When (flawed) theocracy comes to town

I posted this on Facebook, along with a video that might still be available here.

I’m opposed to theocracy, and I don’t think religious law should ever be the basis for civil law. That said, many Americans claim to want laws based on Christianity. Oddly, many of these same people are now so enshrined in the cult of Trump, that they can’t even see how they’re being led so far astray from their religious teachings.

What’s even more strange to me is how often some groups of Christians talk about fearing the devil, and how he will lead them away from Christ if they aren’t super careful. I can’t imagine these folks following anybody less Christ-like than Trump, but there they go, without a fear in the world that they might be falling into the trap they’ve been warned of over and over.

Of course, I don’t believe Trump is the devil. I don’t believe either exists. But if I believed in those things, I can’t imagine not being very afraid to watch people following the obviously wrong guy, without thinking twice about it. If you made a movie about the devil, his life story could look a lot like Trump’s

I wanted to hold on to this post, outside of Facebook, but I also wanted to preserve one comment on the post, that came from a Jesuit Priest I’ve known since I was a teenager. I don’t know if he would be OK with me sharing his words outside of Facebook, so I won’t credit him by name, but I want to preserve his message nonetheless.

To be clear, just because I’m opposed to theocracy doesn’t mean that I am against anything that’s part of a religion. If you want murder to be illegal because it says so in the Ten Commandments, and I want murder to be illegal because I don’t want my loved ones to be murdered, we should focus on the agreed upon end point, not on the different paths we took to get to the same answer.

Here are the words shared by my old friend and teacher:

A lot of our laws are based in religious traditions; that’s just a fact and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing as long as they (the laws) help us to become more truly human–in the best sense–in our dealings with one another. But it seems to me, both as a theist and a humanist, that that’s where we are called to use our intelligence (if you’re a Catholic like me, our “God-given” intelligence, and if not our “innate” intelligence–it really makes no difference!) to discern: does this action, does this law, does this policy make me, us , our community, more deeply and authentically human? History teaches us through long and terrible consequences, that wrapping one’s faith in the a flag or encasing one’s constitution in scripture rarely ends well. It frequently denigrates both faith and constitution, and destroys the possibility of the healthy dialogue that can spring from the encounter of various spheres of human experience and understanding. Unfortunately, too many of our fellow citizens are willing to do both. I don’t see it ending well for either faith or flag.

We are living in somewhat frightening times. We have elected officials using the Bible to justify separating children from their parents. Parents who brought their children here for a better life. I listened to Jeff Sessions’s statement, live, and it made me so sad. Then I watched a recorded version of Sarah Huckabee Sanders defending his statement, and saying that the Bible supports following laws, which justifies the action.

I’ve mentioned moral licensing on this site before, in a discussion about religious symbols. When it comes to Sanders, it’s always hard for me to know when she’s just doing her job, and when she believes what she’s saying, but in this case, I wonder if there isn’t some moral licensing at play. She’s the daughter of a Pastor. It makes me wonder if she feels that her sense of the Bible is so supported by her family history, that she can do no wrong. Her religious ties are so deep, that she doesn’t have to follow things that well because she’s at no risk of being ousted (by God or her Church). I don’t know what’s in her head, and I don’t know if she’s just going out there and doing what she’s told, but if it’s the latter, that must be an awful job. I watched her get asked how, as a mother, she can have no empathy for the parents and children being separated, and all she could do was try to change the subject. I believe it hurts her soul. I really do.

I could write plenty on how horrible the policy is. I could write paragraph after paragraph about how it’s inhumane, and how it’s not who we’re supposed to be, but we live in a democratically elected republic. The people elected Donald Trump, and without Congress providing any checks on his power, there’s little that can stop this, and perhaps that’s what his voters wanted. That’s sad, but it’s not the first time a country has acted badly, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I’ll let a priest on twitter have the final word here. This makes my heart heavy.


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