What would an American Christian theocracy look like?
[Please scroll down, or click here, to vote in the Conservative Slogan Contest. Your votes matter.] Someone I know well, love dearly and respect greatly is profoundly disturbed by the fact that I've become politically conservative. It turns out she agrees with me on most things: the damage done to the economy by a welfare state; the threat from radical Islam; the cheapness of our popular culture; the problems inherent in embracing gay marriage without long and hard thought about the fundamental societal changes that will bring; etc. However, she cannot get over her feeling that President Bush is the harbinger of a Fundamentalist Christian theocracy in America, a thought that fills her with dread. I didn't want to fuss her, so I ended our conversation without asking the question that most intrigued me: "What would a modern American Christian theocracy look like?" However, I've been thinking about that question a lot. I know what a modern fundamentalist Islamic theocracy looks like: it looks like Iran, it looks like Saudi Arabia, it looks like Afghanistan under the Taliban, it looks like the Sudan. I certainly wouldn't want to live in any of those countries and, as a Jew, I wouldn't be allowed to, since I'd either be tortured or killed (or both). (As a woman I'd also stand an extremely good chance of being tortured, killed, or both.) I can guess what a modern fundamentalist Jewish theocracy would look like, having seen mini-theocracies in Israel and New York. The men dress like 18th Century shetl dwellers and spend much time in prayer. The women wear dresses that cover them from neck to knee, having heavy stockings, wear wigs and hats, and have lots, and lots, and lots of children. But that's all I know -- how it looks, not how it functions vis a vis people who don't necessarily embrace the core belief system. These Jewish fundamentalists haven't had the opportunity to impose their beliefs on the masses, so everyone in these communities presumably embraces their mores. If they don't, they can leave. For example, if a woman in Brooklyn doesn't want to get married at 18 and have ten children, I gather she can just move to Manhattan. While that would mean severing community and family ties, it would not subject her to civil or criminal penalties. But what would a modern American Christian theocracy look like? That is, if Bush and his conservative base were able to power through their agenda, where would we be? I'm presuming in my question that any unfettered conservative Christian initiatives would still have to comport to with baseline readings of the Constitution. Thus, absolute Constitutional no-no's in this imaginary American Christian theocracy would be (a) creating a state sponsored religion requiring mandating worship by and/or tax payments from all citizens; (b) denying people government employment based on their religious beliefs; and (c) preventing people from worshipping in their own faith. People also could not be imprisoned for speech, unless the speech incited murder or imminent violence (the "fire in a crowded theater" thing). Conversely, in this hypothetical, when it comes to the gray areas (the big fights over little things), we'd side with the conservative Christians -- yes, the Ten Commandments can be displayed; yes, football games can start with a generic prayer; yes, there can be silent prayer at school; yes, Bible groups can have access to a campus equal to other student organizations, etc. I can make a few guesses as to some things that would immediately change. Abortion would be illegal. But would birth control be illegal too? It would be if it was an American Catholic Christian theocracy, but what if it was a general Christian theocracy or a Protestant Christian theocracy? Pop culture would be cleansed of its references to sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. We'd be back in an "I Love Lucy" land of innocuous TV, and non-rap music. Gay marriage would go off the agenda. But what would happen to gays? Would they be driven back into the closet? Would evolution still be taught in the schools? Would Creationism take its place, or would both be taught as viable alternatives? And how, in a true American Christian theocracy, yet one that still comports with basic Constitutional principles, would non-Christians be handled? Would Jews, Moslems, Hindus and atheists become second class citizens? Would they be forced to curtail their religious practice? Frankly, I don't see how that could happen in a Constitutional America, no matter how much legislative strength fundamentalist Christians acquire. I'm guessing wildly here. I would very much like it if those of you who would prefer a more Christian-themed America would let me know how you envision the perfect blend of Christianity and the American Constitution. You can leave comments here, or write about it on your own blog (if you promise to send me the link). My gut instinct is that modern Christians want to replay the 1950s but maybe my friend is right, and they want to replay the 1650s. And you can't know until you ask. Talking to Technorati: Theocracies, Christianity, Christian theocracy, Freedom of religion, Separation of Church and State