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Can we please take Christianity out of governance? (Conservatives: “No!”)



The role of religion in governance has grown more complicated since the nation’s beginnings. Prior to our Revolutionary War, there was very little distinction between the two; in 17th and 18th century America, as in old Europe, the only people who were allowed to touch the levers of power were land-owning, older white Christian men. America was, in essence, a Christian gerontocracy.

Most of the Founding Fathers, however, considered themselves Deists, meaning they were willing to believe in a God of some sort, perhaps even the God of the Bible; but they did not believe that God interfered in the world’s functioning. Wary of state-sponsored religion, such as was found in Europe, the Founders enshrined into the new Constitution the “establishment” clause of Article I as well as the “no religious test” clause of Article VI.

But ever since, some people, mainly Christians, have wanted to insert their religion more strongly into American governance than the Constitution allows. Over the centuries, sometimes the religionists garner more power, and sometimes the secularists do. Since the time of Ronald Reagan, however, the religionists—which means the Christians—have been on an upswing, taking over a resurgent Republican Party fueled by evangelicals who partnered with a conservative economic elite with whom their interests coalesced.

Western European countries have done an admirable job erecting a firm wall between religion and governance, which is why conservative Republicans so frequently criticize Europe as “decadent.” Here in America, we see the First and Sixth Amendments under constant attack. (If you want to understand more of the background to this assault, read the 2016 book, “Dark Money.”)

One beachhead of the religionist attack on the Constitution has been the Wall Street Journal, whose owner, Rupert Murdoch (who also owns Fox News), has made no secret of his Roman Catholic proclivities and admiration for the political (if not the theological) correctness of the evangelical Christian right. An enlightening example of how the Journal argues in favor of greater Christian intrusion into American governance is this op-ed piece from last Friday’s paper.

Entitled “Believers Need Not Apply,” its author, Sohrab Ahmari—a right wing, polemicizing Iranian-Brit on a crusade against liberalism—advances the tired old canard that liberals lack “conscience,” which, in his logic, reduces them to the level of animals. One of Ahmari’s recent tweets, which mysteriously seems to have vanished but was there yesterday, is Liberals have triumphed spectacularly over faith and tradition. Now they’re targeting conscience itself.”

I’m so tired of these ideological-religious attacks on the liberal struggle for equality, but the slanders have to be confronted and demolished for what they are: phobias and bigotry. In the “Believers” op-ed piece, Ahmari begins by assailing the “gender-and-sexuality orthodoxy” he alleges is being forced down the throats of Christians, who claim that “homosexuality” (they never call it “being gay”) is a “sin,” and that granting homosexuals “rights” violates Christians’ “conscience.”

Sweeping generalizations like this always benefit from graphic examples, and so Ahmari pounces on the latest demographic group to enjoy the odium of Christian conservatives: the transgendered community. Addressing some imaginary “rabbi” (ecumenically summoned, no doubt, so that Ahmari can argue he’s not just speaking for Christians), he says, “You, rabbi, must adhere to strict pronoun guidelines and feel in your soul that Chelsea Manning was always a ‘she’.” (In other places, such as this tweet, Ahmari substitutes “you, devout nun,” for “rabbi.)

One trick of the religious right is to pretend that their bigotry has moral justification. In fact, there is, and can be, no moral justification for trampling on the human rights of any peaceful human group, whether it’s Jews, the handicapped, the Irish, or transgendered people. Ahmari resorts to this pretense all the time: he, personally, doesn’t like the LGBTQ community, but that’s okay because—well, because Ahmari’s “conscience” informs him, and his “conscience” has a direct pipeline to God. Another of his tweets, from earlier this year, was, Transgenderism has attained a religious status among identity leftists. And the politics are bizarre and Orwellian: ‘She was always a she!’”

I find it amusing when people who themselves are members of groups ostracized by bigots then turn into bigots themselves against groups even more marginalized than their own! Surely Ahmari, who is of Iranian extraction, has experienced bigotry and discrimination in London, where he lives (his name alone must occasionally engender rudeness). You would think that someone who’s been on the receiving end of bigotry would be more tolerant of others “lower” on the totem pole. Sadly, in Ahmari’s case, it seems only to have added to his resentments. There must be a Freudian term for this psychological neurosis—displacement?—but even a rudimentary self-awareness should alert a person to when he’s transferring the hate directed at himself onto others. For lack of a better word, I call that “conscience,” which makes it doubly ironic that “conscience” is what Ahmari—so hard-hearted–accuses liberals of lacking. Liberals lack neither “conscience” nor “faith,” as Ahmari smears. We keep our religious faith to ourselves, and invest our public faith in freedom.

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    It’s interesting that those who protest the loudest against Sharia law in America (as if there was any possibility of it happening) are themselves trying to establish a Christian version of Sharia law.

  2. Yes, I’ve said the same. The truth is, if these fundamentalist Christians (aided by fundamentalist Jews) ever had real power, America would cease to exist, and we’d have a hard-core, patriarchal theocracy instead.

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