In Response To...Kevin Phillips and
 Sam Brownback on Theocracy












  More Writings by Bruce Gourley


Note: This essay first appeared in the June 2006 Baptist Studies Bulletin.

            This morning I received yet another forwarded email from a Baptist friend mocking the separation of church and state.  Forty years ago one would have been hard-pressed to find a Baptist in America who did not believe in the historical Baptist belief in the separation of church and state.  In his latest book, American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips, former Republican strategist in the Nixon administration, asserts that the influence of the Religious Right has transformed the modern Republican Party into the first religious political party in American history.  Earlier this month the Georgia Baptist Conference Center in Toccoa, Georgia, hosted a Christian Reconstruction conference in which featured speaker and Religious Right guru Gary North told an audience of 600 cheering Christians that he wants to replace democracy in America with theocracy.  Indeed, among religious conservatives in America today there is a popular belief that religion should overarch and control everything else in public and private life.  This so-called “biblical worldview” invokes images of theocratic Puritan New England, ironically, an era in which Baptists were severely persecuted by the “Christian” government.
            If the fundamentalist leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and their Religious Right allies have their way in subduing politics and culture to religion, what would America become?  Certain movies, such as the Da Vinci Code, would likely be banned for voicing heretical views.  This has already happened in Pakistan, where the religious government (Muslim, in this instance) declared “the making of such movies doesn’t come under the purview of freedom of expression,” a decision applauded by many Christians in that country.  In addition, public education, viewed as evil by some Southern Baptists, including Al Mohler, would be shuttered and the responsibility for education handed to churches.  Indeed, the foundational freedoms of the American nation (freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition guaranteed by the First Amendment) would likely be discarded in favor of laws protecting the dominance of the favored religion.
            Lest the above scenario sound far-fetched, consider Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan).  The favored candidate of the Religious Right in the upcoming 2008 presidential election, Brownback is committed to turning America into a theocracy in which religion replaces politics, the Ten Commandments replace current laws, social programs (schools, Social Security and welfare) are privatized or discarded, all abortions are prohibited, sex is a criminal act unless committed within heterosexual marriage, men lead families and women are limited to bearing and rearing children.  As a reporter who recently interviewed Brownback noted, he “doesn’t demand that everyone believe his God–only that they bow down before Him.”
            While a theocratic America seems hard to fathom, the increasingly vocal and influential segment of voters and politicians for whom religion trumps everything else reveals the precarious nature of longstanding democratic ideals of freedom and liberty.  Most Baptists who support the Brownback agenda probably do not realize they are betraying their own faith heritage.  Many fundamentalist Christians who adamantly oppose Muslim fundamentalism are likely blind to the cultural and religious biases they share with their enemies.  In the eyes of true believers, freedom and liberty are privileges that should be granted only to the theologically correct, and toleration extended only to those who outwardly obey God’s laws.
            Kevin Phillips is right to warn America that a theocracy is bubbling up within the Republican Party, imperiling the very foundation of our nation.  And I have decided that I will no longer merely hit the delete button when a Baptist friend sends me yet another forward denying America’s heritage of religious liberty and separation of church and state.  The stakes are too high and the times too perilous to allow the lies and deception to go unchallenged.