evangelicals aim for theocracy September 15, 2006Posted by Brad Richert in politics, religion.
I had so many great headlines for this story. If it was not so long, ambiguous or condescending I would have stuck with: “Evangelicals Chose God over Democracy in American Politics”. I admit, the title I selected is still a little harsh and maybe a little misleading but it is getting my opinion across about a poll released by the Pew Research Center back in August. Polls on religion and politics in the United States are always fun (since half of these people are the same people screaming about Islamic fundamentalists). Specifically, my “favourite” question is the one concerning the influence the Bible should have on United States laws versus the will of the American people. The exact question? “Which should be the more important influence on the laws of the United States – Should it be the Bible or should it be the will of the American people, even when it conflicts with the Bible?” The questionnaire asked white evangelicals, white “mainline” Christians, Catholics, and secular Americans. The results:
- Secular: Will of the American people= 91%, Bible= 7%
- White mainline: Will of the American people= 78%, Bible= 16%
- Catholic: Will of the American people= 72%, Bible= 23%
- White evangelical: Will of the American people= 34%, Bible 60%
I would love to be able to admit my surprise, shock, and disbelief, but I can not. At first one wonders whether those 60% of evangelical Christians actually understand what they are saying when they admit that the Bible should more influence over American lawmaking than the will of the people. Essentially, these people are admitting the defeat of the great American democratic project in favour of a single-source authority. It is very nice and pious to say you want your Scriptures influencing your lawmaking, but this is not what was asked. In order for the Bible to have more influence than the will of the people, it must first be interpreted by a figure of authority. That is to say there is someone qualified to accurately interpret the Bible. I think we had this once. From what I have read in the history books, that did not go over so well (well, the Roman Catholics might not agree but they are not the ones confusing their contemporary politics and religion – according to the poll). It is interesting that these are evangelicals admitting this. These are the theological descendents of Martin Luther’s protestant reformation against the authority of the Pope, among other concepts. The irony. The people who rebelled against the spiritual authority and theocracy ruling Europe are now supporting the spiritual authority and theocracy of America.
The trouble is, I do not think most evangelicals see it this way. The equation does not compute. The concepts are so horribly simplified that the questioning of authority and the Bible translates as, “What do you support – Good or Evil?” Evangelical Americans are forgetting the reason that church and state were separated in the Constitution of the United States in 1776. It is so that they do not end up like Afghanistan, or Iran, or Saudi Arabia. There is more than one interpretation of the Bible. For evangelical Christians, the Pope does not speak for all Christians. God forbid, literally, that George W. Bush II speaks for all Christians. So who is interpreting the Bible in order to deny the will of the American people?
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