Remember Katherine Harris? She was the Florida Secretary of State and Bush supporter who was responsible for the Florida election debacle in 2000. Well, now she's apparently running a much beleaugered Senate campaign. Consider this quote from a recent interview:
What role do you think people of faith should play in politics and government?
The Bible says we are to be salt and light. And salt and light means not just in the church and not just as a teacher or as a pastor or a banker or a lawyer, but in government and we have to have elected officials in government and we have to have the faithful in government and over time, that lie we have been told, the separation of church and state, people have internalized, thinking that they needed to avoid politics and that is so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers. And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women and if people aren’t involved in helping godly men in getting elected than we’re going to have a nation of secular laws. That’s not what our founding fathers intended and that’s certainly isn’t what God intended. So it’s really important that members of the church know people’s stands. It’s really important that they get involved in campaigns. I said I’m going to run a campaign of integrity. I’m not going to run it like all of the campaigns that I’ve seen before…. And you know, it’s hard to find people that are gonna behave that way in a campaign and be honorable that way in a campaign. But that’s why we need the faithful and we need to take back this country. It’s time that the churches get involved. Pastors, from the pulpit, can invite people to speak, not on politics, but of their faith. But they can discern, they can ask those people running for election, in the pulpit, what is your position on gay marriage? What is your position on abortion? That is totally permissible in 5013C organizations. They simply cannot endorse from the pulpit. And that’s why I’ve gone to churches and I’ve spoken in four churches, five churches a day on Sunday and people line up afterwards because it’s so important that they know. And if we don’t get involved as Christians then how could we possibly take this back? [Emphasis added]
This exchange was particularly striking in light of my recent experience reading Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. Goldberg makes a compelling case that an increasingly strident and sectarian form of Christianity is taking the reigns of power in the United States, seeking to transform a pluralistic and multireligious country into a form of Christian authoritarianism.
Harris's comments are perfectly in line with Goldberg's case -- on the one hand, she insists, God chooses our leaders. So much, it seems, for "We the People" choosing our leaders. It's done for us by God! Of course, her statement is internally contradictory: Christians need to get involved in politics because if they don't the wrong people will take over, but it is God who chooses our leaders, so presumably whoever's in charge is who God wants to be in charge.
The appeals to the Founding Fathers are particularly egregious. In the 19th Century, evangelicals were often deeply opposed to the constitution, going so far as to call it a "Godless constitution" because it worked so hard to establish the separation of church and state, but we've now come to the point where the same people who were once villified for writing this "Godless" constitution are invoked as the original opponents of church/state separation!
As a Christian who believes that people of faith need to be involved in public life, I take seriously the question of how this can be done in a pluralistic society in a responsible and respectful way. The Katherine Harris's of the world, however, in subscribing to a vulger and rigid conception of the character of God and the nature of Providence, allow us only two options -- to stand with them or to stand with evil. This is not Christianity, it's Manichaeism.