Image Source: Jupiter Images
Few are willing to come right out and admit this, but some do — and sometimes when they apparently think that critics won't notice. Sometimes they even say such things when trying to get people to vote for them.
In her interview with the Florida Baptist Witness, Katherine Harris said:
The Bible says we are to be salt and light. And salt and light means not just in the church and not just as a teacher or as a pastor or a banker or a lawyer, but in government and we have to have elected officials in government and we have to have the faithful in government and over time, that lie we have been told, the separation of church and state, people have internalized, thinking that they needed to avoid politics and that is so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers. [emphasis added]
Think very carefully about this: according to Katherine Harris, who wants people to vote for her, her god is the one who decides who will rule rather than the people who do the voting. I’m not sure there can be a clearer endorsement of a theocratic system than this. American democracy is founded, in large part, on the principle that “We the People” have created the government, hold sovereign power, and are responsible for what happens. When someone like Katherine Harris invests all of this in her god instead, then she is denying that “We the People” have either authority or power.
Of course, no gods will come down from the sky to take personal control over the government, so the actual day-to-day operations must be handled by human beings. Since it’s up to God who will rule and what the laws will be, only God’s personal representatives will be suitable to hold such positions. Every time a person says that God is in control, it’s inevitable that particular religious leaders have the actual power.
And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women and if people aren’t involved in helping godly men in getting elected than we’re going to have a nation of secular laws. That’s not what our founding fathers intended and that’s certainly isn’t what God intended. [emphasis added]
God doesn’t want us to have secular laws. Therefore, God must want us to have religious laws — presumably religious laws modeled after the commandments which God has already personally handed down in the Bible. The absence of “godly men” in elected office results in secular laws because others don’t know any better. Therefore, it’s necessary to elect “godly men” in order to ensure that they pass religious laws modeled after the commandments in the Bible.
Non-Christians will just have to accept that they will be living under rulers picked by God to pass religious laws which may or may not be compatible with other religious beliefs and practices. If they don’t like it, they can leave — America was meant by God to be a godly, Christian Nation where godly, Christian men rule and godly, Christian laws are enforced.
It occurs to me, though, that “Katherine Harris” doesn’t sound much like the name of a godly man. Or is there something which Katherine Harris has been keeping secret from the public?
But the real issue is why should Baptists care, why should people care? If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin.
They can say that abortion is alright. They can vote to sustain gay marriage. And that will take western civilization, indeed other nations because people look to our country as one nation as under God and whenever we legislate sin and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better, we are leading them astray and it’s wrong. [emphasis added]
Non-Christians should not hold elected office because otherwise that will lead to sin being legislated and God doesn’t want this. Then again, God is supposed to be the one picking the rulers and if that’s the case, then no non-Christians can rule without God’s approval. That’s a contradiction which runs throughout Katherine Harris’ interview: she wants to make God responsible for who leads, but then she wants to lay all kinds of blame for what’s wrong in America at the feet of non-Christians who have been leaders. This is, I think, an expression of an age-old problem in which Christians try to attribute good things to God while denying that God has anything to do with the bad things that happen.
Notice that Katherine Harris’ comments in this passage assume that legislators have a responsibility for passing laws against sins. Non-Christians are a poor choice for leader because they legislate sin. Christians who vote for non-Christians help make sin possible and are even helping to lead other non-Christians astray because their sin will be encouraged. Christians should elect other Christians because only Christian men can be trusted to legislate against sin and use the power of the state to enforce laws which prevent people from sinning. Anything that’s a sin must also be illegal and punishable by the state — and since the laws must be religious laws rather than secular laws, whether or not something is a “sin” will probably be the defining factor for whether something is illegal in the first place.
How can such a system be described as anything other than a theocracy?
There is also, I think, a problem with the notion of “legislating sin.” This phrase suggests that “sin” is being somehow mandated or at least strongly encouraged. When we legislate wearing seat belts, it means that wearing seat belts is required. In how many cases, though, has the government actually passed laws that require Christians to commit sins? I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but I don’t think I need to because that isn’t what Katherine Harris has in mind.
When people like her talk about the government “legislating sin,” their words may connote the idea that sin is being required but in reality all they have in mind are things which the law simply permits people to do and which Christianity traditionally forbids. Things like abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and gambling are not required by the government but they aren’t generally forbidden, either. Christians like Katherine Harris would like to change this because such things are forbidden by their religion. They see giving people the choice to not submit to their interpretation of Christian morality as “legislating sin.”
Do you support civil rights protections on the basis of sexual preference?
Civil rights have to do with individual rights and I don’t think they apply to the gay issues. I have not supported gay marriage and I do not support any civil rights actions with regard to homosexuality.
So... gay issues have nothing to do with individual rights? Isn’t homosexuality something that pertains to individuals? Isn’t homosexual “behavior” something that pertains to individuals? Katherine Harris’ “explanation” for why she doesn’t support equal civil rights for gays simply doesn’t make sense. If people were trying to argue for gay rights that apply to groups rather than individuals, then her statement might make a little sense. As it stands, it’s just nonsense.
Apparently Katherine Harris, or at least some of the people left on her staff, figured out that these statements were completely outlandish and there have been serious efforts at damage control:
Harris, appearing at a gun show in Orlando, said she did not mean to offend non-Christians in her comments to the Florida Baptist Witness last week. She explained that she referred exclusively - and repeatedly - to Christians because she was being interviewed by the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.
“My comments were specifically directed toward a Christian group,” said Harris, a Republican senate candidate from Longboat Key.
To reinforce that message, Harris’ campaign also released a statement Saturday. It described her strong support of Israel and said when Harris called the separation of church and state a “lie” she was addressing “a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government.”
Source: KRT Wire
So, when you are talking to a Christian group, it’s OK to say that only Christian men should hold elected office, that Christians should vote to criminalize “sins” and that Christian men should replace secular laws with religious laws? Notice that Katherine Harris doesn’t say that she misspoke or that she doesn’t believe what her words appear to communicate.
I don’t find it credible that she was simply addressing the mistaken notion that “people of faith should not be actively involved in government.” First, who actually claims this? Second, who actually believes this? Third, is this a serious problem? When was the last time you saw an atheist in government? Finally, nothing in the quoted passages is necessary to address what she claims she was talking about. Katherine Harris goes far beyond simply saying “the separation of church and state doesn’t mean that Christians cannot serve in the government.”
Asked if the U.S. should be a secular country, Harris said: “I think that our laws, I mean, I look at how the law originated, even from Moses, the 10 Commandments. And I don’t believe, that uh . . . That’s how all of our laws originated in the United States, period. I think that’s the basis of our rule of law.”
Harris’ clarification seemed to satisfy Pasco County Republican Party Chairman Bill Bunting. ... “She cleared it up,” he said. “I’m comfortable now.”
That’s a “clarification”? Bill Bunting must not have very high standards. Aside from the fact that this statement is vague and barely coherent, it ultimately doesn’t contradict one of the main problems in the interview: Katherine Harris apparently believes that America’s laws should be religious laws derived from the Bible rather than secular laws based upon the will of the people. Then again, perhaps I’m giving Bill Bunting too much credit — perhaps that’s precisely what he wants to hear and he’s glad that she made it clear that she believes in replacing American secular democracy with a Christian theocracy.
An important aspect to all this which few writers have remarked upon is what Katherine Harris likely means by “Christian” in her interview:
I’m pretty sure that she really meant was that among the people the rest of us call “Christians,” only the born-agains should be elected.
The people the rest of us call “born-agains” or “fundamentalists” or “the religious right” don’t usually refer to themselves in those terms. Sometimes they call themselves “evangelicals,” but more usually they call themselves simply “Christians.” That’s not to say that they don’t sharply distinguish themselves from mainstream Protestantism; it means that they consider themselves the only true Christians.
There’s a switch here; in Fundie-speak, “Christian” used to mean Protestant; Catholicism was regarded as an essentially pagan phenomenon. It still is, among some of the faithful, but the dominant right wing of the evangelical ministry has now made a tacit political alliance with the religious hard-liners and political conservatives who now dominate the American Catholic hierarchy.
Source: Mark Kleiman
In other words, some of those non-Christians who are elected to public office and who help legislate “sin” may be Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, etc. In short, anyone who isn’t a conservative evangelical Christians isn’t a “real” Christian at all. Although the Christian Right has downplayed such rhetoric for the sake of making common political cause with conservative Catholics and conservative adherents of other religions, it isn’t a belief that has disappeared.
Separation of Church & State:
- Separation of Church and State 101
- Secularism 101
- What is the Separation of Church and State?
- Religion's Place in the Public Square
- Myths About Church/State Separation