Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Encroachment of Theocracy on Democracy in U.S. Today: Two Signposts


As a brief gloss on the piece I’ve just posted, which notes the dominant influence of theocratic groups and ideas in American culture at present, I’d like to point to two signposts that indicate—to my way of thinking—just how far we’ve come down the theocratic road at present.  And how hard it will be to reverse that path, now that the presuppositions of right-wing religion dominate the discourse and thought of an increasing number of Americans . . . .

What fascinates me in both of these signposts is how they demonstrate that the burden of proof is increasingly on those who resist even the most outrĂ© manifestations of right-wing religion—as if the worldview on which right-wing Christianity rests is a reading of reality, and those who question that worldview in any respect are questioning reality itself.

First signpost: Lauri Lebow has an update at Religion Dispatches today about that bizarre story from December 2007, re: the branding of an Ohio high-school student’s arm by a science teacher.

Teacher John Freshwater branded student Zachary Dennis’s arm with a cross.  Lebow reports that Freshwater has been an active participant in anti-abortion events in his community sponsored by Minute Men United, “a militant organization that endorses Christian theocracy,” some of whose members have been vocal in supporting Freshwater in the legal battle that has ensued following his branding of Zachary Dennis with a cross.

And here’s the kicker that caught my eye: because they filed suit, because they protested the branding of their son’s arm, the Dennis family report that they’ve experienced harassment and have had to move from the community.  The Dennis family’s outrage that their son’s arm was branded by a teacher—branded with a cross symbol—has been interpreted as an indicator that they are anti-religious!

This is the kind of world we’re coming to live in: teacher brands your child’s arm with a cross.  You object.  The burden of proof is now on you to prove that you are not anti-religious.

A world like that is seriously upside-down.

Second signpost: in response to my posting a few days ago about the recent devil-obsessed rhetoric of key American Catholic prelates including Archbishop Chaput of Denver, a reader posted a comment stating that my analysis is “idiotic” and I’m intellectually lazy.

The reader informs me that the burden of proof is on me and others who do not assume that the devil is pulling the strings in our culture.  He states, “If you think that Satan is not behind the great and increasing evils of the age, then make that point and defend it with research.”

Here’s the kicker: we’re at a point in our culture, it seems—at least, we’re there with a significant number of people—when language about Satan fomenting “the great and increasing evils of the age” is simply taken for granted.

And when those who do not take such devil-obsessed presuppositions for granted—for those who don’t automatically turn to the devil-made-me-do-it explanation for natural and cultural happenings—are expected to show just how the devil is not pulling the strings.

We’re at a point in our culture when someone can, apparently without a blush of irony, accuse someone else of being idiotic and intellectually lazy because he doesn’t begin a posting on devil-obsessed rhetoric by presupposing that the devil is pulling the strings in our culture.

We’ve entered into a seriously upside-down world, when “ideas” like this are permitted to posture as intellectually credible.  But that’s the world, I fear, that the powerful theocratic groups who want to return the culture to “Christ” and to neoconservatism deliberately wish to create for us.

And those groups want that world, with its devil-made-me-do-it intellectual laziness and its cross-branding fanaticism, to thrive, because it distracts us from the rapacity of the economic elites for which the theocratic groups are a front.