Friday, April 10, 2009

Blog Against Theocracy

image flat out stolen from tengrain at "mock, paper, scissors"
(i'm not even ashamed, it's dead clever)

Officially April 10, 11

I'm going to have a hellishly busy weekend. Our show run got extended through the weekend and that means double shows. It also means that on Sunday I'll be playing harp at an Easter sunrise service and then hauling ass 120 miles to make the matinee show, then grab some fish tacos off the street and get ready for the final show Sunday night.

It's been a good run. I've enjoyed myself. I don't think I've pissed anybody off, well, not too much anyway. A longer run would definately be tough to manage. Eight shows a week of the same thing is tough. It's very easy to get bored and make stupid mistakes. It's also hard to keep the required level of concentration when it is the same stuff over and over and over. It is a living though. It's also a well paid living and in the grand scheme of things I got no complaints.

I'm not here to talk about that though. I'm here to talk about how we need to stay constantly on guard against the theocrats. They have their sweet visions of shining cities on the hill and all that stuff.

John Adams was born and raised in a theocracy, as was Jefferson, as was Franklin. Adams was not given his due as a scholar at Harvard because his father had once given water and first aid to Quakers who were being flogged out of the colony as heretics. He saw, and wrote about the inherent corruption that takes place when religion and state mix. Franklin had to jump through many hoops to circumvent the laws of Pennsylvania which made it hard for anyone who was not a Quaker to hold real estate or do business. Jefferson saw the stranglehold that the Anglican church held on Virginia. The Catholics ran Maryland, the new sect of Baptists had a grip on Georgia already.

The thing our founders noticed was that these theocracies all became insider business systems. The favoring of like believers concentrated wealth and power in the hands of the elite of those groups of believers.

One of the few things that our founders were in complete agreement on was that this was not the model on which to build a free society.

The liberty of conscience when choosing and following a religion is one of the most basic choices we make and human beings. A theocracy denies this of its citizens.

The founders wanted to avoid a structure of religious tolerance. George Washington wrote to the members of the first Jewish Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island on that very subject.

Here is that letter:


While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

The point Washington makes perfectly is that tolerance is not enough for Americans. We demand instead, Liberty. The folks who are insisting that "We are a Christian Nation," are historically wrong. Factually wrong. They don't have problem with me, they have a problem with George Washington.

Theocracy, even at its most benign is the antithesis of liberty.

For a musical treat, here is the wonderful, talented, and wicked smart Holly Near, singing her

"I Ain't Afraid (of your Yahweh)"

I've known Holly for a long time. Ain't much that scares her.