The political right wing has never been far from the Bible, at least in rhetoric. However, recently there has been an increasing push to further inject their version of Christianity into the governance of the nation.
Besides recent anti-abortion laws and efforts to bar LGBT rights, prominent politicians, including Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, have forged ties with controversial fundamentalist Christian groups. Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising group to have worked its way into the political arena is the New Apostolic Reformation which demands nothing less than world rule by fundamentalist Christians.
Many in the conservative right push the notion that the United States was founded as a "Christian nation," ignoring evidence to the contrary found in the First Amendment, the Treaty of Tripoli, and the works of Thomas Jefferson.
This line of thought has been used to justify discriminating against LGBT citizens and women, among others.
To better understand this theocratic push, one must understand the term dominionism. This concept proclaims that Christians have a divine duty to rule and to rule according to Biblical principles. It is derived from a sect called Christian Reconstructionism which advocates replacing American law with laws supposedly straight from the Bible (executing homosexuals, stoning adulterers, among others). The dominionism movement, which has drawn support from a range of extremist sects, appears to be just as political as it is theological.
One prominent political figure who seems to be caught up in the dominionism movement is the latest Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Let's look at how Perry's views on this have affected his governance of Texas.
Perhaps the easiest to see is Perry's puritanical and obsessive push for abstinence-only education, now mandated in 94 percent of Texas school districts. Despite the results to the contrary, Perry insists, "It works." The curriculum for these programs in public schools includes Bible verses, religious instruction, and factually incorrect information about contraceptives. The results: Texas has the third highest teen birth rate, and the third highest teen HIV-infection rate.
Then there is Perry's opposition to repeal of Texas's now-unconstitutional criminalization of sodomy. In fact, the 2010 Texas GOP platform Perry ran on explicitly calls for the criminalization of gay sex.
Perry's August 6 "The Response" event at Houston's Reliant Stadium was perhaps the most telling example of how much his extreme brand of Christianity factors into his politics. Promoting this fundamentalist-Christian event with a gubernatorial decree, Perry pushed the bounds of the separation of church and state.
This event was intended to "call upon Jesus" to help combat our "financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters" as well as, of course, the increasing acceptance of homosexuality. Among the participants in this prayathon were the American Family Association - a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group that compares gays to Nazis and wants to recriminalize homosexuality, and the International House of Prayer, a group known for pushing Uganda's "kill the gays" bill. Also participating were various pastors with bizarre religious beliefs including one that tied Japan's economic downfall to imperial demon sex, one who claimed that Oprah Winfrey was the precursor to the Anti-Christ, and another who claimed that the Statue of Liberty is a demonic idol.
These pastors all belong to the New Apostolic Reformation, which subscribes wholeheartedly to the ideology of dominionism. Many of them view Rick Perry as their ticket into power. The pastors in this movement often style themselves as prophets or apostles with a direct line to God.
Back in 2009, a pair of "prophets" from this group, Tom Schlueter and Bob Long, visited Rick Perry in Texas. According to "prophesies," they said, Texas was the "Prophet State" that will lead the United States to a Christian theocracy, and Gov. Perry was a big part of the plan. Apparently, Perry has bought into their "prophesy," as his "Response" event was stacked with NAR members.
Perhaps this explains one of Perry's comments on Fox News. Speaking to Neil Cavuto in June about his low poll numbers in Texas, Perry remarked, "A prophet is generally not liked in his hometown."
There are several theocracies currently in existence around the world. These include Iran and Saudi Arabia. These countries enforce archaic, often barbaric, versions of religious or pseudo-religious regulations as law.
Now imagine an America ruled actively as a theocratic nation. Gays and lesbians, at least 20 million people in America, would be put to death or at least imprisoned. Abortion would be outlawed even if the mother's life were at risk. Religious freedom would be thrown out the window. The state would censor media to enforce someone's interpretation of Christian-consistent content. The teaching of evolution and the study of evolutionary biology would be banned as blasphemy. Books ranging from "Catcher in the Rye" to "Harry Potter" could be banned nationwide.
Is this a nation that we as Americans want to become? If not, perhaps we ought to watch more closely who we vote for.
Photo: Gage Skidmore // CC 2.0