Thursday, May 05, 2005


What Slide into Theocracy?

John McCandlish Phillips writes about the hysteria surrounding a purported "slide into theocracy," writing in "When Columnists Cry 'Jihad,'" in the Washington Post, Wednesday, May 4, 2005.

Phillips rightly observes that anyone with a good grasp of modern American cultural history can not convincingly argue that America is sliding from secularity into theocracy.

Phillips corrects the grossly stereotyped presentation of Evangelical Christians as wanting to force all of America into church, or persecute those who deny Christian faith. Rather than an offensive war, Phillips describes this as a defensive struggle, one for the very right to worship as we see fit:

Evangelicals are concerned about the frequently advanced and historically untenable secularists' view of the intent of our non-establishment/free exercise of religion clause: that everything that has its origin in religion must be swept out of federal, and even civil, domains. That view, if militantly enforced, constitutes what seems dangerous to most evangelicals: the strict and entire separation of God from state. This construct, so desired by some, is radically out of sync with much in American history that shows a true regard for the non-establishment of religion while giving space in nearly all contexts to wide and free expressions of faith.

And for those under- or maleducated alarmists who think that the "wall of separation" is an actual construct in the constitution (rather than a letter written by Jefferson), or that separation of church and state means no one in government can talk about church, and no one in church can talk about politics (unless its of a politically correct or judiciously liberal bent), Phillips points out some facts of the founders intent:
The fact is that our founders did not give us a nation frightened by the apparition of the Deity lurking about in our most central places. On Sept. 25, 1789, the text of what was later adopted as the First Amendment was passed by both houses of Congress, and subsequently sent to the states for ratification. On that same day , the gentlemen in the House who had acted to give us that invaluable text took another action: They passed a resolution asking President George Washington to declare a national day of thanksgiving to no less a perceived eminence than almighty God.

That's president , that's national, that's official and, alas, my doubting hearties, it's God -- all wrapped up in a federal action by those who knew what they meant by the non-establishment clause and saw their request as standing at not the slightest variance from it. It's a pity our phalanx of columnists cannot crawl into a time machine to go back and reinstruct them.

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