- From: His_child2005yourhat@xxxxxxxxxxxx (Russ T. Nale)
- Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 20:29:54 GMT
-- Martin E. Marty
In his new book, Baptizing America, Rabbi James Rudin speaks of a
developing American "Christocracy." Kevin Phillips, in American
Theocracy, writes about a developing "theocracy." Rudin is a moderate and
Phillips has carefully detailed his own odyssey. Reviews of Phillips are
coming in furiously fast, so we will concentrate on the "Radical Religion"
theme of his subtitle, which is linked with two others, "Oil" and
"Borrowed Money." Not swimming in oil or debt money, but recognizing that
Phillips interweaves "theocracy" inextricably with these other two themes,
I have to specialize on Sightings ground.
Phillips, once a Republican strategist and speech-writer, has read widely
and well in the historical records and the political and social scientific
works of our decades, and documents his work thoroughly. Would that there
were space to quote or even outline his case, which I hope our readers
will "sight," sometimes if only to argue with the author. My advance copy
of the book is all highlighted and scribbled up with quotations and
judgments, graphs and charts, that I will not be alone in using. But here
we have to hurry to a set of questions about "theocracy."
For whatever light it sheds on the subject, let me say that I tend, or
try, to dampen hyperbole on subjects of this sort. In the sixties and
seventies, when it was the fashion among radicals to call America
"Amerika," implying that European-style fascism was developing, my kind
and I stepped back, contending that one can make a case about repression
and its styles without invoking the extreme, even an often demonic aura of
"the other." The same goes for "theocracy." Why give people a name they
might savor and favor, or apply the term to near-miss phenomena? Phillips
quotes many leaders of far-right and near-far-right Christian groups who
want Christianity to have privilege, status, and even a monopoly on the
spiritual front of a lame pluralist society, and sees -- yes -- theocracy
in their goals.
Advice to myself, after reading Phillips's counsel: 1) Don't assign to
people a label and a position they don't exactly hold; 2) Don't lump all
people called "conservative" or "born again" into the mix of the
theocracy-minded; 3) Don't label anyone "theocrat" who does not bear most
of the marks of the theocrat; 4) Thus remember that, for people of faith
on left or right, to try to influence foreign or domestic policy is not by
itself a mark of theocracy -- not by any means; 5) Do urge fellow citizens
to be Madisonian (Federalist Papers X and LI), to work for the republic,
against favor or privilege or establishment for particular religions
(e.g., "Christianity" or "the biblical worldview"); 6) If you must blame,
blame fairly, including the Republicans-not-on-the-right or
Democrats-wherever-they-are for leaving a moral vacuum that exploiters can
invade and exploit; 7) Make the point that theocracies have always
corrupted communities of faith that favor them, noting that such polities
are bad for religion; 8) Read and profit from Rudin and especially
Phillips as they make their cases; 9) Be ready to link up with others, to
see if at this late date the republic can be invigorated and survive; 10)
Arrange with people you can trust to help you live with new strategies and
old hopes, as you try to find a means of sleeping peacefully after you've
read this unsettling script -- and then awaken, for thought and action.
Martin E. Marty's biography, current projects, upcoming events,
publications, and contact information can be found at www.illuminos.com.
Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago
Sightings welcomes submissions of 500 to 750 words in length that seek to
illuminate and interpret the forces of faith in a pluralist society.
Previous columns give a good indication of the topical range and tone for
acceptable essays. The editor also encourages new approaches to issues
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author of the column, Sightings, and the Martin Marty Center at the
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Russ T. Nale
God is still speaking
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