Posts Tagged ‘Theocracy’

There was a time when those of us in Western democracies, republics like our own in which the First Amendment allowed for religious freedom without establishing any form of religion as the official religion of the realm, looked with horror upon militant forms of Islam that took over the law and governance of entire countries. The political leaders were one and the same with the religious Ayatollahs and they conflated Sharia – religious law – with civil law. We witnessed what a theocracy could be in both theory and practice.

We watched as women were forced into tightly prescribed roles and mores that included required dress like hijabs or burkas. They were not allowed in public spaces and had limited freedom. Everything was prescribed by religious authority combined with the enforcement power of government. The conformity police harassed and beat offenders in public. Be-headings and punishments took place in the public square to create fear and reinforce the rule of absolute authority. In every respect men were deciding exactly what women should be and do.

Thank God nothing like that could ever take place here, we said with relief.

Theocracies, however, have never been limited to one religious faith or one geography. Whenever fundamentalist strains of faith become militant and strive to create society in their image, theocratic systems are born. The development is gradual at first, with religious actors entering the public square and exerting influence, which at first only appears as an aspect of freedom. But their objective never stops there. What is desired on the part of those systems is control of everything. Through assimilation or revolution, those religious actors work into positions of authority and influence upon political figures. The politicians eventually need the support of these religious power brokers who control their constituents.  And in time the separation between civil government and religious law dissolves. Religious convictions or values become codified into civil law.

We are living in just such a time in the United States.

Over the past few decades the religious right has joined forces¬† with one political party. They now serve one another’s interests, trading favors for the promise of power. Even when the values of either party or religion run counter to those of the Theocracy partner, they remain silent or give tacit approval. In statehouse after statehouse across the country the religious agenda of one brand of Christianity is now being reflected in the legislation. On the national stage a certain class of judges are now being appointed who reflect a particular worldview and make those judgments accordingly. We are now living during the rise of the Christian Taliban.

In this Theocracy the Christian Taliban present their values as the only values and enact them into law. The control of women by men is high on the agenda, especially when it comes to reproductive rights. The Ayatollahs of the Christian right – megachurch pastors, televangelists, popular conservative authors, religio-political pundits – present the absolute truths by which everyone should conform. They go so far as to criminalize the violation of their Christian Sharia and punish those who do not conform.

In a regime theocracy such as the Reichkirke in Nazi Germany – the State Lutheran Church became the legitimizer of the Third Reich, naming Hitler as God’s manifestation in the world. As Swastikas flew alongside crosses, there was no separation, no independent ethical reflection, no protest against any policy on the basis of faith or morals. The values and goals of the state were baptized by the church and the church became the religious arm of the regime, the megaphone for religious propaganda. In exchange for that submission the church received the tokens of power, prestige and protection. Until it shamefully came crashing down.

Religions that participate in theocracies inevitably lose their souls for worshiping the golden calves of power. The governments often end up endorsing narrow religious views that are not shared by the majority of its citizens; people conform only under the threat of punishment. Both are sullied in the process.

Protest of a theocracy can be very difficult, especially as power is centralized. But resistance is essential, a necessary refusal to accept either side of the toxic formula. The religious values of the theocratic religion must be publicly critiqued. The government’s policies must be publicly critiqued. And all of this must take place through an articulation of a different set of values and ideals.

The Christian Taliban are terrified of true freedom, allowing for real moral choice on the part of fellow citizens. They deal with this terror of freedom by attempting to control everything and everyone through coercive power. Freedom is the opposite of that and advocating for it, insisting upon it, requires suffering on the part of resisters. The Taliban are fierce in their crusades. They are willing to do anything to both seize and retain power.

The difference between living in a Theocracy and a free society is that in a free society one religious group does not set the agenda, limits, rules, or priorities for everyone else. That Christian Sharia does not become the law of the land, defined by Christian Ayatollahs and codified by Christian Taliban.

Theocracy? Here? Now?

For God’s sake, no.