Saturday, February 12, 2005

Is the United States an Infant Theocracy?

The word theocracy is derived from two Greek words meaning “rule by the deity.” Throughout history theocracies have gained control of nations for short periods of time. Among Christian societies the most notable theocracies were the Papal States under various popes and in the Muslim world a theocracy was established by the prophet Muhammad in Medina in 622. So the religious fundamentalism that gives rise to theocracies is not something new to our culture. No matter what the belief system or religion, theocracies all have similar characteristics.
1. The society and its leaders believe they have a divine right.
2. The divine mandate is interpreted in specific political contexts.
3. Civil rights and a code of conduct are dictated by religious dogma.
4. Individual aspirations are subordinate to the priorities of the state/religion.
5. Domestic and foreign policy is guided by a religious ideology.
6. Leaders are part of a theologically trained elite.
7. Leadership is limited by religious dogma and is rarely skilled in economics.

The framers of the United States Constitution were keenly aware of problems associated with the mixing of church and state. Perhaps we Americans should once again take a look at the vision the framers of the constitution had when they added the 1st Amendment and see if that vision resembles the country we have today?
Amendment I - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Blogger Aardvark Al said...

It might be also useful to point out that the framers of the constitution were products of two centuries that saw massive and prolonged religious wars -- Catholic against Protestant and vice versa. So they knew full well what they were trying to avoid.

10:43 PM  
Blogger JusticeE.R. said...

Yes, that is a very good point - There is much in European history (the Dark Ages for example) that motivated them to seperate church and state.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Hope said...

It is only fair to bear in mind that the following centuries saw great persecution of religious people by totalitarian regimes. The anti-religious could be just as brutal as any Christian. Witness the bloodbath of the French Revolution and the murders of nuns, the destruction of the church in Russian under the Bolsheviks, the continuing oppression of Christians in China, the attempted suppression of the Catholic Church in Hungary under the communists and the Chinese communist depredation against manifestations of religion in Tibet. The US is in no danger of becoming a theocracy and such talk is alarmist.


3:46 AM  
Anonymous Bulldog said...

I wouldn't be so sure about that, Hope. The very fact that our President claims to have been appointed by God is scary enough. But when you couple that with some of policies he promotes, it gets even scarier. His proposed Ban on Gay marriage directly relates to what the Bible states about "man shall not lay with man as he does woman"(paraphrased). George Bush has the beginnings of becoming a theocrat, but I don't think he buys into enough of his religious beliefs to truly state that is what he is. I think we, as a country, need to rein in our elected representatives when they propose such policies, or we could very well end up with a theocracy or it's exact opposite.

10:50 PM  
Blogger JusticeE.R. said...

Very good discussion - I just want us to be able to step back from the situation and think about the direction we may be headed in. Many countries around the world fear the United States for very good reasons. Yes, they fear our miltary but what they fear more is the moral authority we attach to our use of it.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Hope said...

Bulldog: Could you provide the exact quote of Bush's that you are referring to?

And we rein in politicians we don’t like by defeating them in elections. In November, not enough people wanted to rein Bush in apparently.


10:52 PM  
Blogger JusticeE.R. said...

You are right - not enough people wanted to rein in George Bush, but we must still be fearful of the rise of Christian fundmentalism. Our nation is deeply divided and it is the duty of every president to at least try to bring our nation together. I think even the most ardent supports of the president would agree that he has done little to unite our counrty. Isn't the word United important to the United States?

12:26 AM

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Bulldog said...

I apologize Hope. I attributed that claim to Bush when it was actually Gen. Boykin here. The exact quote was "George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the US. He was appointed by God." It also appears that several of his supporters seem to feel the same way. Check out these articles: The God Vote and Christian Ideals and Republican Policies.

Politicians by their very nature are supposed to listen to the issues important to their consituency. George Bush, as President, has an obligation to listen to ALL of us, not just the 51% that voted his way. Justice E.R. has it right about the word United being most important in United States.

4:10 AM  
Blogger Hope said...

Bulldog: Thank you for your gracious comments. Your point that Bush hardly won a resounding mandate is a valid one.


8:41 AM  
Blogger JusticeE.R. said...

Discussions like this are what is needed all across our great nation. As I get older (I’m almost 54) I realize more and more that this is not about us. This is about our children and what will be their country. When I look into the eyes of our children, I try to imagine what I want them to see. I try to imagine the country I want them to inherit.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Ron Hudson said...

I have begun to believe that the US Constitution should have explicitly stated that we have both 1) freedom OF religion and 2)freedom FROM religion. As a gay man, and especially one living with AIDS, I am particularly fearful of the new role of faith-based organizations in our society.

8:23 PM  
Blogger JusticeE.R. said...

In other words "Save me from the people who would save me from myself!" Instead of justice, tolerance, and compassion we get a proposal for a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KBOO Community Radio in Portland Oregon ( will explore this exact topic in depth on April 1 during its 2x/year News & Public Affairs Day.

You can find audio of a program I hosted a couple of weeks ago (2/2/05) at:

and numerous links to similar reading material at

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Bulldog said...

You know, Ron, I don't think those two are as mutually exclusive as most Republicans make them out to be. Freedom of Religion, in my mind, is the freedom to practice or not practice whatever religion you choose. To me, Freedom From Religion is the freedom to go through life without having someone ele's religious views forced upon me.

4:37 AM  

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