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In light of all of the recent discussion about Theocracy, I have been reflecting on some things. This issue goes to the core of our identity as a nation, and harsh lines are drawn on each side. At stake is our freedom... the freedom to think, vote and worship as we please, as well as the freedom to be free of established religion or religious coercion. Traditional religionists accuse the secular left of bigotry and narrow-mindedness, while the secular left thinks that the traditional religionists are out to overthrow the republic and erect a government by clergy.

I couldn't help but be reminded of the early days of the American labor movement, and the red-baiting era. Back in the early twentieth century, many parts of mainstream America were terrified of the labor movement. It's leaders were said to be Communists and Anarchists, out to overthrow the government and expropriate the wealth of the landed gentry. They were anti-democratic it was said, and had no respect for the natural rights of men, or our freedoms. If you followed the anti-labor propaganda of the era, the labor movement seemed as if it were some enormous criminal enterprise, plotting the destruction of American culture and civilization.

On it's face we can see that the propaganda was false. The labor movement resulted in unprecedented prosperity for the United States, and a standard of living unrivaled in the world. Prior to the labor movement, American capitalism was efficient at producing goods, but poor at creating markets. The business cycle was marked by rapidly alternating periods of chaotic over-production and recession. Once a piece of the pie was given to the workers themselves, they were able to purchase ever increasing amounts of those same goods, and the consumer-driven economy was born. Offhand I can't think of much of a down-side to the labor movement, except for the fact that it's nearly gone today.

So what about the propaganda? Was it a bunch of lies? Not at all. Many of the most outspoken labor leaders of the time were Communists, Anarchists and other associated leftists. The sources these folks derived their ideology from often advocated the violent overthrow of governments and the confiscation of property. The leaders were accused of wanting to establish a worker's state wherein class and property would be abolished. They were accused of working outside of the system, and of being opposed to the Constitution and law. The accusers were correct in some cases, but despite it all... the republic survived. In fact, we never even came close to a worker's revolution in the United States. There were incidents here and there, to be sure, but the massive civil strife that other societies in that era witnessed were wholly absent from the American scene. There are good reasons it never happened here. Despite the fact that some leaders were pretty far to the left, the rank and file largely saw no benefit in throwing the baby out with the bath water. The rank and file just wanted a fair shake regarding wages, hours and benefits, and eventually they got it.

Did the propaganda add to the dialogue or detract from it? Red-baiting and persecution saw the forcible arrest, murder and deportation of many American labor leaders. Paranoia ran high, and "conspiracy theories" were relentlessly put forth by the minions of the ruling class. The folks that bought into these frequently took the law into their own hands, often creating a backlash from the labor movement, and tit-for-tat violence was common. While it could be argued that it was a responsible act to put information about the motives of the labor movement into the public sphere, the fear-mongering and hyperbole associated with it caused unnecessary harm and confusion. The irony is that what probably defused the labor movement more than any right-wing propaganda sheet ever could was the very prosperity that the workers finally achieved. Once they had something to lose, they had no interest in hard-core left-wing politics.

I couldn't help but equate all of this with the so-called "dominionists" today. Like the labor movement, apparently a few of the leaders of the religious right have visions of a utopia beyond the constraints of Constitution and law, and also like the labor movement, the rank and file largely want no part of it, but they do want a fair shake... they want to be free to practice their religion unmolested and they want their voices heard in the political arena. Like the reactionaries of yore, the secular left speaks of these folks in conspiratorial tones, and accuses them of wanting to expropriate our spiritual and cultural property.

The fear-mongering and hyperbole I see today regarding the "dominionists" is ironic in that it reminds me of the same arguments that were used against the left two or three generations ago... the leaders are anti-democratic, these sorts of people shouldn't have the right to vote, they have no right to bring their issues into the public discussion, they don't respect our values, they want to take things away from us, they should be deported, why don't they just shut up and be grateful,  etc etc. Back in the early twentieth century, people used to produce big and fancy charts diagramming how the left-wing labor organizers were going to influence and subvert people (including you and your neighbors) and eventually take over and establish tyranny. Today we see articles by certain members of the secular left about the "dominionists" that describe the same the "hard-core" will affect the "soft-core" who will convince the "evangelicals" and on and on.

The fact is, few if any traditional religious people would ever consent to an extra-Constitutional society. Like you, we have far too much to lose. Also, like the left back then, we are fragmented into many sub-groups who can scarcely agree on anything anyway. The in-fighting and splintering between the Communists, Socialists and Anarchists was orderly compared to the in-fighting among the religious segments of society today.

The point is, we should try to avoid hyperbole and fear-mongering when discussing or engaging these folks. The most powerful arguments against Communism were calm, rational and well-supported, and they spoke to the listener's self-interest. Likewise we are more likely to win these folks over by calmly engaging them, finding common ground, and when possible, making a place for them in our party.

As a traditional religionist, I find it distressing that the left as a whole is so terribly uncomfortable with religion and religious people. We are marginalized, suspected, and avoided. If we make a mention of something religious, fear and ostracism ensue, with cries of "theocracy" and "tyranny". Sometimes I feel like a Wobblie at a DAR meeting!

Fear is always bad... it clouds our judgement and de-humanizes the "other". It reduces us to our worst instincts. It makes the "other" an object to be reviled, rather than a soul to be embraced. Let's stand up for ourselves as we see fit, but without fear and hate... inshAllah (God willing).

Originally posted to mosesfreeman on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 03:49 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Gotta do something about that title... (4.00)
    it sounds too much like a fifties band!
    •  I'd pay to see'em...., (none)
      if the cover wasn't too high.

      "My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives." Hedley(not Hedy) Lamar

      by irate on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 03:55:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This was his band..., (none)
      after he broke with the Comets?

      "My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives." Hedley(not Hedy) Lamar

      by irate on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 04:08:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  this is a good diary, mosesfreeman (none)
      You are so right: Fear-based overstatement isn't helpful or conducive to forging new lines of communication with far-right Christians or anyone, and if we fail to keep that foremost in mind, we simply won't get anywhere.

      It's equally important to keep in mind that Dominionism remains a serious and growing problem--it poses a threat not only to American democracy as we know it--but it has become a threat to the mainline Christian churches and traditions with which you identify, in addition to the church on the Christian left. (For instance, for years the flourishing nondenominational megachurches have been having a profoundly negative effect on mainline church attendance, but that was mostly unintentional: now they're on the attack--see link below.)

      Dominionst theology, bottom line, threatens all of our nation's traditions, both secular and the sacred, and that is why--perhaps now more than ever--it's so important to stay alert and informed. I'm afraid you might be blowing off the "Dominionist problem" as just so much fear-mongering (not hard to do if you haven't quite assimilated the whole picture) so I'm linking you to two websites on the subject that I have found the most informative, well-written, well-presented, and most of all, scrupulously ethical: no hysteria, no over-the-top panic buttoning or chicken-little routines, just the facts and the sources from which they derived. It's my hope--if my descriptions of these websites are compelling enough to make you click on the links--that on these sites you'll find new pieces of the Dominionst puzzle to ponder before you make up your mind about what it all means (or doesn't mean) to you, your faith, or your country.

      First, I urge you to check out Frederick Clarkson's blog; I bet you'll find the discussion there of no small interest to you. I don't know Frederick Clarkson personally, but I am a big fan. I became a fan because I read his book and found him to be one of the most informed and astute authors writing about the Christian far-right today--and believe me, I've read them all. Plus he's a humble guy and seemingly down to earth; somehow he manages to keep a sense of humor about the whole thing. Here's a link to some information about his book: Eternal Hostilities: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Fred's a proponent of constructive outreach, and here on dkos (he posts from time to time) I have seen him at pains to warn Kossacks against lapsing into fear or stereotype or demonization--if for no other reason than it's utterly counterproductive if building bridges is the goal. He's a good egg, and I hope you'll check him out.

      Finally--briefly before I lose your attention--I strongly recommend the diaries of dailykos poster troutfishing, and especially his diary from yesterday, Saturday, February 11 entitled UNPRECEDENTED: Outing the Campaign to Destroy the Liberal Faith which addresses the far-right's attack on mainline churches as well.

      Troutfishing (Bruce Wilson) is an indefatigable reporter/chronicler of the Christian far right. He posts to dailykos frequently and has a terrific blog of his own called Talk To Action. Talk To Action is packed with info (with links to source material) about Dominionism and its theological godfather(s); its early incarnations; its beliefs concerning governance in this country and elsewhere; and its far-reaching political activities and the (sometimes surprising) organizations that fund them. You'll also find lots of meaty contributions by published authors (Fredrick Clarkson for one), members of the clergy (including our own Pastor Dan), and everyday citizens with a point of view, just like you and me. The tone is measured, intelligent and thoughtful; I promise you, you won't find any fear-mongering or demonization on this website. I hope you'll check it out.


      Is nothing secular?

      by aitchdee on Sun Feb 12, 2006 at 08:59:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As a woman with many gay friends (4.00)
    I think I have a right to be afraid of religious people.

    Even the ones who are not extremists, will what's wrong with a little prayer at school?

    Even the moderates don't seem to think it is so bad to declare America a "Christian" country.

    I see the harm however.

    No one can prove that any God exists, let alone the God their own religion says he/she is and wants.

    So when religious people say things like God only wants heteros to form families, I say Bullshit, since no one can prove that God said anything to anyone ever.

    I am fine with people being religious at home, at church, at private school, in the car, anywhere but in my government's laws.

    Sorry, I am afraid of most religious people.
    Afraid for my own rights.

    •  na... (none)
      take japan as an expamle, generally speaking, japanese is much less religous than Americans. but with little religion involved in the government, that bring the case of "Yasukuni shrine". the PM of japan keeping visiting the shrine under the name of religion. and there's sparks between Japan, South Korea and China(including taiwan)..
        if our war in Iraq get Christians 'formally' invovled, I wonder how will that apmlify the anger of muslims..    honestly speaking, christians have confess most of it's crime against other culture and  religion..u may say it's not 'my' sin,  but not others.. don't u know how many ppl is thinking christian is a sinful religion and should be peacefully end if possible...  there are a lot of difference in the world, no more I, my, me... think about our friends .. and most of all, think about our enemies.. we are here as whole.. don't split us by ur believe. thanks..

      we learn from mistakes

      by changemyname on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 04:19:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Huh (4.00)
       I've seen some people talk about "Dominionism", but it's always seemed to me like an unnecessarily narrow target -- sort of like the White Supremacists.  My problems are not with "Dominionists", or with any other particular sect of fundamentalism -- it's with fundamentalism as a whole.  Fundamentalism isn't "traditional", it's a very modern invention, with most of its characteristics evolving -- in plain sight -- in the last couple of decades.  The highly politicized, paranoid pseudo-Christian fundamentalism of the present is a development of the period from the late 1970s onward.

       I don't see fundamentalism as religion; I do not take the excesses of fundamentalism as a stick to beat religion in general with, and I have great respect for all religious traditions, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or other -- but by the same token, I have no intent of allowing fundamentalism to hide behind respect for religion.  

        Fundamentalism isn't a religion, or even a sect; it's an infectious disease of religion, which if allowed to proceed unhindered, will infest the whole body of a religion.  Unwilling to let other sects alone, modern fundamentalists, from the al-Qa'idah-linked Wahhabis and Salafis to the Scaife-funded IRD actively seek to subvert every related sect.  Al-Qa'idah seeks to turn all Muslims into Wahhabi extremists.  IRD wants to turn all Episcopalians, Methodists, and Presbyterians into Republican-friendly extremists -- that's why they're pushing their anti-gay agenda so hard, because they figure it's a point on which they can split these churches (which are, by the way, far more traditional than most fundamentalist churches).

       The raison d'etre of fundamentalism isn't religion, it's politics.  The point is to establsh a society in which a tiny minority of people, approved by certain committees, gets to enforce a draconian set of pseudo-moral standards upon everyone else.  Fundamentalism is no different from Communism or Naziism; it simply cloaks itself in religion to disguise its true nature.

       I see no reason to allow a party of extremist ideology the protections that are intended to be given to real religions.  We need an absolute separation of political activity and church activity.  When pastors endorse candidates, when churches tell their parishioners how to vote, they are acting as political organizations and should be openly treated as such, not allowed to hide behind the cloak of religion.

       In the long run, we need an open and active campaign against fundamentalism that reveals its essential anti-democratic nature.  Unfortunately, too few politicians have the guts to take on this growing constituency for dictatorship.

    •  I'm a pretty harsh anti-fundamentalist myself (none)
      the trick is in engaging them properly... ie too much hyperbole is counter-productive, yet silence is complicit.
    •  Right on target (4.00)
      Excellent analysis, very succinctly put.  Fundamentalism is all about controlling (and perverting) the religious message for the benefit of an elite.  

      They also all foster this persecution mentality to justify their militarism--the Nazis convinced Germans that the Jews were the root of all evil, the Soviets had Western Imperialists (and the Jews, and the Kulaks, and whoever else), and the Kristians in Amerika have gays, liberals, ragheads, Mexicans and rich Jews.

      One has to ask, are we still so narrowly removed from the baboon troupe dynamic that this disease keeps cropping up all over the world?

      Peace in a world free of Religion, Peace in a world where everyone gets Heaven... -- Toni Halliday

      by Wintermute on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 04:48:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This respone is excellent (none)
      Much better than I could have done.  As I recall the Dominionists were a subgroup of the segregationists who not only believed the African was inferior, but that America was founded upon Christian principles and meant to be a nation under religious laws, allowing them to enshrine their beliefs into laws and for them to control the political system.  Today I write on a blogsite of a small county in bible belt Florida and believe me that sentiment is alive and well. Since I am a practicing Presbyterian, I understand Christianity quite well.  I also understand that it is not the teaching of Christ that I fear for his teachings fit right in with liberal Democratic teaching, but it is the messianic fervor of those who use Christ's word for their own self righteous gains. So please do not think it is Christianity we fear.

      Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities-Voltaire

      by hairspray on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 06:15:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Big Bill's Dominion (4.00)
    Mother Jones and Big Bill Haywood were never invited to the White House.  They were not openly receiving Federal dollars to run "labor-based" initiatives in social service, job training, education, and such.

    Emma Goldman may have wanted to dance but she was never invited to the Inaugural Ball.

    Solar is Civil Defense

    by gmoke on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 05:27:37 PM PST

  •  Dominionism exposed (none)
    For more on Dominionists and how they have systematically taken over the Republican party, read go to

    reject their campaign of fear

    by ABQtom on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 09:18:20 PM PST

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