The drive toward minority rule in the US
The de-Christianization of the United States, a trend clearly under way for several decades, has accelerated dramatically since the turn of the century. Do take the time to read this article on the subject; it's long but well worth it.
Today the percentage of Americans who say they have no religion at all has risen to 17%, or one in six, a proportion which would have astonished people as recently as ten years ago; and given the depth of prejudice that remains, the real number (counting those who prefer not to declare themselves on a survey) must be larger. One in ten Americans is an ex-Catholic, though many of those presumably left Catholicism for some other form of Christianity. "Mainline" Protestant churches, to which over 50% of Americans belonged in 1965, have shrunk to 8% today. And these trends are strongest by far among the young. Not only does the under-30 age group include the highest proportion of non-religious, but they also are increasingly outspoken in defending their rights -- and the First Amendment -- against fundamentalist encroachments, as the article's many heartening examples affirm.
The dangerous sub-set of American Christianity, the theocratic Christian Right, is not immune. The proportion of Americans aged 18 to 29 who identified with evangelical Protestantism peaked at 25% in the late 1980s and has now fallen to 17% (and not even all evangelicals can really be classified as belonging to the Christian Right). Those who have left Christianity, especially the young, often cite churches' reactionary hostility to gays, abortion, and the full equality of women as factors that pushed them away -- the very issues on which the Christian Right defines itself.
That's the good news. The bad news is that, as anyone who has been paying attention is well aware, the Christian Right has been growing even more extremist and militant as it shrinks. (This often happens in shrinking radical movements -- it's the least committed who depart, leaving the true fanatics within the fold.) While some evangelical leaders have lately accepted that their war against gay marriage and abortion is probably a lost cause, others embrace the concept of fundamentalist theocracy, or "Dominionism". As one of the concept's exponents, George Grant, expressed it:
Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after. World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.
Two of the three leading contenders for the Republican Presiden- tial nomination, Bachmann and Perry, are strongly influenced by Dominionism and Dominionist organizations. How much they believe out of the whole totalitarian package is impossible to say -- these are not ideas that a serious politician would talk about too openly -- but we do know that they and the Christian Right as a whole broadly support the principle of imposing Biblical taboos on the entire society by force of law (I've written before about what this would involve if taken literally). Some Dominionists also hold a bizarre view of slavery and the Civil War. The movement aspires to drag the country back to 1950 -- in the case of the radicals, back to 1950 BC.
From the Christian Right's viewpoint, Dominionism is a logical response, perhaps the only logical response, to current reality. They know they're a shrinking minority and have lost the debate. Since accepting defeat in the culture war isn't an option -- God can't lose out to Satan -- the solution is to impose fundamentalist minority rule.
The election of Bachmann or Perry as President would not mean an immediate turn to theocracy. The American political system is more resilient than that. But it would be far worse than Bush II. It would invite the most dangerous, bigoted, and ignorant elements in America into the centers of power. It would be a disaster for individual rights and freedoms and for American science and education, to say nothing of what we'd see on the Supreme Court. If a Dominionist administration launched a crash program of sabotaging the political system to advance Dominionist power (the Republican dirty tricks we're already seeing to discourage undesirables from voting might be a foretaste), then worse could follow.
Even if you're a Christian, you shouldn't be complacent about the prospect. Dominionism isn't very friendly to those who are the wrong kind of Christian. The giant Houston prayer rally with which Perry launched his campaign excluded not only non-Christians but also Catholics, for example.
Think you'd emigrate if it happened? In the worst-case scenario, down the road, if Dominionists eventually came to dominate the government of a country as powerful as the US, do you really believe that any place on Earth would be a safe haven? Notice that bit about "world conquest" in the quote above? Other countries should be concerned about this too.
Finally, do we really want someone who believes God-knows-what about Armageddon and the "End Times" to get control of 10,000 nuclear weapons? Think about it.
There's an irony here. For years there was a cottage industry of paranoids churning out predictions that Europe would someday be taken over by Islamists out to impose Sharî'ah law and Islamize Europe's nations. In fact, it's the US which is at the greater risk of suffering essentially the same scenario. I don't believe that the probability is very high in either case -- but no European country has ever had an Islamist as a serious contender for the post of head of government, for example.
Bachmann or Perry probably couldn't win a general election even if nominated (one poll has shown that Obama could carry Texas if Perry were his opponent), and even if they did, the Dominionist agenda would meet strong resistance. But worst-case scenarios are worth considering. History is full of misery and disaster which could have been avoided if people had understood, before it was too late, that the extremists were actually planning to do exactly what they said they were planning to do.