BY DON NELSON
Mom, when she would hear me retort, “Everybody does it,” would not hesitate to ask, “If every body decided to jump off a cliff would you follow?”
I used to get so very angry – because I had no sensible and rational response. My argument for misbehavior or interrupted excitement seemed taken away in that simple query.
Today we have a situation where that question needs to be asked, again and again. Sincere, oft-times well-meaning churchgoers simply follow along because that’s what “believers” do.
The institutional church is today under attack by forces way more potent than anything I can possibly muster. The wealth of prosperity coupled with a willingness to support “the church” has enabled a very intentional and ill-mannered group of evangelicals committed to restructuring all mainline denominations as well as the very essence of our government.
An example of one such group is IRD. This is an excerpt taken from their website:
“The Institute on Religion and Democracy is a faith-based alliance of Christians who monitor, comment, and report on issues affecting the Church. We seek to reform the Church’s role in public life, protect religious freedom, and support democracy at home and abroad.”
Sounds reasonably innocuous but reading further reveals something more: Religious liberty is at the core of this group – not as you might think but as they interpret it. For them religious liberty means being at liberty to enforce, coerce or otherwise reconstruct the world according to the vision they have created.
“Today millions of followers of Christ suffer brutal persecution. But much of the Western church has been unaware of or apathetic toward the plight of their fellow believers around the world. IRD is a voice for Christians persecuted in Marxist/Stalinist regimes like North Korea, China, Vietnam, and Cuba, as well as in Islamist controlled or influential nations. We shine a light on the abuse of Christians in countries such as India, Nepal, and Russia, where religion and nationalism are closely related.”
In her book, The Neo-Conservative Offensive, Ana Maria Ezcurra says that “the IRD institutional, financial and personal relationships suggest the presence of a specific strategy toward the religious field.” She suggests it is a strategy designed to delegitimize church leadership in the eyes of its constituents and to cause schisms in church boards and agencies.
The IRD claims it is “not just another research organization,” but disseminates information and “assists religious groups who are developing foreign affairs programs and who want to avoid the excesses of the Right and the Left.”
Author Sara Diamond – an expert on the religious right – claims that this is a misleading statement. Diamond writes, “The Institute is comprised almost entirely of long-time neoconservative ideologues and recycled academic cold warriors.” As such, the IRD is stridently anti-communist.
Author John Swomley calls the IRD a rightwing political organization and states that it “has been the chief defender of American imperialism and military power around the world.”
Enough about IRD – let us look at another group. It is called WallBuilders. An evangelical pseudo-Christian group. It was founded by David Barton, an American evangelical Christian minister, conservative activist and author. WallBuilders is a Texas-based organization that promotes the view that it is a “myth” that the U.S. Constitution insists on separation of church and state.
Barton is the former vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas. He has been described as a Christian nationalist and “one of the foremost Christian revisionist historians;” much of his work is devoted to advancing the idea, based upon research that many historians describe as flawed, that the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation.
Barton collects early American documents, and his official biography describes him as “an expert in historical and constitutional issues.” Barton holds no formal credentials in history or law, and scholars dispute the accuracy and integrity of his assertions about history, accusing him of practicing misleading historical revisionism, “pseudo scholarship” and spreading “outright falsehoods.”
It would serve all of us to do more research on these and other movements that are linked together by the singular motivation to reconstruct our national identity into something that no one has previously sought – a making of a Theocratic United States of America.
The quotes I have selected from the 35 Founding Father are from perhaps the most vilified of our Founders. He is the one that these people love to denigrate most severely. Consider these words from Thomas Jefferson:
“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” – Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813
“Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. We have solved … the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.” – Thomas Jefferson, in a speech to the Virginia Baptists, 1808
– Don Nelson lives in Lawton, OK and is an occasional contributor to The Oklahoma Observer