16 August 2011

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 SharĂ®'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.


Blogger John Myste said...

Your description of the Christian right is the same as some people describe the Republican Party in general, regardless of faith.

16 August, 2011 08:02  
Anonymous Ahab said...

"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?"

THANK YOU for pointing this out. Canada and the UK have their own right-wing Christians in the political sphere, and we've long known about the role of American preachers in fomenting homophobia in Uganda. Jeff Sharlet's books explore the global reach of "the Family", and should be on the reading list of anyone concerned about the Religious Right. Dominionism's reach extends much farther than America's borders. Perhaps global alliances among progressives and moderates are the best way to address this problem?

16 August, 2011 10:13  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

JM: The Christian Right has become so dominant within the Republican party that it can be hard to see the distinctions, but they're there. One couldn't remotely put Romney or McCain in the same theocratic category with Bachmann or Perry, for example.

Ahab: Without wanting to push the analogy too far, I keep thinking of those Germans who opposed the Nazis and left Germany for Denmark or the Netherlands -- only to have the problem catch up with them a few years later.

16 August, 2011 11:40  
Blogger Tommykey said...

The process would speed up more if secularists had more children. That way we could marginalize them demographically so that they no longer hold influence except in a few isolated rural redoubts.

16 August, 2011 17:20  
Anonymous Bacopa said...

Bachmann's out with her Elvis debacle today. So that makes Perry the leader of the wingnut contingent. McCain declined Hagee's endorsement, but Perry invited Hagee to his prayer rally last week. That crap will not play nationwide and doesn't even play in Texas now that Obama has a higher approval rating here than Perry.

But we gotta watch out for The Family. These fascist sympathizers have been infiltrating the Air Force for decades. Why? They want nukes. They want General Rippers everywhere. If they have the bomb we cannot stop them. We need congressional hearings to look into this and dismiss any Family aligned officer while we still can.

16 August, 2011 20:06  
Blogger Robert the Skeptic said...

For a while the Christian Right had attracted the moniker "Christian Taliban". I think it is an apt description and would like to see it bandied about more prominently in the discussion of this faction of our culture. Think about how much these people share with Islamists - suppression of women's rights, denial of evolution and science, punitive criminal policies, hypocritical positions on sex. Evangelicals are indeed our Christian Taliban.

16 August, 2011 22:15  
Anonymous NickM said...

A few years ago there was a campaign to send all MPSs in the UK a copy of 1984 inscribed, "This is not an instruction manual".

Any chance of you guys over there doing something similar with "The Handmaid's Tale".

17 August, 2011 03:44  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

TK: Unfortunately I doubt we can out-breed them -- they've thought of the same thing (hence the Quiverfull movement). But their own children are turning their backs on fundamentalism.

Bacopa: Perry seems to have managed a more serious debacle of his own already, despite being in the race less than a week. Let's hope it's a sign that he's not ready for prime time.

As for H-bombs in the hands of these fanatics, that's one of the aspects of having a Dominionist President that worries me the most.

RtS: The name certainly fits.

NickM: Unfortunately subtlety is lost on these guys -- and I doubt they read novels.

17 August, 2011 05:00  
Blogger uzza said...

They're the Christaban.

17 August, 2011 05:33  
Blogger Ahab said...

Tommykey -- I have to agree with Infidel753 on this one. There is no guarantee that one's children will automatically think the same way. Plus, copious childbearing would take secularists' time away from other strategies against fundamentalism, such as education and activism. I think a more effective strategy would be to educate people, thereby causing a "brain drain" from fundamentalism toward more enlightened ways of thinking.

17 August, 2011 10:14  
Anonymous NickM said...

Owe and don't think you need look that far afield. Recall all those puritans we once sent you.

Alas yes. anyway, it would only give 'em ideas.

17 August, 2011 10:26  

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