• After agreeing that it’s no longer applicable to a country that was founded by Unitarians and Deists, the term “Christian nation” is forbidden from being used in reference to the pre-dominionist era (i.e., from 1776-2012).

• The Marriage Protection Amendment is added to the U.S. Constitution, setting gay rights legislation back to the regressive year of 2003. The Human Life Amendment is stalled in Congress as pro-life factions fight over which of the 330 previously submitted proposals should be implemented.

• A revision is made to the First Amendment in which the words “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise of religion” is underlined and put in bold font. High school valedictorians—whether Christian, Muslim, or Jew—are extended the same right to pray at graduations as Supreme Court justices and members of Congress have had throughout our country’s history.

• A national ban on pornography is implemented. The prohibition has a negligible effect since there is already more porn on the hard drives of computers in Christian homes than was produced from the death of Caligula to the birth of Hugh Hefner.

• Creationism and Intelligent Design theory are included alongside the theory of evolution in school curricula. Students are forced to learn three theories, the details of which they’ll have forgotten about by graduation day.

• Congress passes the Christian Television Act which requires (a) every show must have as many Christian characters as homosexual characters, (b) Catholic characters must not be limited to elderly Latino women, Irish priests, and lapsed nuns, and (c) CBS must bring back Touched by an Angel.

And . . . well, that’s about the most that could ever happen.

Perhaps my ability to imagine a more robust form of Christian theocracy is dulled by the fact that I know so many actual Christians. The average Christian in America isn’t all that radical, which is why I think my list is a fair representation of the worst-case scenario. We would not have a zombified R.J. Rushdoony returning from the dead to stone men who lie with men and children who lie to their parents. We’d merely have average Christians acting much like average Christian acts now.

Most Christians merely want a return to the standard of public morality that prevailed during the country’s first two hundred years. As Ramesh Ponnuru has said about the “values voter” hysteria of 2004, “Nearly every one of these policies—and all of the most conservative ones—would merely turn the clock back to the late 1950s. That may be a very bad idea, but the America of the 1950s was not a theocracy.”

Indeed it is not. America was not a theocracy in 1950 and it won’t be a theocracy in 2050. Everyone, even the theophobes, knows this is true. The fact is that the journalists behind God Scare 2011 really aren’t concerned about dominionism. They aren’t really afraid that America is hurtling toward theocracy; they merely fear that our nation is drifting away from their goal of a secularacracy.

They need not worry. We’ll get there soon enough. And many Christians will be leading the way.

via What If America Did Become a Theocracy? | First Things.

Good new words:  Theophobe!  Secularacracy!

Seriously, do you think this is anything the left or anyone else really needs to worry about?  What are the prospects of us conservative Christians taking over the country and dismantling the Constitution?  (I thought we were the ones trying to defend the Constitution!)  To be sure, there are  theological dangers of a social gospel of the right, but aren’t those  far greater than any political danger?

The Dominionist scare

Secularists are scaring themselves with a new bogeyman:  Dominionists.  That is their term for evangelicals and other conservative Christians, whom they are conflating with a tiny number of actual theocrats, which are probably fewer in number than members of the American Communist Party.  I like Michael Gerson’s account:

Evangelicals, warned liberal theologian Albert Outler, “want a society ruled by those who know what the word of God is. The technical name for that is ‘theocracy,’ and their Napoleon, whether he likes it or not, is Jimmy Carter.” When Carter turned out to be less than Napoleonic, George W. Bush was identified as “the first prince of the theocratic states of America.” Bush, according to one entirely fictional account, was converted to “Dominionism” — a kind of Christian Wahhabism — by Assemblies of God pastors who provided him “explicit coaching.”

Now the heroes of the Tea Party movement, it turns out, are also closet theocrats. “If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry,” argues Michelle Goldberg in Newsweek/Daily Beast, “understanding Dominionism isn’t optional.” A recent New Yorker profile by Ryan Lizza contends that Bachmann has been influenced by a variety of theocratic thinkers who have preached Christian holy war.

As befits a shadowy religious sect, its followers go under a variety of names: Reconstructionists. Theonomists. The New Apostolic Reformation. Republicans. All apparently share a belief, in Goldberg’s words, that “Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions.”

The Dominionist goal is the imposition of a Christian version of sharia law in which adulterers, homosexuals and perhaps recalcitrant children would be subject to capital punishment. It is enough to spoil the sleep of any New Yorker subscriber. But there is a problem: Dominionism, though possessing cosmic ambitions, is a movement that could fit in a phone booth. The followers of R.J. Rushdoony produce more books than converts.

So it becomes necessary to stretch the case a bit. Perry admittedly doesn’t attend a Dominionist church or make Dominionist arguments, but he once allowed himself to be prayed for by some suspicious characters. Bachmann once attended a school that had a law review that said some disturbing things. She assisted a professor who once spoke at a convention that included some alarming people. Her belief that federal tax rates should not be higher than 10 percent, Goldberg explains, is “common in Reconstructionist circles.”

The evidence that Bachmann may countenance the death penalty for adulterers? Support for low marginal tax rates.

Bachmann is prone to Tea Party overstatement and religious-right cliches. She opened herself to criticism by recommending a book that features Southern Civil War revisionism. But there is no evidence from the careers of Bachmann or Perry that they wish to turn America into a theocratic prison camp.

via A holy war on the Tea Party – The Washington Post.

A friend of mine, Nancy Pearcey, was actually accused in the New Yorker of being a Dominionist thinker.  See her response here.

Wanting a Christian influence in the society as a whole is not the same as wanting to impose a theocratic government.  And it isn’t that the Bible says Christians should have dominion over non-believers; it says that human beings as a whole have been given dominion over nature.   Christianity is not a matter of laws, as if people could be forced or legislated into being good or Christian or whatever.  It is a matter of the Gospel, of forgiveness through Christ for not being good.   All Christians, for all of their differences, know that.   To say otherwise, to stir up the public against Christians, is religious McCarthyism.

UPDATE:  Just today I came across some material on the New Apostolic Reformation movement.  OK, as some of you commenters have been warning, THAT is something to be concerned about!   I’ll try to post something on the NAR in the future.  For now, I’m just saying that a number of people who are being accused of Dominionism are not Dominionists and are not connected to the NAR movement.  I suspect that politicians who are being associated with them know nothing about their theology or their agenda but in fact are being used by these people.  Meanwhile the secularist left is accusing ALL politically active Christians as being secret members of this cult.  Just as many on the right a few decades ago accused all liberals and even moderates of being Communists.  Not that there weren’t actual Communists or actual Dominionists.  (By the way, the “Theonomists” tend to be Calvinist in their theology, though not all Calvinists are Theonomists.  The NAR Dominionists are Pentecostal in their theology, though, again, not all Pentecostalists or charismatics are Dominionists.  So Theonomists and Dominionists probably wouldn’t have anything to do with each other.  But more on all of this as I unravel it.)


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