Or rather, I am writing about the American concept of the separation of Church and State. It is often pointed out that America was founded by people who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a place where they could establish communities in which they could worship as they saw fit. This is partially true, but the statement as written is not quite accurate.
America was first settled by the people we call the Pilgrims or the Colonists. They established the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Virginia, among others, which is famous for the touching site of Jamestown. The oldest colonization of America involved the Spanish, who founded the city of St. Augustine, the oldest city in our nation. But although these various Protestants and Catholics came to the New World to live in freedom, they were not the people who wrote our Constitution and created the nation that we now call the United States of America.
That formidable task was accomplished by the people we call the Founding Fathers. If we stop to think about it for a moment, we all know the date 1620, when the very first Pilgrims stepped off their ship the Mayflower, setting foot on Plymouth Rock. But the Constitutional Convention resulted in our written form of government in another famous year, 1776, more than a century later.
Let's think of a few names. My personal hero of the Pilgrim Fathers is William Bradford, whose diaries tell the story of Jamestown. This wonderful man tells us about the terrible epidemic of influenza that killed so many settlers, and of course our American tradition of Thanksgiving came out of the friendship that grew up between the struggling colonists and compassionate Native Americans. The stories of John Smith and Pocahontas come from this stark era, along with the famous Miles Standish.
But Bradford's name does not appear among the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution. Those individuals include Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock of course, and the others who conceived and codified our system of representative democracy. Long story short: it was two completely different groups of people whose lives did not even overlap.
Where am I going with this? Well, the intention of the Founding Fathers of 1776 was not to establish a religious government, or a theocracy, in America. This idea comes from the basic mistake of confusing the Pilgrim Fathers with the Founding Fathers. I feel that both groups are greatly to be admired, but their goals were not the same. So anyone who feels that it is true to America's founding ideals to long for a theocratic government is simply mistaken at best and ignorant at worst.
Against this, the other day I heard another of my personal heroes, Frank Schaeffer, interviewing with Nicole Sandler on talk radio. Schaeffer is the son of Francis Schaeffer, one of the founders of the Moral Majority, the group that set in motion what we now call the Culture Wars. Francis Schaeffer was not interested mainly in changing the American government--according to his son, his idea was to sell endorsements for money, while instilling his evangelical faith into those who were willing to pay for the deal. It happened to be the Republicans who took the bait, which leaves us partially where we are today.
But like many people who push a stone over a cliff and start a landslide, the elder Schaeffer's genie could not be put back in the bottle. As much as we are moaning and whining over today's Republican Party and their hatred and bigotry, the last Democratic administration, that of President Bill Clinton, was attacked fiercely--completely out of proportion--by the earlier generation of the Moral Majority. As the unholy alliance between evangelical religion and conservative politics began feeling its oats, Rush Limbaugh emerged, spewing his vicious bile over the airways. We have largely (and mercifully) forgotten Jerry Falwell nowadays, and Pat Robertson is but an old man making a fool of himself on cable television. But in their day these three reprehensible persons lent all the power of religious conviction to the movement that ended in the impeachment of Clinton. Their successors are still dreaming of impeaching Barack Obama, perhaps under the impression that impeachment can be their way of rectifying mistakes on the part of American voters.
Who will be president if Obama is impeached and removed from office? Why, the current vice president, Joe Biden. What, you thought it was going to be Eric Cantor or Paul Ryan? I don't think so! The Constitution is clear about this, and it does not provide for some sort of special election. Presidential succession is already on the books.
Frank Schaeffer's comments yesterday were to this point: we think that the current situation in Washington is political, but it is really the last hurrah of a religious movement—which explains a lot of what we see going on in the House of Representatives. This is a movement that openly declares their intention to take over the secular, civil government of the United States and transform it into an Old-Testament theocracy run by evangelical fundamentalists. That is Schaeffer's contention, and I had to take it seriously, considering what we all witnessed during the recent government shutdown.
This group of people is collectively known as the Dominionist movement, and they all espouse a bastard type of Old-Testament Christianity that I keep pointing out is a figment of their imaginations. (Seriously, anyone who wants to get the feel of what Christianity is all about should not begin reading the Bible from the Book of Genesis; skip all that and start with the Gospels. After that, read the Letters of Paul. Anything else is extraneous and, most importantly, non-binding.)
The leader of the shut-down debacle was freshman senator Ted Cruz. Is Cruz an evangelical? He sure is--his father is a rigid, bitter, hate-filled bigot who rages in his pulpit and worships his son as the anointed king (or one of them) for the re-establishment of a new Israel in North America.
Remember when I wrote about my apprehension that Texas governor Rick Perry was role-playing the Antichrist a couple of years ago? I daresay that some of my readers thought that was a bit much, but now the Republicans have seized upon another vicious, conniving egoist and decided that he is not only their leader, but their salvation (for the time being). I cannot see how this ends well; it is only a matter of time before Cruz trips over his self-esteem (which sucks the oxygen out of every room) and crashes over some personal issue. He will start losing his temper like Arizona's John McCain, or he will turn out to be using his status to get women, or he will be caught with his hand in the cookie jar of his campaign contributors. It is inevitable; people who hold themselves above the law always do such things.
The fairy tale of the Antichrist starts out with a political hero who is adored by the entire world, who will rise to ultimate power before he tries to become both Emperor and Pope of Planet Earth. He will reveal himself as an evil entity and then face off against the Second Coming of Christ.
You can read this scenario on any Rapture-oriented web page, or some version of it. The Rapture folks are no longer in agreement on their interpretation of the mythology, and have fragmented into little groups that snipe at each other on the Internet. I have no interest in them, because anyone who believes that the Second Coming is going to involve Jesus with a sword in his hand is completely divorced from Christianity. But this ever-evolving psychodrama is now coalescing around Ted Cruz, the religious primitives having found and discarded Perry and Marco Rubio.
This is going to get worse before it gets better; I am telling you this right now. The evangelical fervor that has infected American politics on the Right is killing them; their poll numbers are at a historical, all-time low but they are still doubling down. Cruz will undoubtedly double down when it permeates the bubble that he lives in that he is not as popular as his father tells the congregation every Sunday.
It seems to me that the quickest way to deflate Cruz is to get his father in front of a microphone, and I hope to see that beginning in earnest through the liberal media. They have the most to gain from deflating Cruz, and the financial crunch has already begun for Republicans as their former donors are actually funneling their dollars towards Democrats. The money drying up is probably the one thing that will arouse the fanatics to their last stand, and it will probably coincide with the election of 2014, when they crash and burn again--definitively--against a Democratic candidate who only needs to promise that she or he will clean up their mess.