Monday, May 17, 2010

The Dangers of Theocracy

Warning: The following post is of a political and religious nature. The only talk about cute ducklings, my genius sons, the joy of music, and my love of language occur here in this warning, and are therefore already past.

Last week, I read from a few sources about Sarah Palin calling for a "return" to a government based on the ten commandments, which are of course just gateway rules to full-on theocracy based on someone's interpretation of the words of the Bible. So many Christians and ultra-conservatives (which are not mutually exclusive groups) believe that such a shift in government can be only a good thing, because Christians are holy and just and all those good things. What could go wrong?

A story I found this morning from Mail Online gives us some hint about what a theocracy can be like. According to the story, a 23-year-old woman asked for a ride from a man. That man, instead of taking her where she needed to go, took her to another house, where she was gang raped by that guy and four others. That rape was followed by an unwanted pregnancy. The woman tried to get an abortion but wasn't allowed.

When authorities eventually heard the whole story, what was the result? The woman was convicted of adultery (even though she wasn't married) and sentenced to a year in prison. After her rape baby is born, she will receive 100 lashes — and I ain't talkin' about no Revlon lashes here. The fate of the five rapists? Apparently, no one really cares about them.

This case comes from Saudi Arabia, which adheres to what Mail Online refers to as "a strict form of medieval law," which is based on the tenets of Islam.

But there can be no connection between this Saudi corruption of justice and a Christian USA, right? Perhaps, but it really depends on whose interpretation of Christian dogma and scripture holds in the White House, the Supreme Court, and Congress. There are certainly some hard-liners who oppose abortion in any cases, even in a case of rape, so, in a Christian America, this woman could face the judge for attempting an abortion.

If a Defense lawyer — or worse, the judge — wants to adhere to the writings of the Old Testament, the results could be much worse:
If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her. Deut. 22:28–29
A strict interpretation of this passage would result not in a rapist put behind bars, but in a woman being forced to marry (and never be able to divorce) one of the men who raped her. Still, it could be worse:
If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife. Deut. 22:23–24
So, unmarried rape victims must marry their rapists and never get divorced. Married rape victims are put to death. That's some good ole godly justice for ya.

But, you say, these are taken from the Old Testament, and Christianity is all about the New Testament. True, but does that mean that Christians ignore the Old Testament? Of course not. Creationists wallow in the words of Genesis. Women look to Old Testament scripture for guidance from strong Biblical women — because there aren't many in the New Testament. Christians find their morality lessons in the Old Testament stories of Job, of Lot, and of Noah. And don't forget, Mrs. Palin called for a return to the ten commandments, which are found in Exodus, the second book of the Old Testament.

So how would a Christian theocratic government choose which parts of the Old and New Testaments from which to draw legislation and legal decisions? Would we just leave it to our elected, Christian officials (and their ministers/pastors/priests) to make that decision? Would you feel safe with that? Would you feel that justice has a fair hand in that? Would you vote for that?

No comments: