June 2017

 There has been so much talk about Islamic "sharia law" recently, that I thought I'd read up on it. As I studied the description, it seemed vaguely familiar. I tried changing a few words and sentences here and there, and this is what I got. I knew it sounded familiar.

 Christian Conservatism (CC)  is a religious-political philosophy arising from certain aspects of the "christian" tradition. It is derived from the religious precepts of Christianity, particularly from carefully selected passages from the New and Old Testaments of the Judeo-Christian Bible, and from later "illuminations" by its adherents.  Those who subscribe to CC see it as God's immutable divine law, and they contrast it with human scholarly and other rational interpretations of society and government, and with the beliefs of other religious cults. Although the manner of its application in modern times has been a subject of dispute between various of those who consider themselves "christian," in America the advocates of CC seem to be winning out.

   Traditionally, all Christians recognized  a clear distinction between their religion and civic government, expressed by the saying "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's" (as spoken by their prophet, Jesus: Book of Mark, 12:17, Christian New Testament). They felt an urging to make their religion known to everybody ("Go out on the highways and byways, and compel them to come in:" Book of Luke 14:23, Christian New Testament), but seemed to accept that their job ended after they had spread the word, and whether or not people accepted "christian" ways was a matter of free personal choice. ("If they don't accept your words, shake the dust off your feet, and move on:" Luke 10:14). The "Founding Fathers" of the United States - although few of them considered themselves "christian" - thought this a fair way to treat religion, and wrote it into the new nation's Constitution (freedom of - and from - religion: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof:"  First Amendment)

   As have Moslems with their Islamic "sharia law," American CCers for a time generally accepted the dichotomy of the "render unto Caesar" concept. Both acknowledged the overall legal laws that applied to all citizens, but also had a personal, family law for members of their cult. This family law, which was essentially a code of conduct for members, varied widely among the various sub-cults, and might include anything, such as food that could be eaten, clothes that could be worn, what one could do on various days of the weeks, what recreational activities were permitted, the jobs of men and women, and basic family planning. With some notable exceptions (e.g., the Massachusetts Bay Colony), the sub-cults of American christianity were content (or, at least, resigned) to keep their behavioral mores to themselves.

   Late in the 20th Century, the CCers began to change. Like many religious cults, the CCers came to believe that their ways were right, not just for themselves, but for everyone. In their obsession, they reduced everyone else's beliefs and codes to fairy tales, fantasy, or errant teaching - not willing to understand that those outside their cult felt just the same about the CCers' obsessions. Regardless, while denigrating and abhorring the attempts of a small sub-cult of Islam to force everyone to accept their "laws," the CCers began actively seeking to make CC the law of the American land. They were able to make considerable headway for a number of reasons.

   1. They were able to take advantage of, and play upon, the fear American lawmakers from early in the Nation's history have felt - despite the separation of Church and State foundation of our country - of being considered non-religious by religious people. Although some did not even believe in a God, and most of the rest only thought of God as a concept, they wrongly believed that most Americans would not vote for anyone they thought might be an "atheist." This led to regular and cumulative bows to religion - that really should be considered un-American -  like tax exemptions for strictly religious expenses and activities, and development within the Government of "faith-based" programs.

   2. Those who were the true "Constitutionalists" (meaning that they thought the First Amendment meant what it said) and those who really didn't want religion to intrude into the political arena, were slow to see the dangers of a politically-active cult. A lot of religious concepts entered our political system because these folks were asleep at the switch.

  3. Political conservatives and religious conservatives found that they could use one another to mutual advantage. Political conservatives talked a good religious talk, and convinced many of the christians that they would help make America a theocracy. Many religious people voted for them because they used nice religious words. The organized CCers were not so naive, but knew they had a better chance of making political strides with the conservatives than they would make with more liberal or moderate lawmakers. They were right.

   The role of sharia law is being contested around the world, not only in Muslim countries and communities, but also in areas where splinter groups of Islam are trying to enforce it on non-Muslim populations. The spread of CC to Americans who want no part of it continues to be a serious danger, also, particularly now that the cult controls the Supreme Court and both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. Whether or not the move toward an American theocracy can be thwarted is an open question at this time.




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