March 15, 2005


For evangelicals, a bid to 'reclaim America': For the faithful who gathered in Florida last month, the goal is not just to convert individuals - but to reshape US society. (Jane Lampman, 3/16/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

For the Reback daughters, the big attraction was the famous Ten Commandments monument, brought to Florida on tour after being removed from the Alabama judicial building as unconstitutional. The youngsters - dressed in red, white, and blue - clustered proudly around the display.

For more than 900 other Christians from across the US, the draw at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church last month was a national conference aimed at "reclaiming America for Christ." The monument stood as a potent symbol of their hopes for changing the course of the nation.

"We have God-sized problems in our country, and only God can solve them," Richard Land, a prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), told the group.

Their mission is not simply to save souls. The goal is to mobilize evangelical Christians for political action to return society to what they call "the biblical worldview of the Founding Fathers." Some speak of "restoring a Christian nation." Others shy from that phrase, but agree that the Bible calls them not only to evangelize, but also to transform the culture.

In material given to conference attendees, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge pastor wrote: "As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government ... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."

This is the 10th conference to spread this "cultural mandate" among Christians, and although the church's pastor couldn't speak due to illness, others presented the message intended to rouse the conservative faithful, eager to capitalize on gains won during the November election.

This melding of religion and politics, Christianity and patriotism, makes many uneasy, particularly those on the other side of the so-called culture war, who see a threat to the healthy discourse of a pluralistic society.

"This is an effort to impose a particular far-right religious view, and political and social policies that result from that, on others," says Elliot Mincberg of People for the American Way, a group that advocates for a diverse society. "There's nothing wrong with trying to convince others to adopt their views, but [Dr. Kennedy's] effort is also to use the levers of government to force changes."

If, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said: "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society, The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture to save it from itself." Then the central insight of the modern evangelical is that by controlling politics they can change the culture.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2005 11:52 PM

It's quite as if they had all taken Sociology 101 and actually paid attention. Of course Moynihan was right ... except for the implication that American society NEEDED to be saved from itself.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 16, 2005 12:46 AM

The movement is still essentially reactionary (in the good sense of the word).

If courts were not purging faith from the public square, overriding referenda (CA) and legislative law (MA) banning gay marriage, declaring the "right to privacy" of a 13 year old trumps parents right to know if their child seeks an abortion (FL), knocking down Federal law limiting the ability of children to access porno on the internet and outlawing computer generated child porn, banning the Boy Scouts from leasing land in a public park (San Diego), cloaking a Christian Cross with a tarp while appeals are heard to prevent it from being demolished (CA-Mojave Cross) the movement would be a fraction of the size it is today.

Evangelicals seek to prevent and restore rather than control.

For the most part.

Posted by: David at March 16, 2005 12:57 AM

"As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government ... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."

That's not what he's saying David. This is a program for control. Anyone who thinks he's going to exercise godly dominion over me better heed the "I shoot trespassers" sign.

Kennedy is a far right whacko, I wonder why it took OJ so long to write about him. I try not to cry "theocracy", but there is no other way to describe what this cornflake is calling for.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 16, 2005 4:39 AM

Christians have only recently gotten so seriously involved in politics -- and it was abortion that forced their hand. Most of my wife's American relatives have only now begun voting Republican. It wasn't long ago that the social welfare issues had them voting Democrat. Remember Jimmy Carter?

Besides, Robert, the U.S. is a "theocracy".

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

Posted by: Randall Voth at March 16, 2005 7:03 AM


The notion that if a theocracy were imposed your little sign would stop anyone is rather quaint.

Posted by: oj at March 16, 2005 7:37 AM

> Anyone who thinks he's going to exercise godly dominion over me better heed the "I shoot trespassers" sign.

Better drink lots of coffee, then, because it's only a matter of time before they come in the night to plant a nativity scene and a Ten Commandments memorial in your front yard...

Posted by: Guy T. at March 16, 2005 9:37 AM

Suggests any people of faith will have undue influence or create a theocracy are absurd. From the founding and all during the 19th C there were calls for America to be officially declared a Christian country. As we know, they all came to nothing.

For a decade now I've been involved in voter registration and then getting those registered to the polls. The message, I've found, needs to be tailor to different groups as their objections vary.

Most intractable problem I've faced with evangelicals is getting them to vote at all. Took four years for my fundamentalist neighbor to finally break down and vote. Think he finally got sick of me suggesting he vote more than anything else. Many evangelicals are not of this world and shun politics. When they do change their mind, there is no doubt where they stand but getting them there is difficult.

Liberal protestants (my family tradition) are difficult to convince to vote conservative. Their excuse is "they all do it..there is no difference between the parties...everyone is no good." When I ask why, then, they vote Democrat, I receive a blank stare.

Catholics are mixed. Those who vote liberal do so out of family tradition, union membership and a concern for social justice (not realizing how far left the Democratic party has taken that concept). Constituent services are important with Catholics too. Liberals excel in this field. Rosa DeLaura, for instance, is wonderful in this regard. When one phone call to her solves the problem a parent or grandparent is having with Medicare or Social Security, DeLaura's position on partial birth abortion is rationalized away.

Note: my comments are anecdotal and limited. I make no claim my experiences represent the views of a majority of evangelicals, liberal Protestants or Catholics.

They certainly don't represent the Catholics on this board and virtually all the Catholics I've met on the internet.

Posted by: David at March 16, 2005 12:08 PM

Randall, if you think that Kennedy and his ilk are happy with how this "theocracy" is currently being run, you haven't read his words very closely. Dominion Theology is not about living peacably as equals with citizens of other faiths, it is about seizing the reigns of secular power and imposing Old Testament law, including capital punishment for homosexuals, idolaters and heretics.

David, I have no doubt about your experiences of evangelicals, but as I mentioned above, Kennedy is not a poster child for that group.

OJ, they would get me in the end, but not before I send a few martyrs to the Pearly Gates. In the end the only garantee that I can rely on to secure my freedom will be my willingness to fight for it.

How is it that you gush over democracy and freedom in one breath and promote the anti-American ravings of dregs like Kennedy in the next? Are you so taken in by any show of religiosity that you are unable to critically examine what someone actually says or stands for?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 17, 2005 1:34 AM


Sure, you'll be the one who resists...

We require a reaction as strong as Kennedy's to reverse the 20th Century.

Posted by: oj at March 17, 2005 7:27 AM

and the 19th century, and the 18th, ..and the 17th, and the 16th, and the 15th, and the 14th.

OJ, you're either for democracy based on the consent of the governed, or you're not. Don't use cute tricks to hide what you are for. You want theocracy, not democracy. Just admit it. The two are irreconcilable.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 17, 2005 11:04 AM

"Sure, you'll be the one who resists..."

Well, it won't be you, that's for sure. Too bad, they'll come for you too. Once they read how you've endorsed just about every theological point on the map at one point or another, you'll end up in the doc on heresy charges. Theocratists always eat their own.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 17, 2005 11:10 AM

Theocracy would be preferable to modernity, but we needn't settle.

And, no, I don't put much stock in democracy.

Posted by: oj at March 17, 2005 11:36 AM