Why are so many people troubled by the Christian Coalition?
If you have asked yourself that question, the activities at the Coalition's "Road To Victory" (RTV) conference provide the answers.
In the first place, the Coalition and its allies are ardent foes of church-state separation. RTV speakers seemed to compete with each other to say the worst things they could about this concept.
Coalition founder Pat Robertson described church-state separation as "a lie" and "a distortion foisted on us over the past few years by left-wingers." Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore termed separation "a fable" and insisted that the phrase "has so warped our society it's unbelievable." Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) upped the ante, calling concerns about church and state "the phoniest argument there is."
But the award for the most vicious attack goes to Joyce Meyer, the TV preacher who cosponsored the Coalition's national meeting. Meyer lambasted the constitutional concept as "really a deception from Satan."
Thus we see that the Coalition and its friends have no use for a fundamental tenet of our nation's form of government and way of life. Separation of church and state has given Americans more religious freedom than any people in the history of the world, and yet the folks at the Coalition don't appreciate it. Indeed, they want to repeal it and bring in some sort of "Christian" government with them deciding what constitutes Christian.
The Coalition is also troubling because its activists introduce bitter religious divisiveness into our democracy. To them, there is only one right religion and one right political path and anyone who deviates from it is not just wrong but evil.
Robertson told the RTV "Faith and Freedom Gala" that the United States was settled by Christians who claimed the land for Jesus Christ and God Almighty. "It belongs to God and his people," said the TV preacher.
Meyer took a similar stance, casting American political life in harsh black and white terms. "There are more righteous people in this nation that love God than there are evil people," she thundered. "The only problem is the evil people make more noise than we do, and that is so ridiculous."
Actually, what is ridiculous and dangerous is a movement that regards its fellow Americans as evil if they fail to adopt the fundamentalist religio-political agenda. In a democracy with some 2,000 different faiths and religious traditions, it is a recipe for disaster to define candidates and issues in this narrow-minded way. Compromise and tolerance for other points of view are necessary ingredients in a pluralistic society.
Religious certitude is preached by many denominations, and that's to be expected. But when that concept is introduced into government, look out! Just ask the people of Iran and other countries around the world where theocrats rule.
Finally, the Christian Coalition is troubling because it wields disproportionate influence. Most Americans, including most evangelicals, do not support the Coalition's extreme agenda. Yet that group and others like it have extraordinary power in Washington and our state capitals.
President George W. Bush sent over a laudatory video to the RTV attendees, insisting that he and they "have common goals and a common faith." Leading Republicans in Congress came from Capitol Hill to curry favor and seek support in the next round of elections.
That's disappointing. Especially at this delicate point in world history, our elected officials should speak up for church-state separation and full liberty for persons of all religious and philosophical perspectives. America is about freedom, not theocracy, and our representatives should say so.