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We will be talking about the role of the Christian Right in the Terri Schiavo situation, particularly the role of Randall Terry.
(Sneak preview after the break.)
Those of you who are more plugged in than I, know all too well how
Terry has been all over the media denouncing the state and federal judges who for 15 years have consistently upheld the right of the Shiavos to make their own decisions: that’s every court, state or federal; every judge, Democrat or Republican.
While sincere people have differences of opinion about the rightness of all this, there is a larger issue at stake. Randall Terry and his cohort are theocrats. They believe in the implementation of “Biblical law” in a Christian Nation. A narrow, sectarian version of Christianity to be sure: one rooted in religious bigotry and the most outrageous religious supremacism.
If Terry’s vision of Christian theocracy gains traction, we will see increasing vigilante interference in the private lives of private citizens — not unlike the religious police in Saudi Arabia. We will also see rising bigotry against people of other faiths; agresion against those whose idea of Christianity differs from Terry and his theocratic allies; and relentless efforts to damage the constitutional protections of equal rights under the law gained by women, and gays and lesbians, among others.
Terry, the founder of the militant antiabortion group, Operation Rescue, has made a career of exploiting the circumstances of others to promote his religious and political agenda. He has led militant efforts to directly interfere with people exercising their constitutional right to receive and to provide abortions. And now he has used his considerable demagogic skills to interfere with the court-recognized, private decisions of a husband seeking to honor his wife’s wishes that extraordinary means be not be used to keep her alive.
In each case, Terry and his cohort have sought to impose their religious beliefs on others either through mob action, or through inciting government officials to use the power of the state or federal government to override the power of the courts to protect the rights of citizens.
There is much that could be said about Mr. Terry, but let’s just take a sampling of his views. Unlike some in the Christian theocratic movement, he does not mute his true colors. In a 1995 speech titled Our Goal: A Christian Nation, he declared among other things:
“You better believe that I want to build a Christian nation, because the only option is a pagan nation. Not that the government can make someone a Christian by decree. A Christian nation would be defined as ‘We acknowledge God in our body politic, in our communities, that the God of the Bible is our God, and, we acknowledge that His law is supreme.'”
Referring to abortion providers he declared:
“When I, or people like me, are running the country, you’d better flee, because we will find you, we will try you, and we’ll execute you. I mean every word of it.” He added, “I will make it part of my mission to see to it that they are tried and executed.”
“You say, ‘This is extreme!'” he continued, “Yeah, you’re right. But imagine God Almighty sending people to hell just because they didn’t follow His son? That’s extreme. That’s intolerance. Imagine Jesus saying that all other religions are false. Christianity claims to be the only way.”
And in case anyone missed the point he continued:
“God established patriarchy when he established the world. God established a patriarchal world. If we’re going to have true reformation in America, it is because men once again, if I may use a worn out expression, have righteous testosterone flowing through their veins. They are not afraid of the contempt of their contemporaries. They are not here to get along. They are not even here to take issue. They are here to take over!”
There’s lots more, but lest you think Terry was just having a bad hair day, let me stress that these are the kinds of thing he says all the time.
Here is a passage from my book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. “Randall Terry has joined the ranks of potential theocratic revolutionaries. Although he has distanced himself from those justifying murder and clinic violence, he told a 1995 Operation Rescue gathering in Kenner, Louisiana that Christians may have to ‘take up the sword’ in order to ‘overthrow the regime that oppresses them.’ He called for a theocratic state founded ‘on the Ten Commandments,’ and ‘a culture based on Biblical Law.'” (page 150.)
The rhetoric we hear today from the likes of Terry, Roy Moore, James Dobson, and Tom DeLay about “unelected judges” is exactly the rhetoric we heard from demagogic Southern governors like George Wallace of Alabama, as he and others defied federal court orders to desegregate the public schools and other institutions in teh 1950s and 60s.
We need a fair and impartial judiciary that can rise above the heat of the moment, and the rancor of partisanship. Randall Terry and his vigilante mob almost persuaded Governor Jeb Bush to send in the state police to seize Terri Schiavo in defiance of the courts. Perhaps he noticed from the polls that the public didn’t approve of the Terry’s theocratic vigilantes, let alone the Congress and president George Bush’s crass political opportunism.
Although the courts and the court of public opinion rejected all this, this was but one battle in what will likely be a long war of attrition against the courts in the Congress and in the streets.