Book review: Blueprint for Theocracy: The Christian Right’s Vision for America
by James C. Sanford
For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king. –Isaiah 33:22
This stuff frightens me. Sanford approaches the topic of the Religious Right much like a journalist struggling mightily to remain unbiased. This goal is too lofty, and though he gives it a good try, the inherent danger of merging church and state nevertheless surfaces in his writing.
The word “theocracy” merely means a form of government where God is in control. It sounds wonderful, until the question arises of who speaks for God. Sanford’s book is the history of the growth of the Religious Right and its infiltration into government, from the Moral Majority through today’s time. It’s deeply researched, written intelligently and straightforwardly, with strong reference material.
Is Christian Reconstructionism, ala Rushdoony’s The Institutes of Biblical Law, really dead? How about Abraham Kuyper’s Christian Worldview? Are personalities like Francis Shaeffer, James Dobson and Charles Colson really under control? By 1984, Pat Robertson, an extremely popular evangelist, was insisting that only Christians and Jews are qualified to govern the nation, and that “God’s people would soon hold sway in Washington.”
Should we fear the emergence of organizations such as the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) or the Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) who run their fingers through politics? How about politicians such as Palin, Bachmann and Gingrich who see politics as a battle against secular America?
The fear runs both directions. In 1980, Timothy LaHaye predicted that without a Christian awakening, humanists would achieve their “goal of a complete world takeover by the year 2000.” How did we get so polarized in politics? Will the culture war ever end? Sanford argues that secularism is not hatred of religion; pluralism is not anarchy; tolerance is not indulgence; autonomy is not rebellion. There is nothing to war over. Yet all these are imagined by the Christian Right as undermining a Christian Nation.
Sanford traces the assumption of Divine authority back to Calvin. “Supreme authority makes demands that must be obeyed at all costs, however unreasonable or unpalatable its directives may appear on their face.” The ultimate goal for such Christians is salvation in another world, sometimes reflecting a lack of concern for this world … for the sooner things spiral out of control, the sooner Christ will return.
This book is a probing but necessary read. Still, the solution to ending the culture war is unclear, and it leaves me feeling nervous.
Metacomet Books, © 2014, 278 pages