Saturday, September 22, 2007

Blogiversary Posting

Today is the second blogiversary here at If I Ran the Zoo. Happy day to everyone who makes this place great, and thanks again to Tom for inviting me to join the team this year! He's asked each contributor to repost a favorite piece -- here's one I wrote for the Independence Day Blog Against Theocracy:

Old Time Freedom

It's Blog Against Theocracy time again. I just got back from my home town's 4th of July parade. It was chock-full of local pageant winners, politicians, businesspeople, law enforcement and emergency responders, and even some people from Georgia Ghost Hunters (don't ask -- or if you must ask, click here). And church members. Lots and lots of church members, from different denominations, who wanted us all to know that God blesses America. See? They have the flag-draped floats to prove it.

Of course, church floats are a staple of small-town parades, and so is the unthinking allegiance to God and country that was on display today. Not unthinking because it's stupid; unthinking because it's been ingrained in us since birth. We've always done it that way, and most of us haven't spent a lot of time pondering the implications.

I don't believe there's a majority of people in the US who want a Christian theocracy. I do believe that there is a small but very committed and well-funded minority who would like nothing better and are actively working to make it happen. Well, yeah, you say, but it's just a few people. We don't need to worry. Except...

...I'm old enough to remember the Republican party of the 1970's. Despite some authoritarian aberrations (Richard Nixon, anyone?), its public face was one of fiscal conservatism and an otherwise live-and-let-live approach to government. Not perfect, by any means, but nothing like the party we see today, taken over by a cabal of religious conservatives and neocons who've made a devil's bargain to gain and maintain power. These people weren't the majority of Republicans; they were obscure but dedicated activists who were willing to do just about anything to achieve their goals -- on one side, a vision of American hegemony in the world; on the other, the imposition of a particularly censorious brand of Christianity.

We're living with the results of that movement: George W. Bush, self-proclaimed Christian conservative, and Dick Cheney, neocon. Candidates for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination are doing their best to out-Jesus each other, even as they speak and act in ways that the Jesus of the Gospels wouldn't recognize. Promoting war and violence, demonizing those who are different, lionizing wealth and power. This is, I'm afraid, what happens when a democratic government ties itself too closely to religion.

Yes, we are still free to vote these people out of office (and to that I say, without irony, thank God), but will we? That unthinking majority out there doesn't spend much time worrying about theocracy. Mention it to them and you'll get reactions ranging from, "You're crazy -- that will never happen," to "So what? This country could use a good dose of old-time religion." Of course, there are plenty of old-time Rockefeller Republicans who never believed the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would rise to such powerful positions in their grand old party -- my father was one of them, who pooh-poohed the idea for years after it had become reality.

So it falls to a minority to be vigilant. A minority of citizens who believe passionately that our Founding Fathers intended for us to maintain that wall of separation between church and state. Who believe that the intertwining of government and religion benefits neither and can easily harm both. Who know that it can happen here -- if we don't pay attention.

Want to know more? Check out First Freedom First. Originally posted on July 4, 2007.