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Book Review: The Theocons – Secular America Under Siege by Damon Linker

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You can't live in the United States of America and not notice the shift in politics towards religion. Almost daily we see the lines between Church and State become blurrier and blurrier.  Damon Linker calls this movement theoconservatism and outlines the rise and development of this uniquely American point of view in his book The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege.

Linker has a unique perspective as the former editor of First Things, the journal of the theocons.  He believes that Americans should be scared enough by this small conservative movement to keep an eye and a check on how far religion is allowed to go in consulting with federal government.

The argument is compelling.  We are dealing with an administration that brought in faith based initiatives, faith based counseling, and that involved itself in the Terry Schiavo rigt-to-die case. It is also a proponent of "intelligent design", has passed (or attempted) pro-life legislation, is against gay marriage, and continues to fund and fight a moral global war against terror.

Linker focuses on the major players of the movement, all who have close ties to the current White House administration and who have very radical views of the role religion should play in government.  From Catholic conservative Richard John Neuhaus (founder of First Things) and author Michael Novack, best known for his arguments against income tax and theological justifications for George W. Bush's Middle East policies; to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and almost-Justice Robert Bork – we get a good overview of the main organizers of this small but highly vocal and effective group of theorists and political advisors.

The Theocons is a great book, a scary book, an important book for anyone truly interested in the behind the scenes workings of the current U.S. government to read.  Be aware that it is not an easy read.  Linker writes from an academic focus that can be a bit dry and painful at times, but struggle through as I did and you will ultimately be glad that you did. 

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About Lynda Lippin

  • Secular Americans are not the only Americans who should fear and resist the Theocons. Today there are more Moslem Americans than Presbyterian Americans, more Buddhist Americans than Episcopalian Americans; there are millions of Jewish Americans and millions of Americans of other non-Christian religious persuasions – and yes, there are millions of Americans who are atheists or agnostics.

    What will happen to these Americans when Mike Huckabee “takes back this nation for Christ”? What will happen to these Americans when Pat Robertson’s minions make it unconstitutional for anyone to not be a fundamentalist protestant creationist? Which large government contractors will compete with each other to get the construction contracts for the gas ovens?

    Welcome to the theocratic states of America!

  • I agree! What’s scary to me as a Jew is that the Theocons do have a Rabbi on board the bandwagon–David Novak, a conservative academic theologian from University of Toronto.

  • Lynda,

    I don’t see why you have your panties all bunched up over this. America was a nation with a number of state churches (i.e. Congregationalists in Connecticut, Anglicans in Virginia, Catholics in Maryland, etc.) in 1787 and this required the adoption of a clause that would prohibit the federal government from enacting a state religion. It would have caused a civil war! That is the origin of the “freedom of religion” clause in the first amendment to the constitution of 1787.

    Non-Christians have managed to get a comfortable niche in the United States by distorting the meaning of this clause and selling that distortion to the Supreme Court over the decades. The fact of the matter is that Christianity is the civil religion in your nation, whether you like it or not.

    All cons (including neo-cons and theo-cons) eventually come to an end, and the attempt to “take back America for Christ” is just one strain of political thinking that a Christian country would naturally adopt, one that exposes the con job of “separation of church and state” hustled by non-Christians in America.

    Love it or leave it, sweetie. I left. Do you have the brains to?

  • Ruvy my dear, I am not your sweetie. And if you look at my little bio box right under all of the articles I write you would notice that it says, “Turks & Caicos Islands resident…”. Check your geography; you will note that these islands are NOT a US territory.

    Further, your understanding of US history is a bit skewed. The states were each founded and then settled by members of different Christian offshoots seeking the freedom to worship as they chose (not “state churches”). It’s kind of like orthodox Jews choosing to live within walking distance of their chosen synagogue.

  • My apologies, madame. I did not see that you do not live in the United States.

    However, my understanding of American history is right on the money. The idea of religious tolerance was not universal to the American colonies. Some. like Rhode Island and Pennsylvania embraced the idea. Others, like Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut, did not. In the colonial charter granted to Virginia, the Anglican church was the established church in the colony. This changed in 1776 in Virgina. Note the wording of section 16 of the 1776 constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    SEC. 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.

    It took some time for the idea of religious tolerance to develop in the United States.