If you need a reminder of how important church-state separation is, read Joel McDurmon's chilling essay "A Perfect Hatred."
McDurmon is director of research for American Vision (AV), a Georgia-based Religious Right outfit that seeks to replace our constitutional democracy with a government built around an ultra-fundamentalist reading of the Bible. These "Christian Reconstructionists" often say publicly what many other Religious Right leaders would like to say but don't.
McDurmon's recent screed was sparked by a situation in Uganda. That country's parliament is considering legislation that would apply the death penalty and other draconian punishments for homosexuality. A number of prominent evangelicals, including the Rev. Rick Warren, have condemned the measure. McDurmon, in turn, condemns those who shirk from imposing his version of "biblical law."
Says McDurmon, "The truth is, hate is an inescapable concept in every society.... The problem is that in modern society, we have let the liberals and heathen define the values for us. Instead of gathering our standards of what is to be loved and what is to be 'hated' from God's word, we are supposed to accept the shouts of shame from liberals -- shouts which derive directly from their rejection of God's word and replacing of God's standards with their own value system."
McDurmon is impatient with evangelical Christians who hate too little.
"The evangelical mantra," he says, "has always been 'hate the sin but love the sinner,' which is good pastoral advice to a large degree, but even this piece of folk-wisdom falls short of the biblical standard. God and His spokesmen reveal a clear role for hate of both sin (Ps. 97:10; 101:3; 119:104, 113, 128, 163; 139:21, 22) and the sinners themselves (Ps. 5:5; 11:5; 26:5; 31:6; Mal. 1:1–3; Rom. 9:13) in some circumstances."
McDurmon goes on to blithely announce that God wants homosexuals to be executed.
"God," he says, "has revealed that specific sins are also civil crimes.... God also reveals specific punishments for specific civil crimes. He revealed that some civil crimes require restitution, a few require the death penalty. Where God says a civil crime deserves the death penalty, I propose that we keep in step with the first greatest commandment and recognize His total sovereignty in heart, soul, strength, and mind."
Says McDurmon, "Now, it just so happens that God revealed that the homosexual act is a civil crime, and it just so happens that He revealed that the homosexual act as a civil crime deserves the death penalty."
So there you have it. In McDurmon's warped world, his religious beliefs form the basis of civil law and a lot of dissenters find themselves headed down the hall to the execution chamber. Christian Reconstructionists of McDurmon's stripe usually call for the death penalty for as many as 20 offenses, including adultery, homosexuality, fornication, witchcraft, incorrigible juvenile delinquency and spreading false religions.
One of McDurmon's AV colleagues, Gary North, even makes the case that stoning is the biblically preferred means of execution.
Sounds a lot like Iran, doesn't it? Only the religion is fundamentalist Christianity, not fundamentalist Islam.
You'd think American Vision's theocrats would be so far out that even Religious Right groups would have nothing to do with them. Unfortunately, that would be wrong. AV has held its "worldview super conference" at Ridgecrest, a facility affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (the nation's largest Protestant denomination). And the AV conferences have been cosponsored by the likes of the Alliance Defense Fund, the Home School Legal Defense Fund, Liberty University School of Law and World Magazine. The Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition has urged his flock to attend as well.
American Vision is planning another "super conference" this year. Let's see who cosponsors it this time.
I'm sure the Religious Right would "hate" to miss the opportunity.