An article titled The Godly Must Be Crazy: Christian-right views are swaying politicians and threatening the environment by Glenn Scherer over at the environmental news and commentary site Grist takes a good look at how American politicians who are also Christian Fundamentalists are basing their decisions about environmental legislation that comes before them on their beliefs about the always-right-around-the-corner Apocalypse as opposed to anything science might have to say on the topic at hand. The article is long and mainly focused on issues of the environment, but should still be of interest to anyone worried about this country being turned into a Theocracy.
Opposing abortion and stem-cell research is consistent with the religious right’s belief that life begins at the moment of conception. Opposing gay marriage is consistent with its claim that homosexual activity is proscribed by the Bible. Both beliefs are a familiar staple of today’s political discourse. But a scripture-based justification for anti-environmentalism—when was the last time you heard a conservative politician talk about that?
Odds are it was in 1981, when President Reagan’s first secretary of the interior, James Watt, told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. “God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back,” Watt said in public testimony that helped get him fired.
Today’s Christian fundamentalist politicians are more politically savvy than Reagan’s interior secretary was; you’re unlikely to catch them overtly attributing public-policy decisions to private religious views. But their words and actions suggest that many share Watt’s beliefs. Like him, many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed—even hastened—as a sign of the coming Apocalypse.
This is a very enlightening article and it reminded me that the problem with politicians using religion over reason in their decision making isn’t limited to the Bush Administration. In fact I was somewhat startled to learn just how many members of Congress were ranked highly by religious-right organizations:
We are not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. The 231 legislators (all but five of them Republicans) who received an average 80 percent approval rating or higher from the leading religious-right organizations make up more than 40 percent of the U.S. Congress. (The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian Coalition was Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who earlier this year quoted from the Book of Amos on the Senate floor: “The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land. Not a famine of bread or of thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord!”) These politicians include some of the most powerful figures in the U.S. government, as well as key environmental decision makers: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Republican Conference Chair Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), Senate Republican Policy Chair Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and quite possibly President Bush. (Earlier this month, a cover story by Ron Suskind in The New York Times Magazine described how Bush’s faith-based governance has led to, among other things, a disastrous “crusade” in the Middle East and has laid the groundwork for “a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.”)
There’s yet another reference to the NY Times article by Ron Suskind, it looks like it’s catching a lot of attention. The Grist article goes on to point out a 2002 poll that found 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the Book of Revelation are going to come true and nearly one-quarter of these people think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Then it takes a closer look at what these End Time beliefs are and how they’re figuring into policy decisions by these politicians paying particular attention to the more politically influential groups such as the dispensationalists and reconstructionists (a.k.a. dominionists), the latter group being the most worrisome in my mind. The added emphasis is mine:
Dispensationalists haven’t cornered the market on End-Time interpretation. The reconstructionists (also known as dominionists), a smaller but politically influential sect, put the onus for the Lord’s return not in the hands of biblical prophesy but in political activism. They believe that Christ will only make his Second Coming when the world has prepared a place for Him, and that the first step in readying His arrival is to Christianize America.
“Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land—of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ,” writes reconstructionist George Grant. Christian dominion will be achieved by ending the separation of church and state, replacing U.S. democracy with a theocracy ruled by Old Testament law, and cutting all government social programs, instead turning that work over to Christian churches. Reconstructionists also would abolish government regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. EPA, because they are a distraction from their goal of Christianizing America, and subsequently, the rest of the world. “World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish,” says Grant. “We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less.” Only when that conquest is complete can the Lord return.
I admit that I didn’t think the number of these yahoos in Washington was much more than a handful of vocal idiots and I never would’ve guessed a number along the lines of 231. This certainly gives one new reason to worry about the possibility of America being turned into a theocracy and puts the fact that half the country is blindly supportive of Bush into a stark new light. Yikes! I need to find some happy news now.