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Apr 22 2013

Which Christianity Should We Establish?

The blog Scholars and Rogues has an amusing look at the problems inherent in the attempt in North Carolina to pass a bill allowing them to establish an official state religion (Christianity, of course). The obvious question: which version of Christianity should be made official?

Other issues we’ll need Congress to rule on:

  • Should baptism be by sprinkling as an infant or by immersion once one is born again? And, how quickly can we set in place an emergency re-baptism program for all those people that had it done wrong the first time?
  • Is God a man, a woman, both, or neither?
  • What race is God? This will be important when we do physical and artistic representations of Him/Her/It.
  • What about those places where the Bible appears to contradict itself, as in Genesis 1 & 2? Are we to take these as tests by God, or error by monks, or what? Confusion in one’s prime legal texts can lead to all sorts of mischief, as I think is more than evident from the fact that we’re even having this little chat to start with.
  • We’ll need a plan to transfer power from the President to Jesus when He makes his triumphant return to Earth after the Rapture.
  • We’ll also need a policy of engagement for Armageddon. When do we launch the nukes, and at whom? Once we know who’s on God’s side and who’s on the side of Satan, shouldn’t we just go ahead and launch a pre-emptive strike?
  • How old is that darned Earth, anyway? I mean, it’s important to know what to tell kids about dinosaurs if the world is only 6000 years old.
  • What the hell do we do about those damned Jews, who have made clear that they aren’t on board with Jesus as the Son of God? Do we wait and let Jesus deal with them himself or should we set about making them either believe what we believe or leave?
  • And don’t even get me started on Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, and other varieties of Satanist. If we’re truly a Christian land, is it right that their blasphemy should be tolerated, and worse, that they should be able to benefit from social programs paid for by Right-thinking Christians?
  • Should the Office of Homeland Godliness be a Cabinet-level appointment reporting to the President? Should the President be the de jurehead of the Church? Should it be a separate branch of government insulated from the meddling influence of future secular legislators, and especially from Satanic minions on the Supreme Court? Or, for that matter, should we rework the government and Constitution so that we replace the democracy with a Christian theocracy?

And those are just the tip of the iceberg. This was a real problem before and, for a brief while, after the passage of the Constitution, which did not initially forbid states from having official churches. Many states didn’t just establish Christianity, they established a specific brand and outlawed other brands. In Massachusetts, for example, being a Baptist, Catholic or Quaker was to put oneself in serious jeopardy of losing life and limb.

22 comments

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  1. 1
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    The obvious question: which version of Christianity should be made official?

    Mine of course!

    (Note not really a Christian at all.)

  2. 2
    baal

    In grad school, one of the Chinese guys converted to a local Evangelical church and I asked him why. He said that he and his wife were having trouble getting pregnant and that she became pregnant after they prayed to the Christian god ergo, he owed it to them. I then asked how he knew he had the right one. He looked at me funny and said the pastor told him that their church was the one true god. I suggested he shop around a little and see if the other christian churches in the area agree.

  3. 3
    Trebuchet

    (Note not really a Christian at all.)

    In that case, your version will do just fine.

  4. 4
    Bronze Dog

    Good questions to bring up around theocrats, especially if they’re trying to play nice under a big tent. If they want America to be officially Christian, they should know that it will crumble into a sectarian war zone in short order.

  5. 5
    zippythepinhead

    Let’s go prayin’ with the Druids
    They drink fermented fluids
    Run nekkid through the woods
    And that’s good enough for me
    Give me that old time religion
    Give me that old time religion
    Give me that old time religion
    And that’s good enough for me

  6. 6
    Sastra

    A lot of Christians think they are ecumenical, open, and broad-minded: it doesn’t matter what kind of Christian you are, as long as you’re a Christian of some kind. That’s the way Jesus was. He loved everyone who loved Him. He still is that way. You can’t get Christianity wrong unless you think that other Christians aren’t “real” Christians.

    So I guess those Christians aren’t “real” Christians, huh?

    It won’t work. The more you insist that God doesn’t care about the petty details and every Christian is okay then the more you insist that YOU have it right and THEY — those people who believe God does care about the ‘petty details’ — have it wrong. It doesn’t work for the Generic God and Put-your-religion-here and it sure as hell won’t work for Christianity, smiling hippie Jesus or not.

  7. 7
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    And teh ansaars ‘r :

    1) Baptism should be by firehose at close range. The concussion will “help” understanding and spiritual fitness – law suits for compensation will be religiously disallowed.

    2) Teh menz of course! Would a woman be so bad as to establish such a patriarchal cult where Isaac not sacrificed in the end gets named and Abram vastly rewarded but Jephtah’s daughter – who really was sacrificed – is not?

    (On second thoughts *neither* kinda makes more sense. I mean my imaginary alien Zubenelgenubese dust mote friend is neither since xe’s non-existent so, yeah that works too.)

    3) ‘Merrikan natch.

    4) Contradictions will be resolved by burning at stake as heretic anyone who points them out and doesn’t immediately twist brain into rhetorical pretzel for supposedly satisfactorily answer. Also mysterious ways of god are mysterious and rule 1 = teh buy-bulll is always true -when the Buybull seems to contradict the Bible see rule 1.

    5) Yeah, sure we will. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

    6) Meh, nobody knows The Hour. Apparently. God ‘ll whisper it in the Prez’s ear when He so chooses.

    7) Dinosaurs? What dinosaurs? Them be dragons or leviathans or .. Cut that school funding again extra quick!

    8) Meh, the Jews will take care of themselves Shit happens to ‘em. It always does.

    9) Nah, course not! Nuke ‘em from orbit just to be sure ..Oh wait that means nuking us too. Oh well, never mind then.

    10) Part (a) yes. part (b) Vice versa actually. Part (c) Separation of Churchstate?! NEVER!!!1!eleven! Part (d) well, duh, naturally!

    NOTE : Answers may all be totally wrong. Contains intended satire, sarcasm and maybe irony if anyone can now figure out what that is post-Alanis Morrisette. (Hint I can’t.)

  8. 8
    stever

    The Constitution still doesn’t prohibit any State from having an official religion. That odd construction “… respecting an establishment of religion…” in the First Amendment was to prohibit Congress from disestablishing a few existing State churches. I can hear the “But… But…”, but the answer is that the Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment didn’t go far enough, and legislated from the bench. The most significant bug in the Constitution is that, effectively, the Constitution says only what the Supreme Court says it says. That means that to amend the Constitution you don’t really have to convince a supermajority of Congress plus three fourths of the State legislatures, you just need the right five people.

  9. 9
    howardpeirce

    I’ve long maintained that the purpose of the establishment clause is not to protect non-believers or non-Christians, but to keep different Christians from killing each other. This is something that 18th c. Baptists and Anabaptists knew full well, when they lobbied for ratification.

    If today’s “generic” Christians get their way, it’s only a matter of time before we return to old-fashined sectarian violence, of the kind today’s non-Sunni or Shiite Muslims know too well in Pakistan and Iran.

    C’mon, Southern Baptist Convention — get on the ball and start filing free exercise lawsuits! You guys have been freeloading off of freethinkers for far too long.

  10. 10
    Tâlib Alttaawiil (طالب التاويل)

    “What race is God? This will be important when we do physical and artistic representations of Him/Her/It.”

    Danish.

  11. 11
    Chiroptera

    stever, #8: I can hear the “But… But…”, but the answer is that the Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment didn’t go far enough, and legislated from the bench.

    No, the Supreme Court applied the 14th Amendment according to what it actually says and according to the intents of the writers of the 14th Amendment.

    Now, theoretically, the Supreme Court could decide that the 14th Amendment doesn’t actually prohibit States from establishing a preferred religion in contradiction to the plain meaning of the 14th Amendment, but that would be legislating from the bench.

  12. 12
    Abby Normal

    A few more off the top of my head:

    * Are women allowed to hold positions of authority over men?

    * Speaking of women: pants, fashion choice or stoning offense?

    * Is it permissible for creditors to charge interest?

    * Will children be taught to primarily use their right hand, even if naturally inclined to use the left?

    * What will be the status of Christmas, official state holiday or ban pagan practice in disguise? How about Easter? St. Patrick’s Day? Valentine’s…

    * What is the minimum tithe going to be?

    * How about gambling, yea or nay? If nay, does the state have a plan to cover lost lotto revenue?

  13. 13
    heddle

    stever,

    The Constitution still doesn’t prohibit any State from having an official religion.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    The 1st amendment spells out “no state religion” and freedom of religious practice and then states, in effect, “ditto for free speech, free press, and assembly”. In seems to me that by your logic if the constitution does not really prohibit states from establishing an official religion then it doesn’t really prevent states from inhibiting free press, speech or assembly. If you are a lawyer then I’ll assume you are right. If not, I’ll assume you don’t know what your talking about. In either case I might be wrong.

  14. 14
    Larry

    they should know that it will crumble into a sectarian war zone in short order.

    Now where have I heard of that happening before?

    Only every place where a theocracy has been attempted!

  15. 15
    Modusoperandi

    “The obvious question: which version of Christianity should be made official?”

    Simple. It’ll be a vague, inoffensive Christianity that just happens to conform in every way with the Baptists*. The great thing about being the largest group (NC, 37% Baptist) is that you can assume everybody else is just like you.
     
     
    *Unless you’re a Northern Baptist, in which case you should get back up above Mason-Dixon, carpetbagger.

  16. 16
    grumpyoldfart

    The Christians don’t give fuck about those problems. Their attitude is “Make Christianity the established religion and we’ll sort out the details later.”

    I’ve heard that the traditional method is to start swinging clubs at each others’ heads. God looks after his own and the survivors are therefore proven correct via hindsight.

  17. 17
    Moggie

    Or, for that matter, should we rework the government and Constitution so that we replace the democracy with a Christian theocracy?

    Why even ask? If God approved of democracy, he’d have mentioned it in the bible.

  18. 18
    busterggi

    This is why worshipping the Great Old Ones is so much easier. Cthulhu doesn’t care what you call him as long as you call him.

  19. 19
    billdaniels

    I’m still voting for Swedenborgianism.

  20. 20
    Harry Mudd

    To be fair, Ed, Massachusetts was by the time of independence somewhat more tolerant of Quakers, Baptists, and Anglicans than it was during the Puritan rule in the 17th century (I believe Catholics were rare in the late 18th century). It did have state support for the Congregational Church into the 19th century, but even that was eventually disestablished.

  21. 21
    tbp1

    I’m not the first person to notice this, nor probably even the millionth, but there is really no such thing as capital-C Christianity. Soi-disant Christians have been saying other self-described Christians aren’t really Christians ever since there have been Christians. The article and subsequent posts spell out some major and minor areas of disagreement among the tens of thousands of Christian denominations. There are lots more, of course. Has anyone mentioned that they don’t agree on what constitutes sacred scripture? Perhaps I missed it, but there are at least three major versions of the Bible—Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, and then there’s the translation issue.

    If memory serves, in one of Michener’s books (The Source, probably), he says that early Christians would slaughter each other over the correct direction to make the sign of the cross. I’m inclined to believe it, considering the meticulousness of his research, and the way Christians behave to each other.

  22. 22
    David Hart

    tbp1 @ 21: One of my favourite examples is the
    Old Believers in Russia, who fled to Siberia to escape persecution over such pressing matters as what shape to hold your hand in when making the sign of the cross, and whether the procession should go clockwise or widdershins.

    But as a general rule I think it should be possible to attempt to at least construct a weighted average Christianity – take any given question of doctrine that two or more Christian sects disagree about, and decide which position has the most people in favour of it. Repeat for every single doctrinal disagreement (a long process, to be sure), and compile what you have, and you ought to be looking at an optimal compromise Christianty that the minimum possible number of Christians would object to having imposed on them as a state religion.

    Or, of course, you could just not have a state religion…

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