The ‘Threat’ of Theocracy

Lately, opponents of Christian cultural engagement have been using a new word to characterize us. In addition to oldies-but-goodies like “bigots” and “fanatics,” they’re now calling us “theocrats.” At least four books have recently been published that warn about the “theocratic” menace to American democracy, and more are on the way. Somebody hand these people a Xanax. The word theocracy is intended to draw an analogy between Christians who oppose things like same-sex “marriage” and Islamists such as bin Laden and the Iranian mullahs. One critic, Andrew Sullivan, writing in Time magazine, made the connection explicit when he coined his own variation on the theme: “Christianist.” Whatever the exact terminology, the “threat” they describe is basically the same. Like my old White House colleague, the somewhat erratic Kevin Phillips, they fear an end to the separation of church and state and its replacement by a government directly based on biblical laws. In Phillips’s account, biblical laws will not only decide social issues like abortion and same-sex “marriage” but also matters like economics, the environment, and foreign policy. His most lurid fear is that the United States, under the sway of “theocrats,” will take actions in the Middle East to hasten the second coming of Christ. As I said, Phillips is hardly alone in his fears. In a new book Kingdom Coming, journalist Michelle Goldberg writes about what she calls “Christian nationalism.” This “nationalism,” which Goldberg characterizes as “quasi-fascist,” believes that “godly men have the responsibility to take over every aspect of society.” Goldberg warns about the danger of what she calls “dominion theology,” which she says has shaped figures ranging from Tim LaHaye to Francis Schaeffer. Ultimately, the goal of all of this engagement is, according to Goldberg, “the conquest of the land . . . for the Kingdom of Christ.” To be fair, that last statement is a direct quote from one Christian speaker. And there are some Christians who do talk about a Christian takeover of America. The real question, as Ross Douthat asks in the latest issue of First Things, is whether they are representative of Christians as a whole. The answer is a resounding “no!”—maybe one percent. As Douthat points out, genuine Christian theocrats have the same amount of political influence as “the Spartacist Youth League.” I have warned against theonomy for twenty years. What Phillips, Goldberg, and the rest are doing is “[assuming] that the most extreme manifestation of religious conservatism must, by definition, be its most authentic expression.” They focus on the fringes while ignoring the mainstream. Why? Partly, it’s to hype the “threat” posed by Christians. But it’s also the way, in some cases, they see us. According to their worldview, any opposition to the culture of death or the redefinition of basic institutions like the family are, by definition, “extremist.” The best response to these charges is a gentle, loving assertion of the truth. Upholding millennia-old truths about the sanctity of life and the family isn’t “extreme,” it’s about building a good society for every American, regardless of what they believe. Now, how about a nice cup of chamomile tea?
For Further Reading and Information
Today’s BreakPoint offer: Please help support the Christian worldview ministry of BreakPoint by donating online today or calling 1-877-322-5527. Ross Douthat, “Theocracy! Theocracy! Theocracy!First Things, August/September 2006. Daniel Pulliam, “Putting ‘Theocracy’ Fears in Their Place,” Get Religion, 27 July 2006. Thomas E. Brewton, “Theocracy and Liberal Paranoia,” National Ledger, 26 July 2006. Philip Yancey, “The Lure of Theocracy,” Christianity Today, 10 July 2006. Michelle Goldberg, “Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism” (book excerpt), Salon, 12 May 2006. Andrew Sullivan, “My Problem with Christianism,” Time, 15 May 2006. Kevin Phillips, “Theocons and Theocrats,” The Nation, 13 April 2006. Alan Brinkley, “Clear and Present Dangers,” (review of American Theocracy), New York Times, 19 March 2006. Nick Gillespie, “The Hard Right,” New York Times, 30 July 2006. Jon Ward, “Left Aims to Smite ‘Theocracy’ Movement,” Washington Times, 1 May 2005. Ernest W. Lefever, “Why Theocracy Can’t Happen Here,” Washington Times, 16 May 2005. Jim Tonkowich, “The Limitations of Politics,” BreakPoint WorldView, June 2005. Chuck Colson, “The Clash of Worldviews,” BreakPoint Online, 4 April 2006. Carolyn Bolls, “The Trail of Tyranny,” BreakPoint Online, 1 August 2006. John C. Rankin, “The Soul of Jihad,” BreakPoint Online, 3 August 2006. BreakPoint Commentary No. 060801, “Speak Out or Give In?: The Church and the Culture Wars.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 050203, “Getting It: Power versus Influence.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 050704, “The Conscience of Society: The Role of the Church in a Democracy.” Art Lindsley, True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World (InterVarsity, 2004).


Chuck Colson



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