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Taliban west?

Liberals worry that President Bush's reelection will lead to an American theocracy

Issue: "Lavelle's wonderful life," Dec. 25, 2004

Secularits are in a state of panic about the role of evangelical Christians in the reelection of George Bush. They actually believe that American democracy is in danger, that we are on the verge of becoming a theocracy.

"Putting God in the public square runs the risk of turning our democracy into a theocracy," frets DeWayne Wickham in USA Today. Leonard Pitts of The Miami Herald warns darkly of "the soldiers of the new American theocracy who want to force 'creation science' on the schools."

Former Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart warns that "America is a secular, not a theocratic, republic. Because of this, it should concern us that declarations of 'faith' are quickly becoming a condition for seeking public office."

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Historian Garry Wills calls Nov. 2 "the day the Enlightenment went out," saying that with the influence of Christian "fundamentalists," Americans have now come to resemble the Islamic jihadists that we are fighting.

According to this way of thinking, which has become commonplace in academia, evangelicals and jihadists are essentially the same. They both oppose homosexuality (as if opposing gay marriage were the same thing as stoning homosexuals to death). They are both "anti-women" (with opposition to abortion as the moral equivalent of the utter subjugation of women in Muslim countries). They are both opposed to modern science (meaning skepticism about evolution and revulsion at embryonic stem-cell research is the same as Muslim primitivism). Fundamentalists of both sides are violent, murderous, and oppressive (with the war against terrorism as the moral equivalent of terrorism itself).

The line of thinking considers President Bush to be no different from Osama bin Laden, Christian conservatives to be just as scary as Muslim conservatives, and America as perhaps soon resembling Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Such paranoia, ignorance, and lack of any sense of proportion is laughable, of course, but it represents a new phase of anti-Christian bigotry. Secularists used to see Christians as an out-of-touch minority easy to ignore. But now secularists have become afraid of Christians.

Fear is often a prelude to active persecution. This is true particularly with the rise of paranoid fantasies that the group is part of a sinister plot to take over the country, or even the world.

So we should reassure our secularist friends that we are far, far from any kind of Christian theocracy. It was democracy that chose President Bush and that disapproves of gay marriage. The true threat to democracy is not theocracy, but aristocracy, the rule by the "best," which is what our cultural elite consider themselves, as evident in their condescension and disdain for ordinary, mostly religious, Americans.

If conservative Christians are the same as jihadist Muslims, and President Bush is the same as Osama bin Laden, why are they fighting each other? Why are the world's fundamentalists not joining forces to stamp out human freedom? Instead, conservative Christians tend to support the fight against the jihadists and the spread of freedom around the world.

If the secularists are so afraid of fundamentalism, why are they opposed to the war to bring freedom to Iraq? Why are they criticizing American Christians, who will never harm a hair of their heads, while excusing and sometimes even supporting the Muslim jihadists?

Mr. Wills is right, though, when he says that the Enlightenment is over. But surely, as a professor at Northwestern, he knows that this is what postmodernist academics have been saying for decades. The modern era, as an age of reason, is finished. If that is so, relativism is one option. But another is religious faith.

Not Christians but postmodern secularists have been the leading critics of science and technology. If opposing embryonic stem-cell research is opposing "science," why isn't opposing nuclear power plants, genetically engineered foods, and other environmentally correct causes considered to be opposition to science, progress, and the modern world?

Secularists lack the conceptual basis even to defend their own secularism against militant Islam. Contrary to their relativist assumptions, religions are not at all the same but are radically different in their content and their cultural influence. The cultural influence of Christianity includes the very freedom they take for granted, which is ultimately impossible without a moral grounding.

Conservative Christians actually are more supportive of reason than postmodern secularists. Note, for example, who is descending into irrational hysteria.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith


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