Activist religionists

capitol with bible dome

Yes, that's a real word!

Activist religionists are out of control and waging a war on the separation of church and state.

It's an overworked metaphor, but what we have going on in American cultural and political life is a kind of "perfect storm" comprised, I think, of three main elements:

First, there is the great unease. We're living in a time of awesome and rapid change that affects everyone in one way or another. And the marvels of instantaneous, constant, saturated, deregulated communication — the internet, cable television, radio, wireless, et cetera — bring it all into your life wherever you are. People are exposed to so much that they haven't previously experienced and don't fully understand. This has fed a growing feeling that the world is spinning all out of control. The reaction is easily understood and not unreasonable. Included here are the folks who told exit polls last election that they were concerned about "moral values."

On the Religious Right

James Dobson, Focus on the Family
James Dobson, Focus on the Family
Tony Perkins, Family Research Council
Tony Perkins, Family Research Council
Gary Bauer, Our American Values
Gary Bauer, Our American Values
Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson

Second, add in opportunistic, powerful, and charismatic religious leaders who are sincerely convinced that they know the answer. And in their minds, the answer is that we have strayed too far from what they consider "traditional values," embodied in idealistic concepts of family, faith, freedom, and so on. Never mind that these folks are very selective in their reading of history and religion. Their power to attract lies in the promise of the way it "should" and "ought to" be.

Christian conservatives worked hard to elect George W Bush, both in 2000 and 2004. Karl Rove, W's chief political strategist always made relations with the Christian right one of his top priorities. And now that W won another term in the White House, they are looking for payback.

On the Political Right

Tom DeLay
Rep. Tom DeLay (D-TX)
Bill Frist
Sen. Dr. Bill Frist (R-TN)
Rick Santorum
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)
George W Bush
Pres. George W Bush (R)

Third, throw in opportunistic and ambitious political leaders seduced by the notion that they can consolidate and cement their grasp on power. Republicans are giddy with the prospect of being a permanent majority. They would like nothing better than to unwind the New Deal and all the manifestations of what they see as a welfare state. (Welfare for big business not included.)

Since they see the Christian conservatives as essential to maintaining and expanding their grip on political power, they will pander and grovel, if that's what it takes.

Evidence of the unholy alliance between the GOP and the Christian right is everywhere.

• The "faith-based initiative" was an early move to make a chink in the wall separating church and state.

• The disgraceful intervention by the President and GOP in the Teri Schiavo case was a clear sop to the Christian right. It also turned out to be a miscalculation, since most Americans clearly disapproved of politicians meddling in a family dispute.

• Justice Sunday gave Senator Dr Bill Frist a platform to burnish his political credentials with the Christian right. Sure, he said the right words about an independent judiciary, but the "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" that accompanied them was all too obvious.

• The pastor of a Baptist church in North Carolina inveighed from the pulpit that parishioners who supported John Kerry should repent or leave the church, and some members of the congregation were expelled for their political views (See Washington Post article).

• The imminent battle over judges and the Senate filibuster is all about clearing the way to put on the bench judges who hold views aligned with the Christian conservatives, especially on issues like abortion and gay rights. It's a preliminary skirmish in the battle over the next Supreme Court justice, almost certain to take place during what remains of W's second term.

The Founders were wise when they deliberately separated religion from government. They knew it would lead to nothing but trouble. Amendment I of the Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The religious right is essentially seeking to nullify the first amendment by layering their version of religious beliefs and values onto the government. They have cleverly devised an argument that positions a government that does not actively support their views as being against their views, making them victims. Hence, opposition to certain judges amounts to an assault "against people of faith."

Make no mistake. By "faith" these people do not mean people of all faiths or no faith, only their faith. They want to impose their views on all of America. It's time for the great "silent majority" to stand up and roar "No!"

Editorial cartoons

Here is a sampling of editorial cartoons about the mixing of politics and religion. (Click picture to enlarge)

Tom Toles Tom Toles
Nick Anderson Nick Anderson
Ben Sargent Ben Sargent
Mike Luckovich Mike Luckovich
Nick Anderson Nick Anderson
Stuart Carlson Stuart Carlson
Tony  Auth Tony Auth
Tom Toles Tom Toles