to Create an American Theocracy
by Brad Hart
While perusing the Internet, I stumbled upon a website that I am sure some of you are already familiar with. I think it deserves special mention here on this blog because it is a great illustration of how distorted and dangerous the Christian Nationalist agenda can become. The website, entitled, Is America a Christian Nation, is dedicated to the mainstream Christian founding myth -- i.e. America was established by devout orthodox Christians, over the years we have lost our way and forgotten our heritage, but we can and will bring back our Christian roots.
Like most pro-Christian nation websites, this page claims to present concrete evidence that gives 100% proof of America's Christian founding. Right from the start, the website points to the 1892 Supreme Court case, Holy Trinity Church v. The United States, which this website's author believes is ample proof of America's Christian heritage. However, the author neglects to mention the fact that this case had absolutely NOTHING to do with establishing America as a Christian nation. In fact, the case actually dealt with the issue of, "the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States, its Territories, and the District of Columbia." In the course of the Supreme Court's decision, Justice Brewer used the case to promote HIS belief that the United States was established as a Christian nation. As Justice Brewer stated:
"These and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."Legal historians, however, point to the fact that Justice Brewer's "Christian nation" comments occurred in dicta, a legal term meaning writing that reflects a judge's personal opinion, not an official court pronouncement that sets legally binding precedent.
Unfortunately, the author of Is America a Christian Nation does not understand the concept of legal dicta, nor does he/she understand how to put historical data into context. As the author ignorantly points out:
The Court did not merely say that most people in America were Christian, or that there were no Muslims or Hindus in America. According to the author of the Court's unanimous opinion, the Court's claim that America "is a Christian nation" is in "the domain of official action and recognition," not mere "individual acceptance." The Court demonstrates that our entire system of government was created with a duty to acknowledge the authority of the God of the Christian Bible, and to obey His commandments, by Christians who acknowledged the authority of God and were committed to obey His commandments [and] intended the government they created to acknowledge and obey God.It is also important to point out that Holy Trinity v. United States was actually overruled in 1931 by U.S. v. Macintosh, which stated:
Whereas in Holy Trinity v. U.S., the Court held that because this was a Christian nation, all laws were qualified by a higher law, and no law could be interpreted in such a way as to exclude a Christian minister from entering the United States, the Macintosh Court, fully cognizant of the rule in Holy Trinity, completely reverses the rule, refuses to place the nation "under God," and instead declares that the State-as-god is owed "unqualified allegiance."For obvious reasons, the author of Is America A Christian Nation neglected to mention much about this little tidbit of history!
Another bizarre source that Is America A Christian Nation sites has to do with the 17th century settlement of America by the Pilgrims. On the web page, the author states:
From its earliest founding in the 1600's, each American colony was a Christian Theocracy. "Theocracy" means "ruled by God," not "ruled by priests." A nation "under God" is a "Theocracy" by definition. There was universal agreement that the formation of civil government was a religious/Christian/Biblical obligation. All governments were Theocratic. Governments were formed because it was believed God in the Bible commanded human beings to form them. The founding of a government was a religious act. Under the new federal government which began under the U.S. Constitution on March 4, 1789, the United States were Christian Theocracies. The U.S. Constitution would never have been ratified if it gave power to the newly-created federal government to prevent the United States from being "under God" and officially and legally acknowledging themselves to be under His jurisdiction.Not only is this bold proclamation utterly wrong, but it is also a potentially dangerous mode of thinking, as evidenced by the author's following statement:
American liberals HATE the word "theocracy." All you have to do to discredit an idea is accuse it of being connected in some way with "theocracy."So what is so unsettling about the author's claims? Think about it. He/she is actually insinuating that the United States is NOT a democracy, but is instead a Christian Theocracy. Of course the author neglects to mention which Christian God we are under. Is it the God of the Catholics? Protestants? Mormons?
"Theocracy" literally means "ruled by God." It has nothing to do with priests. America was supposed to be a nation "under God." If America is under God, then God is over America. That's the literal meaning of "theocracy."
The mainstream media use "theocracy" as a scare word. They want you to think of Osama bin Laden instead of Jesus Christ. They want you to think of "tyranny under god" rather than Liberty Under God. Many writers who deny America's Christian history attempt to confuse you with caricatures of intolerant right-wing religious tyrants.
What is most unsettling about this argument is the fact that free speech/will is utterly denied. Under the Theocratic government suggested by this author, God has the final say in all issues. There is no room for individual debate. The Bible becomes the final judge and governing document, not the Constitution.
As a devout Christian myself, I understand the desire that exists for God to be a fundamental part of society. However, as we have learned through thousands of years of world history, a large number of Theocratic governments end up being the most intolerant, brutal, undemocratic and destructive regimes. Or as Thomas Jefferson put it in his Notes on the State of Virginia:
Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.For a Christian Nationalist to suggest that America is not a Democracy but instead a Theocracy should immediately cause us to raise our red warning flags and sound the alarm.