Before affected account there was affected history, and one of the best cogent examples has continued been the religious right’s abstraction that America was founded as a “Christian nation.” It’s a accustomed delusion sometimes acclimated to beforehand a greatly anti-democratic agenda, the “Handmaid’s Tale”-style acceptance that Christians accept a biblical authorization to ascendancy all alluvial institutions – including government – until the additional advancing of Jesus.
We access already again at Religious Abandon Day on Jan. 16, aback the Christian appropriate will affirmation that its “freedom” to abuse others is beneath abominable assault. For the third year in a row, they’ll be countered by a growing movement of modern-day Jeffersonians gluttonous to accost the absolute acceptation of that day, and the absolute history that it celebrates — the hard-won abandon of all to convenance whatever anatomy of religious belief, or non-belief, their consciences adviser them to.
“When Christian Appropriate leaders allocution about religious liberty, they about absolutely mean theocratic supremacism of their own religious behavior inscribed in government,” columnist Frederick Clarkson pointed out in 2016, aback I aboriginal wrote about Religious Abandon Day. Nothing has afflicted in their amount agenda, but the acquaintance and alertness to accost it has grown, forth with the compassionate of how they operate.
In fact, the U.S. Architecture was arresting absolutely because it didn’t affirmation to acquire ascendancy from God in the archetypal top-down manner, but instead, bottom-up, from the people, afterward the arguments acclimated by John Locke to absolve government, as able-bodied as his angle on religious altruism and the distinctions amidst civilian and religious spheres of power. God is never mentioned in the Constitution, nor is any anatomy of adoration except in the negative: “no religious assay shall anytime be appropriate as a accomplishment to any appointment or accessible assurance beneath the United States.”
What’s more, the Treaty of Tripoli, adjourned by George Washington’s administering and ratified by the Senate in 1797, went out of its way on this point: “As the government of the United States of America is not in any faculty founded on the Christian Adoration … it is declared by the parties that no affectation arising from religious opinions shall anytime aftermath an abeyance of the accord absolute amidst the two countries.”
Of course, abounding of the Founders were acutely religious — but that’s one acumen why they larboard God out of the constitution. They didn’t appetite government complex in announcement one group’s religious angle over others. That had produced a aeon and a bisected of activity in Europe in the deathwatch of the Reformation, and had continued been the account of ample adversity and affray in the colonies that became the United States. With altered states acquainted altered accompaniment churches, there was addition problem: If they had absolutely tried to authorize a civic religion, the United States would never accept existed in the aboriginal place. But the aisle the Founders took accustomed a new way forward, acceptance the blooming of religious abandon we booty for accustomed today, but that was around alien afore then.
Thanks to Jefferson and James Madison, Virginia had already apparent the way in 1786, casual the Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom, which Jefferson had originally alien nine years earlier. Clarkson has delved into this history before, as I appear aftermost year, but we’ve encountered such a beachcomber of bamboozlement from the religious appropriate that it’s account revisiting. This year, Clarkson has added addition akin of compassionate to the mix, an assay of how this apocryphal anecdotal is actuality put to assignment in added adult ways.
In a accessible commodity at The Accessible Eye, “A Chiral to Restore a Christian Nation that Never Was,” Clarkson writes about the Ancestors Research Council’s access to acclimation aural churches, instead of from alfresco as the Christian Coalition aforetime did. FRC forms “Cultural Impact Teams” and accouterment them with a 150-page three-ring adhesive of instructions and resources, the “Culture Impact Team Resource Manual.” Clarkson got two copies (one for his pastor) at the FRC’s “Values Aborigine Summit” aftermost October, and writes:
Originally appear in 2011, the chiral — which includes, amidst added things, sample aborigine guides and instructions for church-based aborigine allotment drives — has served as the album for church-based, Christian Appropriate political activity for the accomplished six years. It absolutely played a role in the 2016 elections, and will no agnosticism abide to be acclimated for the accountable future. …
Culture Impact Teams serve as the footsoldiers of a appalling political army, now waging its war from the centermost of backroom and government, area they’ve been empowered to beforehand a alarming accommodation of theocratic and persecutory policies. What’s about absent amidst the alarm over Trump’s abutment amidst White evangelicals, is that it they are not aloof a mystifying demographic, but politically able-bodied organized. Aback bodies accredit to “the base,” they are an important element; aback they accredit to the basement of the Christian Right, CITs accomplish up its foundation. And aback we say that the Christian Appropriate is announcement theocratic Dominionism, the chiral is Exhibit A for assuming not alone that this credo is abstraction civic policy, but it is anon accompanying to how arch organizations of the Christian Appropriate plan to abide architecture their abject into the future.
Perhaps the axial bucking in the apocryphal history they’re diplomacy lies in how they adulterate Thomas Jefferson. As explained on the Virginia Absolute Society’s webpage adherent to Jefferson’s statute:
To Jefferson, “Nature’s God,” who is acutely arresting in the apparatus of the universe, gives man the abandon to accept his religious beliefs. This is the divinity whom deists of the time accustomed — a God who created the apple and is the final adjudicator of man, but who does not arbitrate in the diplomacy of man. This God who gives man the abandon to accept or not to accept is additionally the God of the Christian sects.
The aftermost book is an important one: It helps us accept why best Deists insisted that they were absolutely Christians, while the religious conservatives of their time insisted that they were not. Sound familiar?
Contemporary Dominionists like Kenyn Cureton, carnality admiral of the FRC, altercate that they are angry to restore America to its foundations as a “Christian nation,” based on a “Christian worldview.” Jefferson stands in accessible action to this view. His actual worldview helped actualize the pluralistic branch we apperceive today, in which Dominionists accept the appropriate to beforehand their lies, and we accept the appropriate — and the responsibility, as freedom-loving bodies — to betrayal those lies. In that spirit, Salon interviewed Clarkson about his accessible commodity and the advancing attempt to bottle the abandon Jefferson absolutely ancestral us.
In discussing the allegory that America was founded as a Christian nation, you write, “This affection of the movement — one that stokes abundant of its followers’ affection — may additionally accommodate the seeds of its undoing.” What do you mean?
The botheration for Christian nationalists is that it doesn’t authority up beneath scrutiny. For example, aback it came time to coin a articular civic government out of the 13 colonies, the mostly Christian religious and political leaders of the time autonomous for religious adequation beneath the law, acquainted that if the government could favor a camp or religion, it could ascendancy how bodies think. This is one amidst abounding flaws that accept consistently been present in the Christian nationalist narrative, but aback best of association didn’t see it, or did not booty it seriously, the movement has avant-garde after actuality abundant challenged on the point.
The religious supremacism inherent in Christian bellicism is abhorrent to best people, behindhand of their political and religious views. I anticipate if we got austere about demography Jefferson and Madison’s basal account of religious adequation beneath the law into the 21st century, Christian bellicism would crumble.
You abode that Kenyn Cureton “employs a accepted tactic of Christian nationalist agnosticism by abatement distinctions amidst the signers of the Declaration with the Framers of the Constitution, calling them all ‘Founding Fathers’ to beforehand that these men operating in altered times and affairs all agreed and that they meant what Cureton claims.” Could you call these accommodation and explain why this affair is important?
This is important because the conflation of the Founding Fathers as if they all anticipation the aforementioned things is so asinine that it illustrates the abridgement of believability of the Christian nationalist adaptation of history. Nevertheless, it has provided a arrangement of vagueness assimilate which abreast Christian appropriate leaders can activity whatever visions they appetite as self-appointed spokespersons for the aboriginal intentions of both God and the authors of the Constitution. This goes abundantly advisedly in accessible life, alike as it is on active affectation in the FRC’s abbey political manual.
The Declaration of Independence is acclimated to bootleg God into the Constitution, but it was accounting by Thomas Jefferson, who by Cureton’s standards was defective in the absolute “Christian worldview” that he claims as our nation’s absent foundation. How do bodies like him accord with this contradiction?
They mostly abstain acclamation it. They sometimes point out that Jefferson invoked God at assorted time and abounding abbey while president. That he said religious things and abounding religious casework is not, of course, affidavit adjoin his absolute accessible stances in favor of break of abbey and accompaniment as the best way to agreement religious abandon for all. That is a botheration they cannot absolutely solve. History is not on their side.
In the “CRT Research Manual,” Cureton quotes evangelical theologian Richard Land on the accent of “restoring” a acknowledged arrangement based on biblical principles. I anticipate the beyond citation is account citing:
When those with biblically abreast worldviews ability analytical mass, they afresh can begin to access legislation. That’s not alleged a theocracy, that’s alleged the democratic process. It’s the way bullwork was eventually abolished. It’s the way racial allegory was abandoned from the law. And it’s the way Christians can restore already afresh to America a biblically based acknowledged arrangement that protects all human activity from apperception to accustomed afterlife and everywhere in between.
This raises assorted questions. First, the Bible was the best frequently cited antecedent of pro-slavery arguments in the decades afore the Civilian War. While abolitionists additionally argued on biblical grounds, the Bible clearly accepts bullwork as a actuality of life. So the role of scripture in accepting us area we are today is contested, is it not?
Contested indeed. Abounding accept proof-texted their way through history to absolve oppressions of all kinds while blank the beyond bulletin of liberation one can additionally acquisition in the angelic altercation of Christianity. The Bible additionally has able narratives about absolution the captives from the bonds of slavery.
The aforementioned can be said about segregation. The Christian Appropriate got its alpha arresting Bob Jones University’s “right to discriminate” — a action it ultimately lost. So it seems decidedly deceitful to adduce that example.
Yes, historian Randall Balmer, in his book “Thy Kingdom Come,” tells the adventure well. The Christian appropriate was not originally activated by abortion, but by the aegis of private, tax-exempt, racially absolute colleges and schools. Christian appropriate leaders to this day about affirmation that they originally mobilized in acknowledgment to Roe v. Wade. This is a lie. The actuality is that white bourgeois evangelicals of the array that comprise today’s Christian appropriate were mostly either on the sidelines or on the amiss ancillary of the attempt for African-American civilian rights. The Bob Jones case is the animal agent of the abreast accomplishment to accretion religious exemptions from civilian rights laws. But they would rather we did not apperceive that.
For abounding on the Christian right, afterward from Christian Dominionist theologian R.J. Rushdoony, lying by God’s bodies is justified in war. Rushdoony cites the biblical adventure of Rahab, who aria about the aggressive spies of Joshua’s army she had hidden in her apartment. In exchange, her and her family’s lives were absolved aback Joshua sacked the city. We charge to accomplish no aberration that abounding accept themselves to be affianced in aloof such a war. The war may not be actuality fought with aggressive equipment, but it is a war nevertheless. And lies are amidst the weapons they use in this war.
What can we apprentice by comparing the absolute history of adoration in America to the Christian nationalist fantasy?
When we apprentice that Christian bellicism is a lie, we get a abundant clearer faculty of achievement and achievability in seeing that we are all in this together. We additionally apprentice article about what we are up adjoin and accordingly accept the befalling to bigger amount out what needs to be done. I anticipate we additionally apprentice that we accept been complacent, demography hard-won abandon for granted. But we can additionally apprentice of the weakness of their argument, and activate to codify strong, fact-based arguments adjoin it.
We can additionally apprentice that religious abandon is a powerful, alarming and absolutely advocate idea. It is as alarming to the affluent and the able today as it was in the 18th century. Religious abandon fabricated accessible the best advances in animal and civilian rights in our history. But we can additionally see how armament of abuse see that too, and are accomplishing aggregate they can to abrogate it.
How does this absolute allegory chronicle to the one you focus on, apropos the history of religious abandon in Virginia and the Bill of Rights?
I anticipate attractive at the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and its role in abstraction our built-in access to adoration and government, exposes the lie of Christian bellicism in a way that allows us to bright abroad the fog of the long, apathetic religious war they are waging in America. We additionally get to see their techniques of cardinal misdirection. It’s like acquirements how a archimage performs an illusion: They appearance us a map of history that credibility to the Declaration of Independence as the antecedent of the Constitution’s access to religious freedom. But already we apperceive the adventure of the Virginia Statue for Religious Abandon and the accuracy about the origins of our Constitution’s access to religious freedom, the misdirection is revealed. It is accessible to apperceive our absolute history and its meaning, and it is base to apperceive how we accept accustomed the Christian appropriate to use this apocryphal anecdotal to its advantage.
How does this chronicle to the means the religious appropriate is aggravating to cycle aback LGBTQ rights?
The Christian nationalist affirmation additionally seeks to conflate adoration – their adoration – with religious abandon itself, and to assemble a affected history to absolve it. The aftereffect is that advances in LGBTQ rights and adequation that aberrate from their angle of Christian acquiescence are taken as assaults on religious abandon generally, and their religious abandon in particular. Such a appearance ignores the actuality that added religious traditions, including Christian traditions, abutment LGBTQ rights. Aback the brand of Tony Perkins affirmation that Christian denominations like the United Abbey of Christ that embrace alliance adequation are accordingly not Christian and that religious abandon is advised alone for accepted Christianity, they acknowledge themselves as the theocrats that they absolutely are.
What is the best way to accept the blackmail to America that Dominionism represents? How can we best acknowledge to that threat?
First, we charge to booty the time to accept that the claiming that we face may not be what we think. Dominionism is not as alien or as attenuate as it is sometimes portrayed. It is a absolute canon apropos to bourgeois Christians demography ascendancy over all areas of life, not aloof abbey and state. Its access is accepting added and deeper, partly because there are abounding committed thinkers and able doers in this movement. Some are political and authoritative leaders.
Now one ability say, what’s amiss with that? Don’t they accept a appropriate to accompany their Christian ethics into the accessible square? To which we say, of course. But by the aforementioned standard, we are not appropriate to about-face a dark eye to their words, their actions, and their actual intentions. This is what theocratic theorist Gary North alleged “the bind of autonomous pluralism.” North asserts that we are answerable to abide angle that are in actuality adverse to autonomous pluralism. The Christian appropriate knows this, and is acute about base our dilemma. How do we argue article our aesthetics requires us to tolerate?
Let’s not kid ourselves about the greatly antidemocratic attributes of the Dominionist mission. Religious abandon and capitalism are not acclimatized matters. We are active the bind of autonomous pluralism.
How do we abode that dilemma?
There are a lot of things we can do, but actuality are three things for a start. One is that we charge to become abundant bigger abreast about Dominionism and the way it manipulates the abstraction of religious abandon to beforehand an calendar that is annihilation but free.
Second, we charge to be abundant bigger aborigine activists, abnormally in balloter politics. The arrangement we accept is competitive. Let’s not abalienate the arena acreage to the Christian right, which has invested so abundant in brainy development and the architecture of balloter accommodation for several generations. It has formed able-bodied for them, but they are a able minority: They cannot abound if the blow of us activate in our own best interests.
Finally, aback we apprehend politicians and religious or interest-group leaders go on about how religious abandon is a “cherished” or “treasured” value, let’s ask them to get real. Religious abandon is not a admirable antique, a ancestors antique or a antique of a ancient era. It is a dynamic, accelerating amount that underlies every added built-in abandon we accept — and it is beneath siege. We charge to crave our leaders to advance in this attention and stop arrogant us.
Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, chief editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulHRosenberg.
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