Starting right now, whenever anyone tells me that fearing a theocracy in the United States is paranoid, I’ll email them the Pew Research Center’s disturbing new report on its American religious-attitudes survey.
The title of the report says all you need to know to be appropriately forewarned: “Half of Americans say Bible should influence U.S. laws, including 28% who favor it over the will of the people.”
Considering that U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has been opining in his official speeches of late that only “the Judeo-Christian tradition” (read: “the Bible”) can save the country from the evil of encroaching “secularism,” what this new Pew data represents should not be taken lightly.
Speaking in February at the National Christian Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Barr falsely warned the gathering that “religion — long an essential pillar of our society — is being driven from the public square.”
What’s actually happening is church-state-separation proponents are trying to drive it from the halls of temporal power and government policy. Americans are still perfectly free to express their religious beliefs in any sphere not funded by public money, but they want no restrictions whatsoever.
But, in Nashville, Barr chose instead to catastrophize about something that is not actually happening — that America’s moral center is in mortal danger of letting go.
“At the same time, while we work toward our eternal destiny, we live in the temporal world – the City of Man,”Barr told the assembled conservative broadcasters. “But this world is a fallen one. Man is stubbornly imperfect and prone to prey upon his fellow man. Unless there is a temporal authority capable of restraining the wicked – an authority with power here on earth – the wicked men would overwhelm the good ones and there could be no peace.”
This is all part and parcel of Barr’s embrace of what he likes to call “Augustinian Christianity,” referencing St. Augustine of Hippo, who preached human beings were created solely “with the transcendent end and eternal life in the City of God,” Barr said in his speech.
Barr says the “wellsprings” of the “Anglo-American political system” are founding in Augustinian doctrine.
Make no mistake, he is saying a Christian theocracy is needed in America to save it from rational secularism. This is exactly the type of anti-intellectualism that Augustine proposed: Don’t try to use reason to understand the world, consider only of the inerring “word of God” in scripture.
The current mortal danger to America, Barr would have us believe, is not dishonesty and mendacity and lack of empathy but “militant secularists” trying to force reason on the populace and thus birthing the “bitter results of the new secular age.”
I’m far more worried about the supernatural nonsense he’s trying to force on the country.
In its new report issued April 13, Pew wrote:
“Today, about half of Americans (49%) say the Bible should have at least ‘some’ influence on U.S. laws, including nearly a quarter (23%) who say it should have ‘a great deal’ of influence. …. Among U.S. Christians, two-thirds (68%) want the Bible to influence U.S. laws at least some, and among white evangelical Protestants, this figure rises to about nine-in-ten (89%).”
This is unnerving. The data indicates that effectively half of American citizens have no problem with biblical doctrines coloring public policy and laws, and nearly a quarter of the populace are fervently supportive of the idea. It wouldn’t take much to punch the numbers into a dominant majority that could very likely actually impose the Bible on local, state and federal law and policy.
Fortunately, the other half of the country there is staunch antagonism to such religious contamination of government’s secular bona fides, which is the ethos the Founding Fathers employed in structuring the then-unique American system.
“[T]here’s broad opposition to biblical influence on U.S. laws among religiously unaffiliated Americans, also known as religious ‘nones,’ who identify as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular,’” Pew wrote in its survey report. “Roughly three-quarters in this group (78%) say the Bible should hold little to no sway, including 86% of self-described atheists who say the Bible should not influence U.S. legislation at all. Two-thirds of U.S. Jews, as well, think the Bible should have not much or should have no influence on laws.”
One of the most worrisome findings in the survey is that more than a quarter of Americans — 28 percent — believe that when a conflict between faith and the will of the majority emerges, the government should default to the Bible’s directives. Making that fact worse, another 20 percent say Christian scripture “should have at least some influence but that the will of the people should prevail.” Together, that’s nearly a majority.
So, if Americans think a theocracy is some kind of paranoid nightmare that will never happen, review the Pew data. We’re apparently pretty close already, at least in the minds of nearly a majority of our countrymen.
And the current administration is busily if quietly trying to put all the necessary pieces in place.
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