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  • August 24th, 2011

Bible Banging

By Joel M. Vance

 

“I was afraid of a united Church; it makes a mighty power, the mightiest conceivable, and then when it by and by gets into selfish hands, as it is always bound to do, it means death to human liberty and paralysis to human thought.”

The speaker was Hank Morgan, in the sixth century….except it was Mark Twain in the 19th century in the voice of his Connecticut Yankee.  Chances are, confronted with Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry, today’s religious/political icons, Mr. Clemens would say the same thing.  He was never a fan of unchecked and unquestioned church power.  The thought of a religious fanatic in the White House should be terrifying to anyone who cherishes the concept of this country….but there is a huge body of the electorate who buys into the idea of the United States as a Christian country, nevermind those pesky Jews, Muslims and other oddities of religion (think Native Americans, who, after all, were here a long time before us Christians).

That the Founding Fathers were specific in ruling out a church-oriented state, is a minor fact to be ignored.  They all were ardent Christians, according to Bachmann et al, even though they weren’t.  Bachmann is so ignorant of our history that she lauded “Founding Father” John Quincy Adams for his opposition to slavery.  He was not a Founding Father; he was the son of one and was eight years old when the Constitution was adopted.  Of course the Minnesota flake also confused movie actor John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gacy so anything is possible in her strange world.

And she had the Revolutionary War beginning in the wrong state (at least she didn’t have Paul Revere riding to warn the British, like Sarah Palin did).  It’s easy to excuse gaffes because all politicians screw up….but when it’s either a pattern or deliberate misrepresentation it is inexcusable.  Bachmann has a history of such verbal pratfalls and you begin to see that she simply doesn’t care about the truth when a good lie will serve her better.

Bachmann’s warped knowledge of history apparently comes from a guy named David Barton, an evangelical minister and self-styled historian whose expertise in history has been dismissed by actual historians as “pseudoscholarship.”  He is a champion of the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.

In that view he is arguing with the likes of James Madison, called the Father of the Constitution, and Thomas Jefferson who as most of us know (possibly not Michelle Bachmann) wrote the Declaration of Independence.  Madison said, “”The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”

And Jefferson said, “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”

And John Adams, our second President, signed the Treaty of Tripoli which explicitly states, “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”  Can’t get much clearer than that—except maybe to read the Constitution’s First Amendment which, in addition to giving Michelle Bachmann the right to say really stupid and ignorant things, also says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Our Constitution expressly forbids government from dictating how we worship.  In 1993 the Supreme Court reaffirmed a previous decision that government cannot restrict how a religion practices except for the “furtherance of a compelling government interest.”  Bachmann and Perry might argue that their administrations would figure out a “compelling government interest” so they could tell us how to practice their warped sense of religion—but one would hope the Supreme Court, as right-winged as it is, would knock the pins from under that ploy.

Although there are no guarantees—the Court has upheld a state’s right to prohibit the use of peyote by Native Americans in religious practices or for Mormons to practice polygamy.        Lest you think that the religious fanatics are harmless, consider what Mike Huckabee, one time Presidential candidate, now a Fox network mouthpiece, said in March about Barton, “I wish that every single young person in America would be able to be under his tutelage and understand something about who we really are as a nation. I almost wish that there would be a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced, at gunpoint no less, to listen to every David Barton message. And I think our country would be better for it. I wish it would happen.”

Don’t you just love the views of someone who says you should be forced at gunpoint to listen to his views?  It’s always inflammatory to summon up the hellish specter of Adolph Hitler, and I can’t believe Mike Huckabee literally meant what he said….but saying it brings up the grim specter of gunpoint argument which is not and never should be an American trait.

One blog commentor with rare perspicacity, summed everything up succinctly: “Religion is never the problem, it always has and always will be people that are the problem.

Bachmann, Perry, Barton, Huckabee—these are religious fanatics who are dedicated to imposing their will on everyone.  They shouldn’t be allowed to escape their records, their statements, and their associations.  They would, if permitted, abandon the ideal of religious freedom or, for that matter, of freedom in just about every area of our lives, to force adherence to a Biblical world view and make everyone subject to Biblical law rather than a secular (and American)  legal system. People are the problem and these are the people.

They are closely allied with “Domininism,” a belief that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions, including government.  Calvinist theologian R. J. Rushdoony, is the Godfather of the Domininism movement which among other things, believes in Christian home-schooling….and so does Michelle Bachmann who helped found a private school that got in trouble for pushing Christianity contrary to Minnesota state law.

Rushdoony declared himself pro-slavery (and this was in the 1960s!) and was adamant that the Bible should rule, not secular law.  Biblical law can be pretty tough.  The Old Testament is filled with examples of cruel punishment.  The death penalty was dictated for all sorts of behavior, including homosexuality.  In fact Exodus says that anyone who does any work on Sunday should be put to death.  So if your lawn needs mowing, you’d better check the calendar.

The New Testament is much more tolerant and in line with most people’s ideas of a moral life without the threat of horrible punishment.  Still, Galatians says, “We know that a person is put right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ, never by doing what the Law requires.”  I wonder who the judges would be who would interpret legal questions according to faith and the Bible, rather than the law books.  And would we then need a Congress….or a delegation of preachers?

One Domininism writer, George Grant, the former executive director of Coral Ridge Ministries, which now is Truth in Action Ministries, said, “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ—to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.  But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice … It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time … World conquest.”

And that should frighten every American, especially those who have had even a fleeting thought about voting for either Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann.

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