Religious Voice Against Christian Fascism
Rabbi Sounds the Alarm on the "Christocrats"
Revolution #039, March 19, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Rabbi James Rudin is the senior interreligious advisor of the American Jewish Committee and a member of that organization’s board of governors. He’s the past Chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations. He’s worked on evangelical-Jewish dialogue going back to 1969, and he’s met with religious figures from Pat Robertson to Pope John Paul II (ten times). And Rabbi Rudin has a message for you:
"I am convinced that despite the large U.S. population, the religious diversity, and the Constitutional and judicial guarantees of church-state separation, the campaign to permanently transform America into a faith-based nation where one particular form of Christianity is legally dominant over all other religious communities constitutes a clear and present danger."
Or, as one of his chapter heads in his new book, The Baptizing of America, succinctly puts it: "There’s a war going on, in case you haven’t noticed."
Sounding the Alarm — But Hardly Alarmist!
Rudin acknowledges that colleagues and friends call him "alarmist," and he is determined to muster the evidence for his case. Rudin calls those who are mounting this move for theocracy "Christocrats." While the Christocrats draw from evangelical and fundamentalist denominations (as well as other churches), not all evangelicals or fundamentalists are Christocrats.
"A Christocrat distrusts the people and leaders of urban America and is threatened by demographic diversity, opting instead for the perceived spiritual and physical safety and purity of America’s exploding exurban areas and traditional rural space where the residents are mainly white. A Christocrat believes that a commitment to Jesus as one’s personal savior is absolutely necessary, but is not sufficient, in today’s world. National, not merely individual, repentance and acceptance of Jesus as the ultimate ruler of Christian America is imperative if the United States is to survive." [emphasis added]
He paints a picture of "a Christocratic republic" not all that far away from what is happening today: with effective one-party (Republican) rule; constitutional amendments outlawing abortion and same-sex marriage and sanctioning prayer in the schools; and Christocratic domination of the military, mass media, the courts, and every other significant arena. Tax funds would finance social welfare programs "directly administered by religious groups, the bulk of whom would be Christocratic institutions."
Rudin devotes a chapter to Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism, the ideological glue of the Christocratic movement.1 And he cites Dr. Bruce Prescott, a Presbyterian minister and opponent of Christian Reconstructionism, who "lists the six ‘barest essentials’ of [Christian Reconstructionism]: 1) Make the ten commandments the law of the land, 2) reduce the role of government to the defense of property rights, 3) require ‘tithes’ to ecclesiastical [church] agencies to provide welfare services, 4) close prisons — reinstitute slavery as a form of punishment and require capital punishment for all of ancient Israel’s capital offenses — including apostasy [renunciation of one’s religion], blasphemy, incorrigibility in children, murder, rape, Sabbath breaking, sodomy, and witchcraft ,5) close public schools — make parents totally responsible for the education of their children, and 6) strengthen patriarchically ordered families."
He then quotes Prescott, writing in 2002, saying that aside from closing prisons, significant steps toward every other measure have been made. Again from Prescott:
What they have been able to accomplish has been done by their allying themselves with the Republican Party and the conservative Christians and working through the political process... Reconstructionists realize that sooner or later, there is bound to be a backlash against the kind of society they intend to create... when that happens, I believe that some, if given the opportunity, will be willing to take up arms and wage another civil war... that is [for them] morally and theologically justified...
"There’s a War Going On — In Case You Haven’t Noticed"
Rudin brings much of this together in the chapter "There’s a War Going On, In Case You Haven’t Noticed," which provides a historical summary of the rise of the Christocrats, including the role played by George W. Bush in all this. He outlines the splits within the evangelical movement, and in particular in the Southern Baptist Convention, citing Bill Moyers (who is himself a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention).
Moyers wrote in 1999 that "In the past 20 years reactionary Baptists forged an alliance to take over a major political party and promote an agenda of state-sanctioned prayer, public subsidies, and government privileges [for their religion]. Their first, and most successful, strategy was to seize control of the Southern Baptist Convention, whose pews they envisioned as precincts of power."2 Note that the SBC claims over 16 million members in 37,000 churches. They, along with some other, smaller evangelical denominations and reactionary members and officials of Catholic and other historically "mainstream" denominations, make up the foot soldiers and field officers of this movement.
In a series of chapters, Rudin outlines the Christocratic agenda for the bedroom, the schoolroom, the hospital room and medical lab, the courtroom, the newsroom, the library room, the public room and the workroom. In each sphere, Rudin makes the case both for the extreme character of their agenda and the logic that drives them to take each victory as fuel to fight for more. Last week’s article in Revolution, showing how the Christian Fascists see abortion as only the first step to eliminating birth control,3 illustrates the point — and Rudin shows the logic in every sphere.
Rudin insists that this movement will not be appeased or satisfied by one or another reform; they are determined to "take back America." "A Christocrat," according to Rudin, "believes the American republic was once the ‘shining city on the hill’ that has, in recent decades, lost its moral, political, cultural, and religious moorings and foundations. A Christocrat believes that a radical transformation in all areas of American national life is imperative if the United States is to fulfill its Christian ‘manifest destiny’ and if it is to be ‘saved’ from the relentless ‘secularization’ of the general society."
There are other strengths to Rudin’s book, including his discussion of some of the cultural roots of this and his own coming-of-age experience, as well as some weaknesses. Rudin, it should be noted, is not politically radical. He is an anti-Communist, and a liberal supporter of both the state of Israel and the dominant U.S. position in the world more generally. On these points, we have deep and obvious disagreements. But as a long-time religious figure who has worked for interfaith tolerance, as someone with an intimate working knowledge of what he calls the Christocrats, his analysis — along with those of other religious figures which we have printed in Revolution — deserves to be studied and engaged with by anyone doubting the seriousness the threat of theocracy, or anyone concerned with this threat.
1. See article in Revolution #33, "Dominionism: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid. A Future We Must Stop"--online at revcom.us.
2. This takeover actually took a further leap with the adoption in 2000 of a new "Baptist Faith and Message" by the SBC. The SBC has historically been noted for the independence of its pastors; but the new statement vested so much power and discipline in the SBC hierarchy that no less a Southern Baptist than former U.S. President Jimmy Carter criticized the "strictness of this mandatory compliance" as exceeding that of the Catholic Church. The SBC has in recent years altered or reversed traditional church teachings on the separation of church and state (the SBC used to insist on and favor just such separation) and "just war doctrine" (developing new teachings which closely fit the Bush Administration’s war policies) and has forcefully reasserted the Biblical strictures compelling the subordination of women to men, among other reactionary policies.
3. See "The Morality of the Right to Abortion...And the Immorality of Those Who Oppose It" at revcom.us.