"They won't need a theocracy."
Joan Bokaer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Dec 28, 2005 at 07:55:31 AM EST
I believe Ted Haggard, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, was sincere when he told Tom Brokaw:

There's no one that's leading the mega-church movement or involved in the mega-church movement that is in favor of a theocracy. None of us are for that. We're all defenders of freedom and liberty for all.
On October 28, 2005, NBC aired "In God they trust -- NBC's Tom Brokaw goes inside the world of Christian Evangelicals."  Brokaw interviews Ted Haggard, President of the National Association of Evangelicals representing some 45,000 churches. Haggard makes a claim I've heard often: "We're not talking about theocracy."
Here's the interview with Brokaw's very subtle, ironic response.
Ted Haggard: Well, I think all of us have a responsibility to advance God's will through government.  But we are in a pluralistic society. We're not talking about theocracy.  We're not talking about some group of religious leaders dictating to the government how to write law.  I'm not a power broker. I don't call presidents. I don't harangue the White House.
Brokaw: You don't have to call him. He calls you.
Haggard: I'll be talking to the White House in another three and a half hours.

At the end of the program, Haggard repeats his claim that he does not want a theocracy.
Haggard: There's no one that's leading the mega-church movement or involved in the mega-church movement that is in favor of a theocracy. None of us are for that. We're all defenders of freedom and liberty for all.
Brokaw: Wouldn't you like to have more members of congress and a senate, however, who adhere to the list of priorities of the NAE?
Haggard: Sure. Absolutely. We would like more representation in the House and in the Senate. We lobby for it. We work for it. We do what we can. And the reason we do that is of course because we believe we're right. But so do the other groups and that's why there's debate in the Congress and debate in the House. So we want to give our best argument. And other people will give the opposite argument. And then somebody else will say, "I think he's right on that. And I think he's wrong on that." That's the way it should work. It's a wonderful country.

Brokaw reveals his grasp of the situation in his concluding remarks - maybe too subtle for some people to appreciate:

Brokaw: In fact the Evangelicals don't have some kind of secret formula. They play by the old rules, they organize around their common beliefs, and they're highly motivated to advance those beliefs in their communities and at the ballot box. If they're successful, and they gain control of the presidency and the Congress, they won't need a theocracy.

To read the full transcript, click here.

When Ted Haggard said, "There's no one that's leading the mega-church movement or involved in the mega-church movement that is in favor of a theocracy" - he maybe hadn't heard the Reverend Rod Parsley tell his congregation at the World Harvest Church, located just outside Columbus, Ohio:
Americans must be "Christocrats" -- citizens of both their country and the Kingdom of God -- And that is not a democracy; that is a theocracy. That means God is in control, and you are not. more.

In fact Rod Parsley, who has preached at Ted Haggard's New Life Church in Colorado Springs, is unusually candid. Leaders of the Christian Right shy away from the word "theocracy" for good reason. It's a loaded term associated with repressive political regimes such as the Taliban or the Islamic Republic of Iran. It's hard to imagine that well-meaning leaders of the Christian Right could be leading the United States down a path to a Christian fundamentalist theocracy.

Below are quotes from other influential leaders who don't want a theocracy.

"We don't want a theocracy" D. James Kennedy, Pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, told Terri Gross on NPR's Fresh Air. Kennedy is founder of the "Reclaiming America for Christ Campaign."
Kennedy said at a Reclaiming America for Christ conference :
Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.

Francis Schaeffer, one of the most influential Christian thinkers of our time, wrote in A Christian Manifesto:
We must make definite that we are in no way talking about any kind of a theocracy. Let me say that with great emphasis.

Earlier in his Manifesto, Schaefer discusses the relationship between government and religion.
The civil government, as all of life, stands under the law of God.

If civil government "stands under the law of God," then God is the supreme authority. But whose God? Is it a Protestant or Catholic God? Where do Buddhists and Hindus fit into this government since some on the Christian Right believe that non-monotheistic religions are Satanic? What about people who don't believe in God? Do they have a place in this government?

Ralph Reed is a highly influential political operative. On the subject of Democracy Reed wrote in Active Faith: How Christians Are Changing the Soul of American Politics:
The surest antidote to tyranny is a free people who believe it owes its allegiance to a Higher Power, not the government. The consent of the governed rests upon faith in a sovereign God. Faith as a political force is the very essence of Democracy.

As with D. James Kennedy and Francis Schaeffer, Reed does not believe in theocracy. He just calls for a Democracy where everyone believes in "a sovereign God." But again, we must wonder whose God? Religious wars decimated Europe for two thousand years over that very question. And again, what about people who don't believe they owe their allegiance to "a Higher Power." Can they be a part of Reed's Democracy?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in First Things, a journal of religion and public life, that "government is the minister of  God":

...Government...derives its moral authority from God. It is the minister of God with powers to "avenge" to "execute wrath" including even wrath by the sword. more

The ministers Ted Haggard and D. James Kennedy, philosopher Francis Schaeffer, political operative Ralph Reed, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may say that they do not advocate a theocracy, but, in legal parlance, they are making a distinction without a difference. Once laws are passed affirming that their God rules supreme, as Tom Brokaw says, "they won't need a theocracy."

I'd like to make a pitch for a book, The Godless Constitution, by two esteemed scholars from Cornell University --  Isaac Kramnick and Laurence Moore.

When Francis Schaeffer writes, "The civil government, as all of life, stands under the law of God," his words stand in stark contrast to the Constitution of the United States where "God" is never mentioned.  

From The Godless Constitution:

The argument of The Godless Constitution, though, is not that the founders didn't care about moral standards in political life or sought to exclude religious people from political debate.

The argument turns upon the Constitution's deliberate departure from the model of the Christian commonwealth, its exemplary rejection of religious tests that most of the states quickly emulated, and the fears of the founders, thoroughly justified by recent events, that politically partisan uses of religion would turn politics into pandering and undermine the vital moral authority of America's churches.

by Joan Bokaer on Thu Dec 29, 2005 at 01:36:20 PM EST

They are making a "distinction without a difference."

There are, however, differences of degree in regards to the impulse toward theocracy.  I think the impulse is milder in Haggard than in Kennedy or Reed or Schaeffer.

I'm also sure that that is small comfort to those who are not "evangelical" Christians.

by Mainstream Baptist on Wed Dec 28, 2005 at 08:45:29 AM EST

Good grief- talk about talking out of both sides of their mouths at once!

It has already been proven that they will lie about things like this if their beliefs justify it. It is their deeds that we need to observe and comment on, not only their words. When they lie like this, we need to point it out, and make them confess that yes, they do want a theocracy, or even a theonomy. Otherwise, they'll lie their way right into power, if they haven't already done so.

by Lorie Johnson on Wed Dec 28, 2005 at 09:21:07 AM EST

One does not have to be an advocate of theocracy to substantially get one by dominating consitutional democracy.

Theocracy is a concept. One can define it in a number of ways, and easily define oneself out of it.

It seems to me we have had a modern theocratic movement building for a long time -- one that does not call itself theocratic, any more than it calls itself dominionist.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Dec 28, 2005 at 01:28:18 PM EST

am enjoying this site immensely.  I have researched the Religious Right, and made presentations to my local community-based groups.

I'm experiencing a bit of frustration now.  I'm aware of the danger from the activities of the Religious Right; we just defeated some propositions they backed in California.  My question is:  what steps do we take to address the problem?  I spend some time pointing people to wonderful sites like this, and to theocracywatch.com, and explaining some basic information I have discovered.  I contribute monthly to fine groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  What else do we do?

by Maat on Thu Dec 29, 2005 at 12:47:59 AM EST

First of all, congratulations on educating yourself and your community.

Secondly, your frustration is real. I agree. More action steps need to be coiled and released.  I sense an attitude that education is enough, and that activism is too controversial.  I don't have those answers, but am searching for them and congratulate you for throwing the ball out.

by cyncooper on Sat Dec 31, 2005 at 12:24:42 PM EST

I agree that we need to formulate a plan - and those that are concerned about separation-of-church-and-state issues need to become well-networked.

by Maat on Sun Jan 01, 2006 at 11:29:24 PM EST
It's almost as if those of us that support the separation of church and state need to take our cues from the fantastic political march forward of the religious right.  Their determination that a small dedicated minority could overtake a large majority should give us plenty of information for an operating plan.

by cyncooper on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 04:18:51 PM EST

with respect to the kind of government that they would like to see, is "an oligarchy of godly men."

In a strict sense this is not a theocracy in that the systems of government and religion are separate and run by separate people. But the levers of power in government would generally only be accessible to people who pass certain kinds of tests that may not even appear to be explicitly religious in nature.

It's also not a theocracy in that it would be open to people like neocons who can be and are in some instances atheistic, or at least not explicitly Christian, but who have strong agreement on certain parts of the 'worldview' in practice including the role of religious belief in support of the kind of system of governance they would like to create.

Acquire the Evidence: on Ron Luce, Teen Mania Ministries and the "BattleCry" campaign. acquiretheevidence.com

by Mike Doughney on Thu Dec 29, 2005 at 01:27:57 PM EST

that that is the nature of the coalition now. And it could last for awhile. But theocrats require ever greater degrees of purity. They do not always succeed, but there is little question that that is a goal.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Dec 29, 2005 at 05:24:17 PM EST

This was cross posted on Street Prophets.  I though y'all might like to hear a tale of Pastor Parsley's crooked ways...)

Here's a story that I was involved in.  Not heard about, or saw rumour, but that I have firsthand accounting of from my own experience.

I'm sure you've heard of Pastor Parsley's "Bridge of Hope" Sudan Missionary Outreach, where he encourages people to "sponsor" starving Sudanese people through donations to his program.  I was working in the call centre at Infocision (the biggest Right-Wing telephone fundraising company in America), and we were doing a HUGE phone campaign for this Bridge of Hope (BoH) programme. The standard fundraising pitch was as such: that for $40 someone could feed a starving Sudanese child for a month.  If they pledged to do this $40 every month for a year, then they would be giving a child food and basic survival supplies (water purification tablets, mosquito netting, etc) for a full year.  

When I was calling one donor, he just happened to be watching the Pastor's show (Breakthrough) at the time.  He told me that Roddy was telling everyone that a $40 gift would feed and entire family for a month.  Not just a child (like I was scripted to say), but a whole family.  He noticed the discrepancy, and asked me about it.

Well, I was stumped.  I put the phone on mute and asked my supervisor (who didn't work for the ministry but for infocision), and he said "I don't know....just tell him that the kits are different or something".  He didn't know, he was just pulling it out of his ass.  He later called the project supervisor who then asked the ministry spokesman what we should say.  The message we got back was "That souds ok...they can say that."

Not "That's true" or "that's accurate", but "that sounds ok".  What some mid-level call centre manager pulled out of his ass was endorsed as a good cover story by ministry officials.  What was the truth?  I don't know, but I know I was given official permission to tell what was an obvious lie.

Dude, I have tons of stories from Infocision!  I have dirt on The American Center for Law and Justice, Concerned Women for America, Campus Crusade for Christ, The Alliance Defense Fund, Coral Ridge Ministries...and more.  For some of these, I even have documented evidence.  If you want to chat, drop me an e-mail sometime.

Blessed Be,

by Taliesin on Fri Dec 30, 2005 at 09:04:31 PM EST

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