While many liberals (including myself) mourn the re-election of George W. Bush and fear the rising power of Christian fundamentalism in American politics, there are some Christian extremists who don't think matters have gone far enough. For ChristianExodus.org doesn't want to reform America, they want out!
Their complaint is simple. George W. Bush is President, John Ashcroft is (for the moment) Attorney General, and Republicans control of both Houses of Congress, with evangelicals occupying all the top legislative positions, America remains a heathen nation, its knee still bent for Satan.
- Abortion remains legal.
- Gay marriage, make that "sodomite marriage", is legal in Massachusetts.
- Schools persist in teaching "the discredited theory of evolution"
- Still no prayer in the public schools
- Still no placing ten commandments monuments in courtrooms or any other public building
- "Sodomy is now legal AND celebrated as "diversity" rather than condemned as perversion
- "Preaching Christianity" will be soon made illegal as hate speech, thought the examples they cite were all blatant attacks on homosexuality
- The Bible is not welcome in the schools, "except under unconstitutional Federal Guidelines". Which means they’re upset you can’t teach it as fact.
Of course the members of Christian Exodus are hardly the only people to call themselves Christian who feel that America remains too secular. Many conservative Christians are frustrated by the slow progress of their political agenda, which often includes such seemingly secular items as income tax cuts.
But for the most part these groups, including the Christian Coalition, have chosen to work within the system. Not Christian Exodus. Their hyperfundamentalist platform states they intend to "redeem America one state at a time." Stage one of their plan is to relocate like-minded individuals to South Carolina with the idea of forming a permanent electoral majority. They think, correctly, that religious conservatives are too few to dominate the political agenda if they are distributed across the entire U.S. In their own words: “ChristianExodus.org is orchestrating the move of thousands of Christians to reacquire our Constitutional rights and, if necessary to attain these rights, dissolve our State's bond with the union.”
By 2016 they intend to “Institute constitutional reforms returning proper autonomy to the State . . .regardless of illegal edicts from Washington, D.C.” They argue that the Tenth Amendment in the Bill of Rights , which reserves non-enumerated powers for the states gives them this right, because "judicial activists" and the Congress have usurped powers intended for the states. They don’t intend a ‘hard secession" such as took place in 1861, but rather that South Carolina should simply ignore all Federal laws and policies Christian Exodus does not happen to agree with. Nor are they afraid of the word 'secession'.
They say that they don't intend to impose a theocracy, or in any way restrict religious freedoms. Just a majority with no concern for minority rights. Dissenters are invited to leave or ‘become the majority". Which sounds difficult because they hold that citizenship is a power granted solely by states. A state may choose to deny citizenship to dissenters: "No person residing in a State contrary to the laws and regulations of that State attains the expectation of rights, privileges or immunities held by citizens.” This is backed up by their opposition to the Fourteenth Amendment, which they say was enacted, not ratified. The first paragraph of that amendment says that citizenship is decided by the Federal Government, and a person becomes a citizen of a state simply by residing in it. Simply put, they want to make sure that only those of the proper religious persuasion attain voting rights, in order to preserve their new Christian utopia.
In short, they intend to turn South Carolina into a right-wing enclave and the devil take the Constitution.
ChristianExodus.org represents a very extreme, but predictable response to the problem of fundamental theology in a modern world. These people represent a political extreme, and one that was promised by Jerry Falwell, Randall Terry, Ralph Reed, and others that the way to bring about a more ‘Biblical" America was to take over the American political system. Nixon’s ‘Silent Majority' begat Falwell’s 'Moral Majority' some 25 years ago. Previously most evangelical Christians had remained outside the political system, with fairly low voter participation rates. The widespread participation of conservative Christians has been the key to the resurgence of the Republican party after 40 years of Democratic control in the legislature. Fundamentalism and resentment of Democratic civil rights legislation helped turn the 'Solid South' solidly Republican.
The problem is that while America may be far more conservative than I would like, it is far more liberal than Christian Conservatives. A stable majority of voters continues to support legal abortion and there is no reason to think that will change. Evolution is taught in the schools because no other potential explanation possesses a fraction of evolution’s explanatory power. The attempts to denigrate evolution have far more to do with defending Biblical literalism than science. While it remains acceptable in most circles to openly express hatred for gays and lesbians, Americans are rapidly becoming more tolerant and a solid majority supports domestic partnership rights. And while we often decry sexuality, we love to watch TV shows that include a sexual tease. So long as the nymphomaniac gets it in the end.
In short, the odds of the Christian right achieving its full platform through the electoral system is virtually zero. The more they win, the more they anger mainstream America. In addition, they have already begun to anger more mainstream Christians who don’t think Pat Robertson properly represents Christ’s teachings. Take Sex in the City off the air, and a whole lot of fans will suddenly become Democrats.
Christian Exodus seems to recognize the futility of Christian reconstruction via the ballot box. Nor are they alone. Ralph Reed and Cal Thomas together made statements expressing that religious conservatives should not hope to get everything they want. Thomas himself has suggested that withdrawal might be necessary.
At the same time it is silly to think the Federal Government will sacrifice one or more states in the name of religious purity. Didn’t happen in 1861, and it won’t happen in 2016. But in Matthew 5 it says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Christians already feel persecuted, unable to understand self-righteousness breeds resentment and counterattack. It is only to be expected that when religious conservatives fail to achieve what they see as God-given rights some will withdraw.