“Ironically, in the land that prizes the legal separation of church and state, the identification of church and sub-culture, each with its political agenda, is nearly total: white suburban evangelicals, the Black church, mainline social gospels, and the more recent ‘new urbanism’ of the emergent movement.”
This statement seems to imply that there exists something of a “suggested theocracy” in our American context insofar as certain cultural and political agendas are identified with the Church. I think he is absolutely right on, of course. I find this statement hugely insightful and useful to make the case that American religion is about as confused and mixed up in its conflation of the traditions of men with the Gospel as Jesus’ own Pharisees. It helps make the case against all forms of social and political gospels. This is also a thesis of A Secular Faith.
Yet, when it is observed by Canada’s former ambassador to the United States, Frank McKenna that, “Right now the United States is in many ways a theocratic state, not dissimilar to some of the other religious states in the world where religion has a huge part to play in government,” Riddlebarger misses the point and interprets, “I’ll bet our theonomist friends would be surprised to learn that a theonomic state already exists. I guess Canada has fallen so far that the presence of any Christians in government is taken as ‘proof’ of a theocracy.”
Clever. But McKenna’s words were “in many ways,” which were a cue to the notion of the “covert theocracy” Horton explicitly points out—not an overt or realized theocracy. Does Riddlebarger really think that McKenna meant to say we live in a realized theocracy? This is the whole point of McKenna’s words, to point out that which is not so obvious. If McKenna really meant to say we live in a realized theocracy, the “former” in his title is more than apt. It isn’t that because there are “Christians in government,” which “proves” a theocracy. It is more when a presidential candidate says his favorite philosopher is Jesus Christ to the cheers of those who seem to think Jesus Christ has something directly to do with the American project (and I won’t bunny trail by addressing the whole notion of His being a “philosopher.” But, yeow). And what is meant that “Canada has fallen so far”? Is it because of the socialized medicine or that gay marriage is recognized? Is it to imply that America stands head and shoulders above all other nations because she can produce everything from Britney Spears to Tom Perkins to Monica Lewinsky?
I take Riddlebarger to read McKenna’s words as just more religious prejudice meant to heap upon American Christians, which, frankly, I would expect from those cranky about the fact that the implied theocracy is more implied than theocracy. If Riddlebarger would champion Horton’s consistent observances that the American religious landscape is rife with these sorts of conflations and is a big part of our problem anymore, I am puzzled as to this sort of take. If McKenna is just another religious bigot piling on sarcastic scorn, then who and what is Horton talking about? He must be hallucinating, since everybody knows we separate church and state.