The theocracy myth
One of the most patently rediculous charges that the Left (and by that I mean those significantly Left-of-center on the American political spectrum) levies against those of us on the Right is that it is our desire to set up a theocracy in America. The first few times I heard that charge made, I laughed my fool head off, as we like to say in East Tennessee. Nowadays you hear the charge so often that much of the time it is worth ignoring. However, in reading the blogs of many on the other side (and not a few so-called "conservatives") this notion of a theocratic establishment or conspiracy seems so pervasive that I have often wondered if some of these folks even understand what they are saying.
In recent years, many on the Left have begun to lump Catholics in the "religious right" camp (I don't like that term, but I will use it for the sake of illustrating my point). In terms of theological conservatism as we have come to understand it in our time, there is certainly some truth to this labeling-at least in the sense that Catholic opposition to the moral and familial disintegration in our society has caused many Catholics who would be inclined to support the Democrats to abandon the donkey. This is a choice that the Democratic Party has made-traditional, believing, church-going Catholics are obviously no longer a constituency that they care much about-not enough to keep from offending the Church. Contrast this with 50 to 100 years ago, when it behooved local Democratic establishments to be in good graces with the local Catholic establishment in many large cities (the notable exception was the German Catholic Republican order of things in Cincinnati). So tight was the collaboration in some quarters between the Democratic Party and the Catholic Church that one commentator referred to the Catholic Church in America as "the Democratic Party at Prayer."
As a result of the Democrats' desire to either abandon their traditional base, or simply to anger Christians of all stripes (I believe some on the Left to derive joy from this), believing Catholics have abandoned the Democrats in droves. Among Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week (read: faithful) there is an 80% likelihood that those people vote Republican. If this were 1957, that number would likely be reversed.
Traditional Catholics have joined with evangelical Protestants to form a united front on a range of issues that both groups care about. Among these issues are abortion, school choice, the sanctity of marriage, public decency, and even things like the public expression of the Divine (such as keeping the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or allowing for prayers or religious expression at public events). Because these groups form a mighty (and often unstoppable) political engine when acting in unison, some on the Left begin to scream that we are conspiring together to form a theocracy.
I struggle to discern how this theocracy we are forming is going to work. While orthodox Catholics and believing evangelicals agree on a whole host of issues and tend to vote that way, how can we form a theocratic state when we don't always agree on what is sinful or not? The ongoing debate about liquor laws in Morristown is a prime example. A slew of Baptist pastors and some members of their congregations think it is a crying shame that some stores and restaurants near their churches will soon be able to sell beer. I can guarantee you that the members of St. Patrick Church in Morristown (where I attend) not only could care less about this, I am sure that some got a good laugh right before they called their city councilman and urged him or her to approve the new ordinance. Catholics generally have no problem with the consumption of alcohol in moderation and do not view it as sinful or threatening. Hence, we not only have no problem with beer being sold near the church, from time to time we have been known to consume it on church property.
Gambling is another example of disagreement. I don't like the lottery anymore than many of my Baptist or Pentecostal neighbors do-but that is only because it is a State-run gambling apparatus. I have no problem with easing up on the gambling laws in a major way. I would hazard to say that many Catholics agree with me for an obvious reason: We'd love to be able to run a regular bingo game again at our church-it is the biggest treasury boon we could possibly have. Back when the State turned a blind eye to bingo games, it was bingo that saved Knoxville Catholic High School from bankruptcy. There is a Knox Catholic today because of the bingo the Church can't use anymore as a regular (not just once-in-a-blue-moon) fundraiser.
Similarly, to the believing Catholic, artificial contraception for the purposes of birth control is a mortal sin. It is an evil on the same scale as an abortion (because you are "playing God" with the creation of life, among other things)-it is that bad. Yet many-if not most-evangelicals have no problem with artificial birth control and often use it themselves.
I don't bring up these differences to debate them, but rather to point out that you can't exactly have a theocracy when you have two groups who disagree on such basic things as alcohol, gambling, and birth control (just three obvious issues), so we couldn't agree on how the law ought to be written about those matters.
Where Catholics and evangelicals agree on the basic social premises, we do work together and we should always do so. When we do come together to take action for the betterment of our country, I suppose the Left will continue to scream "theocracy." When they do, it is a testimony to just how vastly uneducated about Christianity that many of them really are.