Sunday, April 08, 2007

"Soft" Theocracy, But Theocracy Nonetheless

In recognition of the whole Blogging Against Theocracy Thingy, Ed at Dispatches posts a timely warning about the overuse of the term "theocrat". I think he's right to a large degree; we must be careful not to turn it into another "fascist" or "communist". At the same time, however, he looks like he's letting bona fide theocrats off easy. One needn't be a rabid, foaming at the mouth, state sanctioned stonings dominionist to be rightly labeled a theocrat.

For example, Ed says that Joe Carter shouldn't be counted as a theocrat. But a little bit of googling turns up gems like the following:

Ironically, though Lincoln is often praised for this remark, it contains three of the most controversial ideas in American politics: that God should be invoked in the political sphere; that God's existence matters, much less that he is always right; and that since He takes sides on certain issues, some people will be divinely justified while others will be in opposition not only to their political opponents but to the very Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.

If you find these ideas absurd and repugnant, you are most likely a secularist. If you find them to be embarrassing truths, then you may be on the religious left. If you find them so obvious that they hardly need stating, then you are probably a member of the so-called "religious right."

I embrace them whole-heartedly, which makes me a certified member of the religious right. Although I've often been uncomfortable with that term, I find it fits me more and more, as if I'm growing into it. So be it.

The theocracy in those statements is soft, but its certainly there. Joe Carter is not arguing in favor of personal conscience. He's arguing something much stronger, that there is a divine law, that governments should be run with reference to that law and, more importantly, that everyone who disagrees is wrong.

Joe's belief that he's cornered the market on divine Truth, and his willingness use the machinery of government to administer said Truth, makes him a theocrat.

Anyone who claims to have a direct line to The Almighty, to know eir mind and wishes, and who expresses a willingness to use the coercive power of government to force others to conform, is a theocrat.

So yes, Ed is right, we shouldn't go around reflexively accusing the people at the Discovery Institute of being dominionists. At the same time, however, we should feel free to call a spade a spade. Persons who believe the business of governance should conform to a particular set of religious precepts are theocrats, pure and simple.

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