Christian evangelicals, fundamentalists, or reconstructionists, and the Taliban, have much more in common than most people might realize or would like to admit. Not in the sense of a murderous group of black-cloaked men as we’re shown on television, but as a group of social conservatives who have proclaimed themselves to be divinely-ordained, and are intent on imposing religious doctrine on an entire society, and are willing to use ‘Second Amendment Remedies’ in order to get their way.
Talib is an Arabic word meaning “one who is seeking” but the word has evolved to mean “someone who is seeking religious knowledge.” Taliban refers to a group of religious purists who seek to impose the authority of theocratic law on a society. They not only exercise a lack of tolerance for other religions, but they demand that the laws of a state are based on the doctrine of their own, singularly preferred, religion.
A disturbing number of American politicians, and political celebrities, have demonstrated their willingness to repeal the rights of American citizens in order to further a political agenda based on a particular religious doctrine and the preference of one religion over any other. Whether they are true believers themselves, or simply attempting to pander to a very assertive portion of their base, the result is the same. The current platform of many conservative politicians threatens the fundamental rights of all Americans.
Sharron Angle has gone as far as to state that the separation of church and state is unconstitutional. This is a view consistent with the Constitution Party, of which she was a long-time member, as well as many members of the Tea Party, and the conservative movement in general.
A common theme with Christian Reconstructionists is that, contrary to all evidence, they know what the founding fathers were really thinking, and it just happens to agree with everything they believe. They often speak of what the founding fathers ‘actually intended’, as if the founding fathers were a group of illiterates unable to articulate their own intentions, requiring the likes of Sharron Angle, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck, to do so for them.
Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, among many others, present a self-serving, Christian Revisionist, history of America. They falsely claim that America was founded on Christianity and that the Constitution is based on the bible. Conservative politicians have aligned themselves with this false narrative hoping to garner the support of the Christian majority unfamiliar with American history and Constitutional law.
The First and Fourteenth Amendments have both been publicly identified by many conservative politicians as contrary to their vision of the America they want to create. The principles of equal rights, religious freedom, and separation of church and state, are completely anathema to their goals of an institutionalized Christian dominance, with shades of white nationalism, over all legislation and social policy.
The principles of the Constitution and American law are traced through English Common Law to Roman law, not Hebrew law, and certainly not Biblical law. It was the non-Christian Romans who introduced civil law, trials by jury, and the concept of innocent until proven guilty. These principles, as well as equal rights, and the the freedom of religion, are found nowhere in the Bible. The purpose of a written law, like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, was to protect people from the potentially abusive power of the state, or a majority; not to define a god’s rules and religious prescriptions for his subjects. Where these principles are clearly evident in the Constitution and the development of American law, they are clearly absent, and often contradicted, in the Christian Bible and Decalogue.
Simply because some of the principles of American law seem similar to some of the principles one might find in some passages of the Christian bible, while contradicted in others, does not mean that those laws were based on the Christian bible. Such an assertion could be made with equal credibility by many other world religions. Similar incidental commonalities may be discovered in the Islamic Qur’an, the Jewish Talmud, and many other religious texts. Many of these principles in American law predate Hebrew text, going back as far as The Code of Hammurabi. To contend that the American Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and legal code, are in any way based on Judeo-Christian theology is simply, and blatantly, erroneous.
Rand Paul has stated, contrary to all statistical evidence, that America would be much better off, and have lower crime rates, if all Americans were Christians. He has stated his agreement with Palin’s and Beck’s Christian Reconstructionism. A man who bases his platform on smaller government seems quite comfortable with a very big, authoritarian, non-democratic, church. A complete contradiction such as this can only be attributed to political pandering. It makes absolutely no sense otherwise
The founding fathers engineered the separation of church and state to protect America from Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism, Islam and all other politically oppressive theologies while simultaneously protecting those and all other religions from the interference of government. It is only through a secular government that an impartial body can ensure the religious freedoms of all individuals in a tolerant, pluralistic society. The principle misunderstanding of Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Newt Gingrich, Ken Buck and all the other members of the New Right, is that their interpretation of “our right to have freedom of religion” translates in their mind to ‘the right of Christians to impose their beliefs, rules, practices and preferences on everyone else.’
Their insistence that the majority has the right to vote on the rights of the minority demonstrates an utter lack of understanding of both the principles enshrined in, as well as the purpose of having, a Constitution and Bill of Rights. Minorities cannot have their rights and freedoms subject to the tyranny of the majority. Votes on the inalienable rights of a minority, such as same-sex marriage, should not even be allowed. The rights of women to control their own body’s should not be subject to the ballot box. Making the rights of a minority subject to the whims of the majority through a general vote is a travesty of justice, and little more than a cruel manipulation of the democratic process in order to subvert the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
In the desperate political climate that they find themselves in, politicians lacking a clear understanding of, or commitment to, the First Amendment line up in favor of sectarian measures in the hope of garnering votes and winning elections. The lure of that currently large Christian voting block is tempting. The principles of the First Amendment are easily subverted when it’s done in the name of a majority. Politicians can knowingly violate the constitution secure in the knowledge that the support for their unconstitutional decisions will be provided by those that they have benefited.
The fact that President Obama’s defense of this principle, regarding the building of an Islamic cultural center on privately owned property, is considered politically unpopular, is proof of this fact. A large number of Americans seem comfortable allowing their personal ignorance, stereotyping, xenophobia, and bigotry, to be articulated through religious bias, even if it means abdicating their most precious rights and freedoms in order to do so. The fact that President Obama defended the American Constitution, their American Constitution, seems to completely escape them. They suffer from a two year old’s understanding of equality; ‘fair’ and ‘just’ is whatever gives them what they want at the time, and in that situation, and should things be reversed, so should the outcome.
The freedom of religion from governmental interference, along with the freedom to exercise the religion of one’s choice on private property, and the equal status of all religions before the law, all seem expendable to opponents of this Islamic version of the YMCA/YWCA. Their desire to make religious freedom conditional, by saying that it can be exercised, but only where others decide that it can be exercised, is an abomination. Any American willing to allow such an injustice against other Americans should be ashamed of themselves.
Newt Gingrich proposes an even greater affront to the Constitution by suggesting that America should abandon the principles of equality, and freedom of religion, in favor of a Saudi Arabian model. Mr. Gingrich stated that America should not allow the construction of any further places of Islamic worship until Saudi Arabia allowed the construction of Christian churches. This statement, which contravenes all that America stands for and has clearly enshrined in its Constitution, belies the man’s purported intellectual prowess.
By standing for the principle of religious freedom, President Obama prevented the terrorists of 9/11 from any further success. If he were as Constitutionally illiterate as those who oppose the community center, the assault on American freedoms and liberties would be complete. If President Obama had not stood for religious freedom and equality, the terrorists would have won. Fortunately, President Obama is not as quick to capitulate as America’s conservative Christian version of the Taliban is.
The first amendment to the Constitution protects the free exercise of religion. It does not protect only the free exercise of Christianity, the free exercise of Christians to force others to live by their doctrine, or the preference of Christianity and Christians that they should have special protections and privileges. The founding fathers used the term ‘religion’ in order to express the principle that all religions, beliefs, and world views, have exactly the same status before the law and the government. Had their intention been that Christians, and the Christian church, were exceptional, they would have made at least one specific reference to the religion. Instead, they made no such identification whatsoever of Christianity, Jesus, or the Christian God, and only referred to religion in general.
In 1785, in the Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, James Madison further explained when he wrote:
“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? ” and the preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.
It was not until the 1950′s, 176 years after the founding of the country, and during the frenetic ‘Red Scare’ days of McCarthyism, that Christian Fundamentalists were able to infuse their doctrine into the politics of a frightened and bewildered nation. It was during this time of fear-mongering about communist insurgents (like the fear-mongering about terrorists, socialists, communists etc. today), and of ideological purity tests (like the litmus tests we see among the Tea Party, Constitution Party, and conservatives today) that the religious right began to gain its foothold in American Society, battling against social progress and equal rights.
In addition to the ongoing battles over the right to marry for same sex couples, and the right for women to control the reproductive functions of their own body; the freedom of a religion to be exercised on private property, by a non-Christian, minority religion, is now being openly challenged. The fact that these various campaigns share most of their political, religious, and civilian, supporters in common, cannot be ignored. The fact that religious institutions are openly involved in the organization and funding these assaults on the Constitution and Bill of Rights can no longer be accepted. The institution of religious tyranny, and tyranny by the majority, must be stopped, and the American Constitution and Bill of Rights protected.
The fundamental similarities between the Taliban and the Christian fundamentalists behind these campaigns of hate and intolerance cannot be denied. Their differences are superficial at best. Their desire to implement non-democratic religious doctrine, and institutionalize discrimination against minorities, is shared. Their goals to subvert universal equality, and freedom of religion, are exactly the same. Their willingness to use violence, or the threat of violence through ‘Second Amendment Remedies,’ is also something they have in common. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to identify any real differences that aren’t simply window dressing.
Religious tyranny, the violation of individuals rights and freedoms, and the oppression of minorities, are the same regardless of the name of the god worshipped, the lexicon of religious terminology employed, the language spoken, the clothes worn, or the scriptures followed. It is unacceptable in any guise and must be resisted. Christian conservatives must be held accountable for their unconstitutional prescriptions and political machinations and recognized for what they truly are; America’s Taliban.