Burke: Old time religion fine, but keep it, government apart

Were the U.S. a ‘Christian nation,’ would we all be comfortable with the changes to public life?

By Tom Burke / Herald columnist

Religion is a flash-point subject, especially on the opinion page. And amid all the issues facing us today — 839,000 U.S. covid deaths, masks, the Big Lie, vaccines, boosters, anti-vaxxers, gas prices, testing, the environment, inflation, voting rights, voter suppression, Build Back Better, the state legislative session, immigration, gun rights, cancel culture, reproductive rights, Trump’s problems in Georgia, New York, and Washington, D.C., Congress’ Jan. 6 committee, climate change, distance learning, school closures, domestic terrorism, the Supreme Court, the mid-terms, canceled flights, the filibuster, systemic racism, police reform, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, China, Putin, North Korea, redistricting, Big Tech, interest rates, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes/drought, homelessness, and the Big One — you might ask: “Why a column on religion?”

Because religion is playing a huge, but mostly under-reported, role in how we confront these issues; especially as white Protestant evangelicals align themselves with Trumpist Republicanism (81 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump in 2020.); and Trumpist Republicans have a specific anti-democratic agenda.

It’s no secret the fundamental ideology of the Christian right, often called “Christian Dominionism,” is to replace secular government, and the U.S. Constitution, with a system based in Old Testament law via a claimed biblical mandate to control all earthly institutions.

A noble aim? Perhaps; if you believe Christ was the son of God (only 30 percent of world population is Christian). If you don’t, then living in such a “Christian” nation is problematical, just as living under sharia or Talmudic law or in any theocracy would be for “non-believers.”

(To be clear, I’m not saying religion has no place in the public square. Far from it: Religious persons have every right to advocate laws and policies in line with their beliefs and values. But imposing those values on this nation is where the Constitution draws the line.

Now there’s a shorthand for this philosophy and it’s called the Seven Mountain Mandate that adherents derive from Isaiah 2:2 which says: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s House shall be established on the top of the mountains.”

This is (essentially) interpreted to mean Christians must take control of seven “mountains” or areas of life — family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government — to reshape America and the world ahead of the end times.

So what does this mean in terms of how we live? Basically, we would be “One Nation Under God.” But it would be a white evangelical Protestant God and it would potentially:

• Overturn Roe v. Wade and pro-choice laws and eliminate LGBTQIA equal rights (Hello! Texas).

• Make anti-science and anti-intellectualism the norm and, for example, denying climate change, believing the earth is 6,000 years old and man and dinosaurs coexisted, and teach creationism alongside/instead of evolution.

• Defund public schools, abolish the Department of Education, and mandate school prayer.

• End the secular, legal basis for marriage; so no same-sex unions.

• Defund Planned Parenthood.

• Expand homeschooling and give maximum latitude to private Christian schools on issues like accreditation, vouchers, and support (as SCOTUS in now pondering in a case from the state of Maine.)

• Prohibit interracial dating and marriage, ala Bob Jones University.

• Encourage Christians to multiply faster so their children would have more influence (votes).

• Weigh female and male homosexuality would differently, with male homosexuality being a capital crime and female homosexuality being an “uncleanness,” justifying divorce.

• Make bribery a crime only for the one taking a bribe, not to the one who offered it.

• Forbid men from doing “women’s work.”

• Eliminate property taxes and set the maximum tax rate set at a “tithe” rate of 10 percent.

• Make citizens responsible for prosecution of criminals, as in Texas and its vigilante anti-abortion law.

• Prompt execution of habitual and serious offenders.

• All music, movies, TV, novels, art, etc. not Christian or by non-Christians would be marginalized or banned.

• Blasphemers and incorrigible juvenile delinquents would be executed.

• “Statism” eliminated and government denied the right to tax, control, and “disturb” all areas of public life. (Anti-vaxxers asking for a religious exemption, for example?)

One of Dominionism’s leading architects, P.T. Rushdoony (1917-2001 and the “father” of Christian homeschooling) wrote one of the philosophy’s founding texts (Institutes of Biblical Law) saying Old Testament religious law should be normative for contemporary civil government.

And, if we object to these laws, we are questioning the wisdom of God, which is a sin and a moral offense against God’s word. Further, common people have the right and duty to disobedience and rebellion if state officials rule contrary to the Bible. To do otherwise would be rebellion against God.

For some this is a no-brainer. It’s god’s revealed word.

For others, it’s not so simple.

For me, I believe America was founded on the principle of religious freedom and freedom from religion.

So I’m going to remember John Adams: “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;” and Thomas Jefferson: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

Stay safe. Mask up (Still). Get the shot. Get the booster. (And very carefully vet candidates in the next elections.)

Tom Burke’s email address is t.burke.column@gmail.com.

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