First published on Christian Converser
The big news in the USA in the last few weeks has been the possibility of the conservative-dominated Supreme Court repealing current federal abortion law (Roe v Wade). This is far from an open-and-shut case for theologians, despite the widespread support for this direction from conservative evangelicals in the US and worldwide. That’s because the USA in general, as noted in previous blog posts, has its own distinct form of theology compared to most other Western countries and that form can be clearly seen to be inevitably pointing away from democracy and inexorably towards theocracy, the idea that America should be ruled by a Christian government. To achieve a credible form of democracy in any country, it must be the case that political neutrality in all arms of the Government is cherished and protected at all costs. That is certainly not the case in the modern USA, and whether it was ever the case, or intended to be as such by the creators of the US Constitutional and political system, is the subject of heated and ongoing debate in society worldwide. The US Supreme Court in order to reach this point of repealing the law of the past 50 years, relies heavily on the appointment of conservative justices known to favour this repeal, thus implicitly endorsing political bias in the judiciary that would never be accepted in other bastions of Western democracy, like the UK, or even in NZ.
This can be taken as being a relevant example regardless of one’s personal perspective on the abortion issue. Another example of where conservative political bias is becoming blatantly entrenched is in the response to ongoing racial issues in US society. The conservative campaign against critical race theory is permeating into all levels of public institutions and leaving massive disharmony and creating more harm and division that it purports to solve. There is an obvious political benefit to conservatives who choose to sideline racial reconciliation in US society and this has in the past included Christians who believed strongly in and endorsed segregation in the Southern States as recently as the 1960s. It’s unlikely that conservatives will stop flexing their newfound political muscle in the nation’s highest court or their ability in Republican-led states to influence and control voting processes in their favour – Trump’s campaign to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election results has had the outcome of resulting in more stringent electoral processes in key conservative states, making it ever more difficult to ensure free and fair elections to the various offices of Federal government, and the right-leaning in the Supreme Court helps to ensure that such measures go unchecked.
It is well and truly time for Christians in the United States and elsewhere to stop and take a hard look at why they are so keen for a theocratic form of government to be brought in to lead the so-called free world. Dominionism, a theogical viewpoint which has been explored in this blog on numerous previous occasions, is very much a distinctive of conservatism evangelicalism in America but like other questionable doctrines, it enjoys little weight outside the country. The oft-cited reason why dominionism and theocratic government are held to be an important goal for conservative US Christians is that with the institution of faith under constant and ever growing attack from secularism, this is supposedly the appropriate response to protect this faith and the institution of Christianity in general. However, there is clear evidence that following such a path of governance of the American nation’s affairs will not have a positive impact on the growth of the church in general. This is because clear evidence from academic studies supports what missionaries have long known: that churches grow under persecution. Hence, establishing America under theocratic governance is not going to be beneficial to the furthering of church objectives in evangelism in the United States. When a church becomes part of the political establishment and gains a monopoly dominance over other churches and religions, it becomes flabby and stagnant, and experiences long-term decline.
The direction of theocracy in which US conservative evangelicals have leaned for many years is just a repeat of the earlier experience in Church history in previous millennia elsewhere in the world (most in Europe, where the Roman Catholic Church became a state religion. But in the modern era, the RCC has enjoyed a distinct declining membership trend, undoubtedly due to its conservative theological stances in a number of questionable areas. The assumption that theocracy and dominionism are important and necessary goals for the Church in America to pursue is highly questionable for reasons outlined above, and is, in fact, a component of patriotic pride about America’s place in the world including the assumption that the nation is born to lead. Ultimately, however, this misplaced position will simply lead the US to repeat the mistakes of its predecessors.