States Visited

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Deal with the Devil?

Of all the political sub-groups in this country, I think none face a more difficult series of decisions than the "Christian Right." For a very long time now they have been convinced, almost exclusively by Republicans, that they must elect fellow believers and surrender some rights in order to protect others and to defend "traditional, family values." This was not an accident. It came as a political response to the attack launched by modern liberals and Progressives against what the Christian Right perceived to be "traditional, family values". The left began to use the federal government to implement its will legislatively, through "activist" judges, and a sympathetic media. The Republicans and the Christian Right, sensing a move by liberal politicians to replace religion with the state responded in kind and embraced politicians who seemed to share their beliefs. A massive battle has been waged with each side seeking to put it's people in positions of power and authority to protect and expand their ideology, with every step - by either side - resulting in a growth in the power and scope of those in Washington.

The Christian Right, with the best of intentions, engaged in a battle that should never have been fought. This is much easier to see with hindsight than foresight but it is a battle that cannot be won. One cannot fight the growth and authority of the state by giving greater power to friends in positions of power within the state because those friends will not always be there, but the power, once vested, is almost impossible to remove. This must be the lesson learned from George W. Bush. Millions turned a blind eye to the massive growth of executive authority under Bush because they believed that he shared their vision. He was a born-again Christian, after all. And now he is gone, retired to Texas, and we are left with an executive office with almost unlimited power currently occupied by a socio-fascist and who knows what to come.

What the Christian Right must understand, above all else, is that no matter how many times he or she goes to church, no matter how many times God, Jesus and the bible are mentioned, no matter how much those traditional, family values are discussed, no matter how much outrage is expressed in press conferences and campaign speeches, the people in Washington - and nearly every person who wants to be there - are politicians first and political power is more important to them than anything else. (Incidentally, it must be noted that this isn't a problem just for the Christian Right. The politicians pandering to left-wing groups are in the same boat - they will say anything, do anything to motivate their group(s) to get out and vote and put them into power. The politicians of today are a product of the almost pure democratic means we use to elect them - the lowest common denominator that can rally the most troops is elected by a woefully undereducated population.)

We are now in a position where the power and authority of the state is almost out of control and the Christian Right face some difficult choices. There are many lessons we can learn from history but few are more clear than the fact that unless a state enforces a state-controlled religion, the state will not tolerate any religion longer than necessary. For the politician, power comes from the state and religion outside the state is a threat to that power - a man can worship only one master. No matter what a political candidate says to the contrary, it must be assumed that he (or she) will always vote to protect himself and his power.

This long-held belief that the best way to fight against the perceived secularization of America is to elect politicians that share their beliefs must be abandoned. The election of self-professed Christians to political offices would not remove the temptations of power. In fact, the combination of divine and political authority would enhance the temptation exponentially. If Lord Acton was correct in his observation that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then there is nothing more subject to corruption than a government that believes itself the bringer of Truth. History has shown that the greatest atrocities to ever occur have been the result of the state as religion or controller of religion.

Almost every religion on earth teaches that it is the one, true way. Ironically, the only way for people of all religious faiths to ensure that they may continue to practice their faith as their doctrines command is to resist the temptation to use the power of the state to enforce its doctrine. The end result of the pursuit of political power for those of a particular faith is armed conflict. The faith that achieves political power and attempts to enforce its will upon people of other faiths will be met with resistance and defiance. The only possible alternatives are peaceful co-existence, which doesn't require the acquisition and temptations of political power, and armed coercion, which certainly doesn't fit well with traditional, family values.

The decision to abandon the quest for political power for peaceful co-existence is certainly not an easy one for it means acknowledging the rights of others to live in a manner that may be at odds with Christianity (or even at odds with various demoninations of Christianity). It moves the battle for a man's soul from the courthouse to his house which is where it, and those choices in which Christians may not agree, belongs. Oddly enough, this is the same path that must be taken by atheists, agnostics, and people of no faith.

If one wishes to be free and to live in peace, one must resist the temptation to use political power to enforce his views. The attempts to use the state to do otherwise is a deal with the devil of the worst kind. As George Washington noted long ago, "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." We must all recognize that he who wishes to use the power of the state to subject others to his views is, without question, declaring that he is willing to use violence to achieve his goals.

I can already hear the retorts, "But what about (fill in your cause here)?"
Here is what must be remembered - Once we have put such a decision into the hands of the state, it is forever a decision to be governed by the state and, thus, becomes subject to the ebb and flow of politics. What was once a moral issue becomes a legal issue; what was once a personal decision now carries the force of the law. The right to do and the right not do has been ceded to the state and everyone loses.