TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
February 18, 2017
Headline got your attention? I thought so.
First let me say that my intent is not to promote the idea that all Americans need to convert to Islam. That’s a personal choice. Me, I’m an atheist. I want as little as possible to do with any form of religion. But I use the headline not to make a point about Islam, but about right-wing Christianity.
My children, like my wife and I, are also atheists. One day earlier this week, one of my daughters was at school, debating with a bunch of other students whether or not America is a “Christian nation.” (Living in rural Virginia, this is often a topic of conversation.)
My daughter, who knows her United States history, reminded this group that nowhere in the US Constitution (or in the Federalist Papers) is God or Christianity mentioned. And she remembered John Adams’ comment that the US “Is not, in any sense, a nation founded on the Christian religion.”
“That’s the problem with you liberals,” one kid opined.” You get so upset at the mention of God. If you don’t believe in him, why does it even bother you that it’s in the Pledge of Allegiance?”
To which my daughter answered, “So why don’t we just change it to one nation under Allah? It still means god, and if you don’t believe in it, what difference would it make?”
At this, the other kid angrily stormed off. Which brings me to my point. Many right-wing Christians in America aren’t interested in any religion but their own.
And that is why America faces a far greater danger to democracy from right-wing Christianity than from any Islamist terrorist. It’s not that we don’t face dangers from a terrorist attack by an Islamist, because we do. No doubt there are misguided individuals planning attacks at this moment. The hope is that American security agencies like the FBI will continue to discover these plots and prevent them before they take place.
But the danger from the Christian right is twofold.
On the one hand there is also danger of a terrorist attack by a Christian. Just this week the FBI arrested an individual in South Carolina who was planning to attack non-white and Jewish institutions and murder as many people as possible. Reportedly, he planned his attack a tribute to the white-supremacist murderer Dylan Roof, who last year killed nine African-Americans in a Charleston South Carolina church. There have been more attacks in the past decade in the United States by white supremacist and racist terrorists than there have been attacks by extremist Islamists.
Yet it is the other danger that is in fact more insidious and potentially damaging to democracy. And that is the kind of danger presented by American Vice President Michael Pence. The Huffington Post described Pence as ”perhaps one of the most anti-LGBTQ evangelical Christian political crusaders to serve in Congress and as governor of a state:”
‘Long before he signed the draconian anti-LGBTQ “religious liberty” law in Indiana last year, he supported “conversion therapy” as a member of Congress. Later, as a columnist and radio host, he said in a speech that marriage equality would lead to “societal collapse,” and called homosexuality “a choice.” Stopping gays from marrying wasn’t biased, he said, but was rather about compelling “God’s idea.”’
Pence isn’t the only member of the Trump administration who is anti-LGBTQ. His housing secretary Ben Carson, and unofficial advisor Newt Gingrich, have both made statements against gays, lesbians and transgender individuals.
And it’s not just on the issue of homosexuality. Expect this administration to constantly push religious rights over rights guaranteed to all Americans in the Constitution. There are more than a few members of Congress who adhere to to Dominionist values. Dominion theology is a form of Christian nationalism that seeks have the United States governed by Christians where laws are based on Christian understandings of biblical law. Not every right-wing Christian is a Dominionist, but all Dominionists are right-wing Christians.
It’s for this reason that I hope nothing happens to Donald Trump. While Pres. Trump may be an infantile, ego-obsessed, whining, celebrity president, he is not a Dominionist. In fact, he’s probably barely a Christian. To Trump, religion is just another tool that he uses to convince people that he’s on their side.
This is not the case with Mike Pence. A future administration run by the current vice president would be one that endangers many civil liberties now enjoyed by Americans. It would be a dream come true for the far-right, especially considering that conservatives now control all levers of government in the United States.
This is why far-right Christianity is a far greater danger to this country than any Islamicist threat. The terrorists who run Islamic state or Al-Qaeda aren’t interested in taking over America. They use terrorist attacks as a means to scare Americans away from the parts of the world they do want to control. Dominionists, on the other hand, are absolutely interested in taking over and running the country according to their twisted values. (If you want to get a taste of what this might be like, read Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, which is now being turned into a serialized TV show on Hulu. The timing could not be more appropriate.)
The genius of the founding fathers was that they recognize the danger of institutionalized religion. Many of them, or their parents, had come to America to escape religious persecution, so they created a country where many religions could bloom without interference from government, but where no one religion would supersede the others.
If Americans are going to remain true to their vision, we need to be vigilant about what people like Mike Pence plan to do.
Copyright Tom Regan 2017
Contact Tom Regan: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Long List of Murders Committed by White Extremists Since the Oklahoma City Bombing, Slate:
Why President Trump Isn’t Anti-Gay Enough for the Religious Right, the Daily Beast:
FBI: White Supremacist Says He Planned to Kill Jews ‘In the Spirit of Dylann Roof’, the Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/16/fbi-white-supremacist-says-he-planned-to-kill-jews-in-the-spirit-of-dylann-roof.html
Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.
Return to Tom Regan’s page
Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.