Tag Archives: separation of church and state

“Cowboy Capitalists” and the American Dream


Our forefathers, educated in the classics and the writings of their contemporaries in the fields of economics, philosophy, science, farming, and trade, created a government for our nascent America that surprised the world. It wasn’t that it was unprecedented. It borrowed from ideologies as antique as those of Greece and Rome. But just consider how amazing our Democracy is since it was created in an age of monarchs, of nobles, of serfs.

Do you think those kings and queens, who claimed “divine right” to rule, wanted anyone to spread the credo that “all men are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights” – the very rights we hold dear – life – liberty – the pursuit of happiness.

Our forefathers started a trend. Their modern anachronism went, as we would say these days, “viral”. Western Europe became mad for Democracy. They went to war for it, they demoted their kings and queens for it.

This trend, as we know, did not catch on so much on other key continents. And so we inherited today’s situation where countries with differing ideas about governance have to coexist. We haven’t had to respect theocracies for some time. They existed but they kept the rest of the world away.

As with every culture we have come to value our form of government so highly that we often have been guilty of acting almost like missionaries, wanting to spread our Democracy (and, still, for some, our Christianity) everywhere. Even now I hold the belief that someday people everywhere on our planet will enjoy Democracy in one form or another. Except, not everyone is so gung ho to have their traditions replaced. And we have come to understand that respect for others means letting them chose their own government (but not letting them choose ours). As for religion, I believe that our forefathers, many fleeing religious persecution, were quite adamant in their belief that people should be free to worship as they please and that the only way to insure this was to keep religion separate from government.

Today many argue that our forefathers were only thinking about freedom to pursue different forms of Christianity and they might have hedged their bets if they knew we might have citizens who worship in so many different ways or do not worship at all. This is the cusp of our current dilemma. Do we reinterpret the things our forefathers said? Do we simply revise our documents to fit some people’s ideas of what they think our forefather’s meant?

Are we perhaps in shock that our Democracy does not seem to be trending the way it once did? Historically, change takes time. If we can wait we might find the ideas of liberty and equality gaining popularity once again. They are looking a bit tarnished as our economics has sort of usurped our governance. Capitalism can be a bit aggressive and overbearing. We have just been letting it get out of hand a bit. If we can tamp down those rampaging Capitalists who have been so busy buying up everything in sight (including our government) and cornering all the world’s wealth then our freedom might shine forth once again.

So we need more economic regulation, not less. We need more taxes on the rich, not less. And I’m thinking that if a Progressive wins and starts to rein in Capitalists-gone-wild – our new economic “cowboys” – then we the people will probably have to put up with a bit of punishment before things level out a bit.

Donald Trump, one of those “cowboy” capitalists doesn’t seem to mind putting American ideals aside to win against radical “Islamistic” terrorists. The “all men are created equal” part of Democracy never has sat well with Capitalists. They sort of adapt it to say that we may be created equal but we don’t all turn out equal. Those who turn out on top of the heap, they imply, are there because they are actually better than others (not luckier, not born with silver spoons). The fact is that these folks interpret being better as having more money even if they stole it by manipulating laws. If we let these “Capitalist Cowboys” sidestep our Declaration of Independence and our U.S. Constitution won’t that be the end of the real America Dream? That dream is really not at base a materialistic dream at all, but one of freedom of the mind and of the person (within reason) and of governance “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

We can’t exclude all Muslims without forever debasing what America has stood for around the world and what it is still struggling to stand for. Our previous lapses may have been grandfathered in, but this time we are fully aware of the harm from tarring an entire group with the same brush. We cannot even use religion as an excuse to overturn laws that respect the beliefs of any segment of our population.

If we do these things, and it is entirely possible that we might (fear being very powerful) they can we ever put the best parts of the American Dream back together again? If we want to show the world the way a Democratic society brings out a person’s best self then we must be our best selves. Or we can do what Donald J Trump (did you notice he started using his middle initial) suggests, but will we still be America afterwards?

By Nancy Brisson

War on Christianity

On Friday, June 5th, there was a report, and I am not sure of the source (was it MSNBC, was it Jon Stewart, perhaps Bill Maher). It was Bill Maher, but Jon Stewart has talked about this also. There was a montage of clips showing one mournful Republican after another, mostly Presidential candidates, claiming that there is a War on Christianity in America.

The story was full of the fine comedic commentary that is best known on the left. It implied that there was some truth to these mostly paranoid remarks offered up by Republicans. Perhaps these Christians, often labelled Evangelicals are trying to garner some sort of cultural sympathy, or perhaps they want to call out Liberals as Godless and therefore unelectable on grounds of immorality. This may all be Evangelical political propaganda, but also may not be totally false.

I am a liberal who has no patience with the Christianity of these Evangelicals. They are, for one thing, way too self-righteous, as if they speak regularly and directly with God and they know what will please him, something those without “faith” cannot know. Not only do they have a monopoly on Patriotism, but, clearly, also on Faith. And yet these folks are not perfect; they are still as flawed as any of us. We are constantly learning about their human failings.

Evangelicals are citizens in a democracy which has always read our founding documents to say that our government is a secular one and that freedom of religion is a key aspect of our Democracy. In order to insure these two things the importance of the separation of church and state was certainly at least implied by our forefathers. Lately though, it is clear that behavior in American is being judged by those on the right through the screen of their Evangelical faith.

The Evangelical Church seems to have taught some very distasteful and self-serving messages to our public servants. Their religious study seems to support the central position of the white male in the universe. Their studies have led them to believe that the Bible admonishes women to be submissive. These two points of doctrine convince them that America was intended to be a nation of Christian white couples paired up male/female and bent on procreation, not fornication.

Since men are appointed to guide women then women will agree, if they are good Christians, as all Americans should be, that abortion and contraception are against the natural order of things. Since white males rule and they claim that evolution is wrong, and humans can never harm the earth since it was given to us by God for our use, then these things are true and “beyond contestation”. Next we will be having witch hunts. I certainly never believed we would reincarnate our Puritan past but if could very well happen if we let Evangelicals get their hands on our government.

What I loved about movies like Star Trek and Star Wars was the operational equality between men and women. There was banter between sexes and there was still some abuse of women in some cultures, but when it came to winning and losing the men and women pitched in and got the job done. (Even in the Harry Potter books this equality between the sexes holds.) I was hoping for a future with more tolerance for our differences, with more cooperation and less competition.

Evangelicals represent a sort of “super” Christianity which I think we do reject. That does not mean we reject Christianity or that we are at war with Christianity. I am and I’m guessing many others are dead set against turning America into a Theocracy lead by Evangelicals, Christians, or any other religious group. And, more childishly, they started the war, we are just defending America from an Evangelical takeover.

It is certainly interesting that Evangelical Christians believe exactly the things that keep “good old boys” where they think they belong – in charge. I cannot like this emphasis on white male domination and this dismissal of science even if it means I am a terrible sinner and that I will never make it to the Rapture.


By Nancy Brisson