I want you to guess which prominent American public figure said the following: “I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’” He added that what makes a law “just” is that it “squares with the moral law or the law of God,” conversely “unjust” laws are those that are “out of harmony with the moral law.”
Well, we just unveiled a statue of him on the National Mall.
Yes, Martin Luther King penned those famous words in his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Those words and the convictions that prompted them changed America. But today, they would cause the great civil rights leader to be labeled a “theocrat.”
“Theocrat,” and related words like “Dominionist” and “Christianist,” are the latest in a series of epithets directed at Christians who insist that their faith is not merely a private matter. Suggesting Christians want to impose biblical law on civil society is an attempt to make a comparison between us and people like the Mullahs in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Case in point: a recent column in the Washington Post by Dana Millbank that called governor Perry of Texas a “theocrat.” Given that Perry has been elected governor of the second-largest state twice, that’s an extraordinary claim that ought to require extraordinary proof.
Millbank provides no such proof. Instead, he points to Perry’s belief that “the truth of Christ’s death, resurrection, and power over sin is absolute . . .”
Now, if you’re thinking, “I believe the same thing, does that make me a ‘theocrat?’”, well, that’s exactly the point: by Millbank’s uninformed reasoning every orthodox Christian is a “theocrat.”
Millbank fumes that “Perry has no use for those who ‘want to recognize Jesus as a good teacher, but nothing more.’ Of those non-Christians, Perry asks, ‘why call him good if he has lied about his claims of deity and misled two millennia of followers?’”
I take it Millbank didn’t realize that Perry was using Oxford Professor C. S. Lewis’s classic argument for the divinity of Christ. If Jesus was not who He said He was, Lewis wrote, he was either “a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg”-or a liar.
That’s called theology, not theocracy.
Now, there are such things as Christian theocrats, usually called “theonomists,” but they’re a tiny fringe. The people being labeled “theocrats” and “Dominionists” by the press today don’t want the United States governed by a Christian equivalent of sharia law. Like, Dr. King, they simply believe that their religious positions and moral convictions don’t disqualify them from the public square.
The irony is that if this standard had been applied in the past, much of what is worth celebrating in our history would never have happened. Many of the great social reforms such abolitionism grew out of specifically Christian convictions like those of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, Perry’s own tradition.
Then, as now, there were those who decried what they deemed the “imposition” of religious views in public life. If they had prevailed, America would be a far less just, decent, and civilized place.
It would be an America where the newest statue on the National Mall would be given the same demolition treatment that the Taliban gave the giant statutes of the Buddha in Afghanistan.
I guess it’s the Taliban and the secular elite who are alike in one way; that is, they believe some ideas are too dangerous to express in public.