Struggle between secularism and theocracy

In recent debates between tea party-endorsed Senate candidates and their Democratic opponents, faith has emerged as a campaign issue. Calling … Continued

In recent debates between tea party-endorsed Senate candidates and their Democratic opponents, faith has emerged as a campaign issue.

Calling himself “a pro-life Christian” in opening remarks, Kentucky candidate Rand Paul said, “I’m disheartened that my opponent has chosen to attack my religious beliefs,” referring to Jack Conway’s campaign ad that questioned Paul’s beliefs on the bible, faith-based initiatives and ‘Aqua Buddha.’ (For more on ‘Aqua Buddha’ click here.)

In the Delaware debate between Senate candidates, Christine O’Donnell said, “I would argue there are more people who support my Catholic faith than his Marxist beliefs,” alluding to a column written by Chris Coons two decades ago which he characterizes as ‘a joke.’

With polls showing that voters rank the economy as a top issue, why are the faith lives of candidates up for debate?

While the state of the economy remains in a shambles and has largely been ignored in the run-up to November’s elections, it seems that the state of a candidate’s faith has never been more vital to the voting public or his opponents. Whether it be attacks on Muslim candidates for their belief in Islam, or ads insinuating that Kentucky contender Rand Paul is not as truly Christian as he portrays himself to be, or Delaware’s O’Donnell’s insistence that she is not a witch, a candidate’s faith has never been more central to election campaigns than this year. Not only are we focusing on the faith of individual candidates, but the national election has become in some locales a referendum on the place of Muslim citizens in American politics and society, the extent to which faith should define our view of homosexuality and the rights of GLBT Americans to marry or to serve in the armed forces, and on the role God should play in the formation of policy.

It seems that the bastions of our secular democracy are under siege by forces that would like to see America become a Christian nation, making policy on what certain, usually conservative, Christian groups believe to be God’s Law and His will.

In short, America is facing the same challenge the Muslim world has been dealing with for the past 50 years. Shall we remain secular or become a theocracy? When Sarah Palin declares that a pipeline across Alaska is God’s will, how is that different than Ahmedinejad proclaiming that it is God’s will that Iran have nuclear power? When Christian conservatives want to deny gays the right to marry, or protections against work place discrimination because God doesn’t like gays, how is that different than Egypt doing the same on the basis that it is against Islam?

To say the least, assuming we can know God’s will for ourselves or our country is a dangerous business when it goes beyond grand values. It is easy to accept that God wants us to stand for justice, God wants us to promote peace. It is a lot harder to believe that He has voted for a particular policy or budget item. Furthermore, when people claim that God is commanding certain laws or policies, that he is for certain programs and against others, we limit the ability of people to disagree; after all disagreement with God is tantamount to promoting Satan or being evil. The argument shifts from a discussion of what is most effective, what is most just, and what is most desired by the majority of people, into an argument over theology and scriptural interpretation.

I can only hope the forces of secularism win out, both in America and in the Muslim world. Only through secular government can freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, two cardinal values in both the Bill of Rights and the Qur’an, be maintained. And only through secularism can civil society ensure the equality of all.

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  • momtotsan

    @rentianxiang — I think an awful lot of Christians would not want to live under Christian theocracy, just as an awful lot of Muslims don’t want anything to do with the so-called Islamic State.

  • rentianxiang

    Momtotsan,I wholeheartedly agree. I think most people, regardless of religion, would not want anything to do with life under a theocracy. I think it just is more clearly conceived when the theocracy is enforcing adherence to religious rules to which one doesn’t subscribe. For example, it probably doesn’t bother Muslims as much as it would me that consumption of pork isnt’ allowed. But, I agree that to make the point it is unnecessary that one be of a different faith to find theocracy abhorrent.

  • rentianxiang

    Once again, a thoughtful and reasonable article that sums up why the first amendment is so vital. Just as no Muslim wants to live under a Christian theocracy, and no Christian wants to live under a Muslim theocracy, only through keeping government free from the dictums of any particular religion can all of us be free.

  • abrahamhab1

    “Only through secular government can freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, two cardinal values in both the Bill of Rights and the Qur’an, be maintained.”Freedom of religion and of conscience is a cardinal value in the Quran? Most if not all Muslim majority countries use the Quran as major source of legislation. Some as Saudi Arabia and Somalia use it as the sole source of legislation. Where in any of those countries are there any freedoms except for the powerful to plunder the weak? You need to study your holy book more carefully and visit some of those failed societies who know more about their religion than you before pontificating to us.

  • woodstock-41

    Dear Fellow Americans, Hark: ____iMPORTANTo: Last Week; When me Family Visited New York City and touring the “GROUND-ZERO” area (the place i[WE] made a living from, before 911) THATWE[i] had several ISHLAMi’s (males) trying to push (forcefully like) or selling, The Gory PICTURES of the 911 tragedy. i almost got into a fight, when one of the Ishlami’s audaciously came over to me and start showing his ‘slick’s . So I Said, Your a ISHLAMI [Muslim] right? He said Yes! Then i said, “How can you capitalize by Pushing & Selling this Tragic Stuff”? i[WE] told him that Ishlami’s should be kicked out of This Holyi-Ground; and poush this stuff in MECCA or in AL AQSA, but Not Here bubb…” WE Walked away towards the “911 Family’S Exhibit”.Fact: The N.Y. Police Department Should Investigate this; Because Muslims [Ishlami’s] are like Fly’s there; all over Ground Zero (Whom I Suspect; Pushed-out the CHinko’s whom sold tragedy 1st.)Note: But i[WE] also bought a “Falafel” (chick pea Pita-Bread Sandwich) from the many Ishlami owned ‘Mobile’ Kitchens in that Area (On Broadway or Corner of).P.S: The “NEW-WORLD-TRADE CENTER” (which i was promised another spot/Job therein when built) is Looking Mighty Fine! America is a-risen (one Brick at a time).P.S. Ironically the “UNIONS” in America must be Controlled (Temporarily) like This Admin did with the Troubled-Banks & Co’s. Hint: They have ‘Job-Security’, but Nepotism therein is unfair; plus other monopolistic trades. ANYONE? Praise the HOLYI NO-MON/WOMB! Thank, “IT”!

  • woodstock-41

    OYE!

  • woodstock-41

    1 of 2 (B)Hint: According to our O.U.R. {The Creator of OUR PHOTONS (not their; I.D. Lovers, not their ‘light’ creator) of 1 of 2 (A) continued

  • ThishowIseeit

    Ms Taylor, history is the best teacher of life and those who forget history will suffer. Most countries where Muslims became the population majority, have now the Sharia Law in effect and all the other religions or atheism have been suffocated. Don’t forget, the Imams only hold the knife by the handle.