FOXES IN THE FEDERAL HEN HOUSE
The first eight years of the 21st Century have witnessed the open recruitment of religious radicals into the agencies, bureaus, and departments of the federal government of the United States. They are dedicated to creating their version of a Christian theocracy in the United States. They will use constitutional means where possible but may step outside of the US federal constitution and US federal law if they feel it necessary.
Lindsay (2007a) puts the number of Christian evangelicals at about a quarter to a third of the adult population of the United States. There are Christian evangelicals on the left of the political and religious spectrum and also on the right. Our concern here is with a relatively small subset those on the far right. Nestled within the larger population Christian evangelicals are millions of Christian Fundamentalists. And within the fundamentalist camp are a substantial number who follow dispensational theologies (Dispensationalists). An even smaller number of Dispensationalists are in the Reconstructionist (or Dominionist) camp. Reconstructionists are motivated by End Time theologies that require that they prepare the way for the return of the Christ. Although this is not to imply an umbilical relationship, it is worth remembering Diamond’s (1998) caution that Christian Right (including the Reconstructionists) “…is a narrowly focused political force but one that swims in the hospital pool of a big evangelical subculture.”
Christian Reconstructionist theologians and adherents are often very active on the social and political fronts. In order to aid the Christian God in the return of the Christ, the Reconstructionists must establish a utopia on Earth. This utopia will be based on a strict, literal interpretation of biblical law as portrayed in Hebrew Scripture (the ‘Old Testament’) and interpreted by Reconstructionist theologians. The reconstruction of biblical law will apply to “all aspects of life from the individual to the state.” Reconstructionist George Grant says that “Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land—of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.” Many Americans who identify as Christian evangelicals are also politically conservative and can be classified as politically right-wing and Reconstructionist thought is quite strong in this group. These adherents are influential in the development and application of current United States government policy and laws. Because they do swim in the evangelical ‘pond’ the influence of Reconstructionist theology greatly exceeds the number of its adherents.
Influenced by powerful clergy, stimulated by emotionally charged religious ritual (Barkun 2003), fueled by a “unique intensity, organization and anger” (Moyers 2005), and given a “…prolonged period of instability or a crisis….economic meltdown…a series of environmental disasters or another catastrophic terrorist attack,” such as the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States (Hedges in Csillag 2007), these adherents might use extraconstitutional means to gain power and a greater role in governing the United States.
During the first eight years of the 21st century, governance made, what was for the United States, a seemingly natural turn to the right. With the strong support of the political and religious right, George Walker Bush was elected President of the United States and, under the influence of his Vice President Richard ‘Dick’ Cheney began to establish what has been called an ‘imperial presidency’. This administration is typified by secrecy and the abridgement of civil rights,,,,, preemptive warfare, and a disastrous environmental policy .
As was demonstrated, especially in the 2004 US general election, the critical mass of adherents is certainly large enough to effect substantial change in the governance of the United States. The will to change the nature of the democratic American republic to a religious republic has been increasingly demonstrated over the past eight years. There is no question that the hardcore adherents of politically conservative Christianity, as it exists in the United States, have been very influential in either bringing these changes about or providing the political base allowing the Bush Administration to further strengthen the powers of the US Presidency and weaken the civil rights of US citizens.
One factor that has received little attention from analysts or media is the role of several classes of political operatives in implementing the changes in structure and function within the departments, bureaus, and agencies of the US federal government. For example, the Bush Administration has installed about 2500 political appointees throughout the US federal establishment. That many, if not most of these operatives hold conservative political beliefs, is to be expected. A number of these operatives are politically and religiously conservative Christians. How many are imbued with an End Time eschatology is unknown.
In addition to political appointees, the Senior Executive Service of the US federal government is composed of employees “charged with leading the continuing transformation of our government.” These men and women are the top executives in government. According to the US Civil Service, the 6000-7000 Senior Executive Service employees function for the civilian sector of government much as do generals in the military. As with the political appointees, there is no reason to believe that such critical personnel would not also be adherents of conservative political and social philosophies. The obvious difficulty of determining religious inclination, let alone affiliation, makes it next to impossible to know how deep the penetration of the Christian Right is into the personnel and structure of the US Civil Service.
That political affiliation was used to select candidates for supposedly nonpolitical Civil Service positions is established. The most notable of these cases is that of US Department of Justice employee Monica Goodling. Testifying under a limited immunity agreement before the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Goodling stated that she had “crossed the line” when she subjected candidates for career civil service positions to the same politically based, ideological evaluation she used on candidates for political positions. Again, it will be very difficult to know how much of this preferential and illegal hiring was done during the Bush Administration. There can be little doubt, however, that there are now thousands of US federal employees, spread throughout the agencies, bureaus, and departments, many in leadership positions, who owe their employment to their political ideology and theology.
The extremely powerful US military is not exempt from strong evangelization from the Christian Right, including the influence of End Time theology. In 2003, US military Lieutenant General William G. ‘Jerry’ Boykin, in uniform, gave a number of presentations in large Christian churches during which he framed the US ‘war’ against terror as an ‘apocalyptic religious struggle,’ in which the United States, acting as God’s representative and led by the divinely appointed political leaders of the Bush Administration, is struggling against Satan represented by Islam. Boykin had previously served as the United States Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. This is consistent with the general thread of evangelical preaching that depicts the US preemptive invasion of Iraq as a holy war pitting Christians against Muslims. Additionally, Hedges (2006) reports that about half of the US military chaplaincies are now occupied by “radical Christians.”
A major integration occurred with what is called the ‘Faith-based Initiative’ allowing “faith-based and community organizations to partner with government in the delivery of social services, often with the use of federal tax funds. On September 28, 2008 the lines became even more entangled when a number of conservative Christian pastors in several dozen US States, in an event called ‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday,’ used the pulpit to “preach about the moral qualifications of candidates seeking political office” . The moral qualifications preferred by these ministers are those of the McCain/Palin Republican ticket. It should be noted that US tax law provides exemptions for churches and other religious organizations as long as they do not engage in such endorsements and related political actions. This activity could pose a constitutional test for the United States.
In summary, the rise of the Christian Right, with its Reconstructionist subset, occurs at a time when astute observers predict major destabilization of global environmental conditions with concomitant social, cultural, and political destabilization. This is also a period of major financial destabilization. In addition, although there has been substantial cultural maturity over the past five to six decades, America is never very far from its racist past. Since the sexual revolution of the latter part of the 20th Century, homophobia can be added to racism. The rise of environmentalism over the same period has added a third factor to what, to the Christian Right in the United States, is an unholy trinity of percieved evil. Militant Islam with its terrorist expressions and actions, has added an external enemy to the mix. One can now add the election of a biracial man as President. The congruence of these social, cultural, and political factors has created the perfect stew against which the political right and the Christian Right can organize and act within the United States. Such a period and such conditions may provide extreme elements of the Christian Right with opportunities to gain political advantage and power from within existing governmental structures or by extraconstitutional means.
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Please cite this manuscript as follows:
Baugh, T. 2007. Foxes in the Federal Hen House.