Saturday, August 05, 2006

Charles Colson on Theocracy

The 'Threat' of Theocracy.
Lately, opponents of Christian cultural engagement have been using a new word to characterize us. In addition to oldies-but-goodies like “bigots” and “fanatics,” they’re now calling us “theocrats.”

At least four books have recently been published that warn about the “theocratic” menace to American democracy, and more are on the way. Somebody hand these people a Xanax.

The word theocracy is intended to draw an analogy between Christians who oppose things like same-sex “marriage” and Islamists such as bin Laden and the Iranian mullahs. One critic, Andrew Sullivan, writing in Time magazine, made the connection explicit when he coined his own variation on the theme: “Christianist.”

Whatever the exact terminology, the “threat” they describe is basically the same. Like my old White House colleague, the somewhat erratic Kevin Phillips, they fear an end to the separation of church and state and its replacement by a government directly based on biblical laws.

In Phillips’s account, biblical laws will not only decide social issues like abortion and same-sex “marriage” but also matters like economics, the environment, and foreign policy. His most lurid fear is that the United States, under the sway of “theocrats,” will take actions in the Middle East to hasten the second coming of Christ.

As I said, Phillips is hardly alone in his fears. In a new book Kingdom Coming, journalist Michelle Goldberg writes about what she calls “Christian nationalism.” This “nationalism,” which Goldberg characterizes as “quasi-fascist,” believes that “godly men have the responsibility to take over every aspect of society.”

Goldberg warns about the danger of what she calls “dominion theology,” which she says has shaped figures ranging from Tim LaHaye to Francis Schaeffer. Ultimately, the goal of all of this engagement is, according to Goldberg, “the conquest of the land . . . for the Kingdom of Christ.”

To be fair, that last statement is a direct quote from one Christian speaker. And there are some Christians who do talk about a Christian takeover of America. The real question, as Ross Douthat asks in the latest issue of First Things, is whether they are representative of Christians as a whole.

The answer is a resounding “no!”—maybe one percent. As Douthat points out, genuine Christian theocrats have the same amount of political influence as “the Spartacist Youth League.” I have warned against theonomy for twenty years.

What Phillips, Goldberg, and the rest are doing is “[assuming] that the most extreme manifestation of religious conservatism must, by definition, be its most authentic expression.” They focus on the fringes while ignoring the mainstream.

Why? Partly, it’s to hype the “threat” posed by Christians. But it’s also the way, in some cases, they see us. According to their worldview, any opposition to the culture of death or the redefinition of basic institutions like the family are, by definition, “extremist.”

The best response to these charges is a gentle, loving assertion of the truth. Upholding millennia-old truths about the sanctity of life and the family isn’t “extreme,” it’s about building a good society for every American, regardless of what they believe.

Now, how about a nice cup of chamomile tea?