Theocratizing America: Is there room anymore for Human Rights in America?

American democracy with its focus on equity and fairness for all is now more ideal than reality. Gone is our value in a secular society where people of all faiths worship with equal treatment by the government and without persecution.  As a Wiccan minister and high priestess (with a marriage officiant license for the City of New York), I am very concerned with 2012's trend towards theocracy and away from democracy.


The Bill of Rights arose from a specific historical context:  the Protestant Reformation.  During the Reformation religious wars broke out.  State sponsored religion meant secular governments actively persecuted and executed individuals whose conscience diviated from the official national religion.


Whether European emigrants were ultra-conservative Congregationists (aka "Puritans"), Friends (aka Quakers and Shakers), Roman Catholics, Jews, or French protestants (aka Hugonauts), colonial America was repeatedly settled by individuals facing some sort of faith-based persecution.


Americans are proud of this heritage, while barely understanding the social and historical context behind it.  Few are aware that most of the colonies had official state religions.  For example, Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut were Congregationist; Jews, Roman Catholics, Anglicans (aka Episcopalians), Quakers, etc were forbiddent to live in those colonies.


Surviving the War of Independence until it became too expensive for the Crown to continue (the United States did not, strictly speaking, win the American War for Independence -- merely made it so expensive that Parliament voted to end it in 1783) made Americans very sensitive to the religion question and the need to abolish state-sponsored religion. Our cherished First Amendment arose out of that experience with co-mingling of church and state.  18th century Americans understood that true freedom requires a truly secular government.


How poorly, it would seem, are those critical lessons from history remembered.  Slightly more than 500 years after Luther and 400 after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, religion is encroaching once more into our secular government.


Living in Pennsylvania, I saw it first hand this year when the state government here passed a formal law supporting and promoting the Bible.  Whether you realize it or not, it's been "The Year of the Bible" for all of 2012 -- with no hint that 2013 will be the year of some other religion.


Christianity, it would seem, will soon be the official religion of Pennsylvania.  Should that happen, I will have to flee this state for my life.  I worship and honor the Mother Goddess of the Old Religion of the Celts.  I honor Nature and constantly seek to better understand my Irish heritage (one branch of my mother's family emigrated from Ireland during the Potato Famine).  I see nothing criminal about that.  Why shouldn't I, as an American with roots stretching back into colonial times not expect the state to stay out of my religious affairs and allow me to follow my own conscience?  If I wish to honor divinity as female, why should that be criminalized?


And yet as a woman my sheer existance is being more and more criminalized.  We saw it with Congressman Akin claiming that if a rape is actually rape, then she cannot get pregnant.  We saw it with proposals in the south to jail women who miscarry their babies -- on the grounds that a women only miscarry if they don't want to carry their babies to term (knowing women who have suffered miscarriages I vehemately disagree with this; all of them mourned and fell into months of depression after miscarriage!).


We are now seeing this with Charlie Fuqua in Arkansas, a man running for state government who proposed executing children for rebelliousness -- his justification being a verse in Deuteronomy. 


The Bible is becoming a weapon this year against women and children.


The irony is that all of this flies in fierce opposition to the teachings attributed to Jesus.  In those teachings, Jesus repeatedly affirmed human rights for women, children, and the powerless in society.   Jesus taught the perils of legalism and Biblical literalism and the importance of compassion, mercy, and what amounts to common sense.  Jesus elevated the disadvantaged and criticised the powerful.  


If it's popular to ask "what would Jesus do?" then the clear answer is that he would STRENGTHEN laws protecting women and children, not erode them.  Jesus would INCREASE secularzation of our society as a means of protecting the innocent.  Jesus would actively prosecute rapists and protect Survivors of crimes, especially sexual crimes.


Jesus was pro-woman and intolerant of domestic violence, rape, and incest.


And so, coming out of Evangelical Christianity (my final break with the church came as an undergraduate) and finding my compassionate and loving Goddess, I remain incredulous that those who most fiercely tout the Bible and Christianity are primarily the ones who have the most problems promoting the agenda and beliefs of Jesus.


Jesus was a kind teacher, a man of honor, integrity, and compassion -- not unlike many spiritual men across the religions of the world.  He would have been an terrific arch druid had he been born in Eire (Ireland).


The horrible irony here is that those who are most against what Jesus taught are not Muslims or Buddhists or Wiccans -- but those who claim to act in the name of Jesus.


Maybe, just maybe, I am a better follower and disciple of Christ as a Wiccan than I ever could be as a Christian!


Laurel A. Rockefeller, author

The Great Succession Crisis

E-Book ISBN: 9781476243344
Print book ISBN: 978-1479144808

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