“State, you may kiss the bride.”
As the political divide has grown infinitely wider and deeper in America, I’m not sure Conservative Christians, aka the “Religious Right,” have thought through just how hard they’re fighting for what they want. They seem to want control of the Presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court. But to what end? Have they really thought it through?
If Christians, and Evangelicals in particular, are becoming obsessed with controlling American government — and from my observations and experience as one of them, they are — then their investment in human governmental affairs has gone way off the reservation. They don’t merely want Christian representation. They want to change the entire government, and thereby the country itself.
Church marries State. It’s that simple.
Don’t read me wrong: Being responsible citizens and exercising your right to vote are very important. It’s the right and responsibility of every American. And voting your conscience, voting for candidates who you believe best align with your beliefs and priorities, is how you should vote. It’s how the system works.
This is not about Evangelicals exercising their right to vote. This is about Evangelicals coming to believe that political control is so important, it’s practically mandated from above. Because governmental control = the power to shape the country into what they want it to be.
I submit before the court that God has never expressed interest in his followers gaining control of human government. He repeatedly says variations of “subject yourself to every human institution,” and to pray fervently for those in positions of power. I see nowhere in the Bible where Jesus says,
“For you are to take absolute control of every human institution in my Father’s holy name. As it is written, I cannot do my good works but through those chosen, faithful leaders who labor in the hands of the Lord.”
(That was taken from The Gospel of Falwell, for the curious.)
The Bible says God can and will accomplish his will regardless of what we do. We can either jump on board the ride with him, or watch from the stands. Either way, he has never once in history required human help, and to this day still does not.
(The kicker is that he still gives us the freedom to choose. So we can choose to royally screw things up, and cause damage and fear and consternation. Or we can choose to do good and cause healing and love and understanding. Either way, his will will always be accomplished. The tension between his will and our freedom to choose is the fundamental question of all existence. But I digress.)
The matter at hand is what Evangelicals hope to accomplish in American government. What do they want? They’ll tell you they want a nation with a foundation of Christian principles. They’ll tell you all about how the United States was built on Christian values, and they want to see a return to those days.
Incidentally, those “Christian values” that the U.S. was built on included slavery, mass murder and pillaging of Native Americans’ lands, denying women the same rights as men, devastating punishments for same-sex relationships… but we’ll go with it for sake of argument.
They’ll reminisce about the Good Old Days™ when public schools held corporate prayer. That’s a big one. “They’ve kicked God out of our schools” is a favorite buzz phrase. They’ll mention how they miss the days when terrorism hadn’t been invented yet, and no one ever had to worry about school shootings. They’ll tell you how they and their parents never even locked the doors at home before going to bed each night. It was a safer, gentler time, when men used their hands for hard work, women were queens of their domain (the home), and families sat together at the dinner table (where kids said “please,” “thank you,” and never dared leave the table without asking permission). Missing church on Sunday was unthinkable. And going pretty much anywhere — the theater, the store, church, traveling — meant dressing up in your finest clothes.
It’s a romanticized view of an era that changing times have left far behind. We can never return to the Andy Griffith Show lifestyle, no matter how much some of us may want to.
But for the sake of argument, we’ll set that aside and push on. In a modern society where everything is connected electronically and lifestyles are built around how fast things can get done, how does the Religious Right intend to return to classic values?
By infiltrating and controlling the American government. It isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Option 1: Vote in politicians who share your religious beliefs. They’re sure to cast Congressional votes in ways that you’ll approve of. Or in a best case scenario, you’ll vote in a proud, unwavering Evangelical Christian to occupy the highest office in the land. (Or, you know, someone who gives Christians lip service and enforces their policies to buy their political support. But that’s highly unlikely to happen.)
Option 2: Run for office yourself. Run on a platform of old fashioned values and Christian beliefs. If you’re in the heartland, you’ll find it easy appeal to your constituents’ desires to stay far away from progressive ideals such as movies and music that could lead your children astray. And whatever you do, the feared and forbidden “S”-word (socialism) must never be uttered — unless you’re using it to insult your political opponent.
(Rumor has it that uttering the S-word in church will result in accusations of — gasp! — backsliding.)
Imagine an Evangelically perfect world, where every seat of power in Washington is occupied by a Conservative Christian. President, Senate, House. Heck, even all nine Supreme Court Justices. (We’re two-thirds of the way there, anyway.) Try to get your head around this hypothetical scenario, where everyone in D.C. is a member of the Religious Right.
Yes, of course I know it’ll never happen, but work with me.
Is this the Evangelical dream? Absolute control of the nation?
In many denominational pockets… Heck yeah it is. It’s something dreamed about second only to the return of Jesus. (In some sectors, the political stuff might actually push Jesus’ return down to second place.)
So, they gain unlimited control… What happens now? In Evangelical dreams, it could look something like this:
- Christian prayer is made mandatory in all schools, from kindergarten to high school. Teachers are required to lead prayer before classes start every morning. Christian student organizations are highly encouraged, all other religious-based societies are forbidden. The Christian flag is flown with the American flag on the big pole outside.
- Christianity is recognized as the official religion of the United States. (Catholicism and Judaism are tolerated, but not encouraged.) Muslims and other religions are allowed to stay, but frequently see their places of worship vandalized or even burned down. No federal action is taken to crack down on this form of homeland terrorism, and local law enforcement does little more than “dial it in.”
- Capitalism aka the free market, a foundational American principle and a favorite of Conservatives, is given high priority in legislation. Once again, promising to help the little guy with tax cuts and incentives, Republicans stubbornly hold to their belief in trickle-down economics, skewing the distribution of wealth even further in favor of the 1%. The credit debt of the average American skyrockets, since lowered income makes it even harder for the middle class to get by. The rich get richer. You know the rest.
- The Affordable Care Act is no more. “Healthcare for all” is a thing of the past. Insurance companies take advantage of the new status quo and raise premiums across the board. Copays become insanely high. The astronomic cost of surgical procedures and/or hospital stays plunges the majority of Americans even further into debt.
- Roe v. Wade is overturned, making abortion illegal.
- Obergefell v. Hodges is overturned, making gay marriage illegal again.
- The armed forces are bolstered with additional nuclear weapons, ensuring that the United States is the most powerful nation in the world. Russia responds in kind, as do many other nations. Those on the verge of nuclear weapon technology are motivated to work faster. The Cold War era returns.
- The Mexican border wall is built using funds funneled from “less important” causes like suburban beautification, community outreach programs aimed at children and youths, and the arts. Illegal immigration becomes one of the worst offenses under United States law, with borders and coastlines heavily monitored.
- Racial equality efforts remain unchanged… for a while. Eventually, they take a backseat to other concerns, causing a subtle, slow, unspoken regression of 60+ years of integration. Until it becomes not-so-subtle, and white privilege grows stronger than ever.
- Welfare programs are eliminated, since handouts are believed to destroy the needy’s incentive to pull themselves up by their own hard work. Churches and other nonprofits encouraged to pick up the slack.
- Irony of ironies: The party known for fighting for smaller, more limited government, imposes its ideal of a perfect government on all, thereby creating the biggest government America has ever known.
- In American churches, a new common dogma forms that combines Prosperity Gospel with the American Dream. The United States is treated as the new Body of Christ, and churches teach that Christians who are “right with God” know that the only truth here on earth can be found within the Republican way of life.
So where does this new, purely Christian version of America leave Democrats? Liberal values would become a new Resistance movement, “Socialism for all!” its unapologetic battle cry. Special interest groups would engage in fighting over individual issues, including every one of those listed above.
What if the roles were reversed, you ask? What if Democrats dominated all three branches of American government? There would no doubt be problems of equal size and danger to the ones I listed. But among them would not be one problem in particular: intolerance. Liberals pride themselves on tolerance and inclusivity. Christianity and its values would be among many welcome in the great American melting pot, free from fear of persecution.
Yes, I know this is nonsense. Yes, I know the Religious Right isn’t fighting for this kind of America. (Probably.) There’s a reason we have a two-party system, and that’s to keep any one set of ideals from defining the American way of life. Even more so, it’s to keep extremist ideas from becoming mainstream.
The balance of these ideals is what keeps us the “Great American Experiment,” the democratic republic that all other citizen-run nations look to, to forge the better path.
I probably shouldn’t be pointing so many fingers at Christian Conservatives. I’m sure Liberals would also, in their heart of hearts, love absolute control of the government every bit as much.
But it strikes me that there’s a disparity between the two. It’s not that one side seeks power more than the other, or is more worthy of it.
It’s that if that kind of earthly control is the goal, Evangelical Christians above all others should know better.