". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


You Can’t Have Your Theocracy and Eat It Too

November 3, 2023

“Ah, thank God for Salon, the voice of reason,” said no one ever, and former “senior White House correspondent for Playboy” Brian Karem’s latest article there is demonstrative of why.

In a piece published Thursday and subtly, tastefully entitled “MAGA and Christian nationalism: Bigger threat to America than Hamas could ever be,” Karem argues that so-called Christian nationalists (by which his fustian smear piece makes clear he means any devout Christian elected to public office) pose a greater threat to the U.S. than Islamist terrorists like Hamas — you remember them, the little ragtag band who attacked Israel last month and slaughtered over 1,400 Israelis in a single day and have been torturing hostages every day since. No, Hamas is nothing more than a Middle Eastern bogeyman, Karem would have you believe. The real threat to the American way of life is that devious religion founded on the principle of self-sacrificial love: Christianity.

In an interesting rhetorical choice, Karem chooses to begin his argument by noting that “the FBI issued a warning that the chance of staged terrorist attacks in the United States has grown since the war began in Gaza.” He further mocks Fox News’s White House correspondent Peter Doocy for asking national security officials if they’ve considered the possibility of a terrorist entering the U.S. via the nation’s wide-open southern border. “Obviously they have,” write Karem, “or the FBI wouldn’t have issued the warning.”

For a few paragraphs, Karem does some adroit fund-the-war-in-Ukraine cheerleading, somehow manages to praise Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for betraying his voter base and shipping American tax dollars overseas, and speculate whether or not Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) or Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) are “fans” of Russian president Vladimir Putin — all of this amidst a smattering of pop culture references of which I’m sure Karem is proud, and equally sure he shouldn’t be.

Then he reaches the crux of his argument: “While the world burns, Johnson and the MAGA wing of the Republican Party … seem determined to convert the U.S. into a theocracy run by people who will thump you with the Bible, but haven’t read much of it.” This coming from the former White House correspondent for Playboy.

“Lord, how they love to preach fire and brimstone. But the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes? Forget it,” Karem opines. “Not a chance. They’ve embraced only the Old Testament angry God and the apocalyptic parts of Revelation brought on by ergot poisoning.” Most devout Christians are no doubt familiar with this age-old approach: the admitted non-believer who doesn’t read his Bible cherry-picks a handful of Scripture passages that, taken out of context, he thinks prove his point, and proceeds to berate the Christian for failing to live up to his arbitrary standard of Christianity based on an English translation of an out-of-context Bible verse, or two, if he’s feeling particularly cocky.

Karem would do well to remember that the Beatitudes include “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8) and “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you for my sake” (Matthew 5:11), which is exactly what the leftist-dominated media, including Salon, has been doing to Mike Johnson, ridiculing him for his Christian faith, his fidelity to his wife, and even his adoption of an African-American teenager.

In classic anti-Christian form, Karem disregards roughly 2,000 years’ worth of theological scholarship, debate, and clarification to roughly cite a Bible verse and implicitly declare himself a knowledgeable arbiter of all things Christian. He claims that Johnson and his MAGA ilk “want no separation of church and state. They want an isolationist country surrounded by walls and dedicated to the proposition that the First Amendment guarantees them the right to worship any way they want — while forcing the rest of us to worship the way they choose.” He adds that “modern Republicans seem hellbent on returning to the Middle Ages, driven there by the first Christian nationalist House speaker.”

Of course, Christians do support the First Amendment. It’s the legal mechanism that protects our right to worship the Triune God and to live so we that might be more and more like Him, in the hopes of one day being united wholly with Him in Heaven. While Karem rightly notes that the U.S. Constitution forbids “respecting an establishment of religion,” he wrongly interprets this to mean a “separation of church and state.”

The leftist’s or progressive’s notion of the constitutional amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion seems to demand that lawmakers leave their religious beliefs — which, for the devoutly religious, are the very core of their being and the moral fabric upon which they base their every decision — at the door of the statehouse or capitol building. At no point anywhere in the U.S. Constitution is this explicated or even implied. If it were, a substantial sum of religious Americans of all creeds would be barred from public service, leaving the running of the nation to those with, essentially, no beliefs beyond the merely material world.

As the great author C.S. Lewis elegantly elucidated in his book “The Abolition of Man,” those who do not profess some kind of eternal or religious belief essentially have no beliefs, and therefore have no basis for forming value judgments. It is the eternal, the immutable which is the standard against which all things are measured, which serves as the source of value itself. Without such a belief, there can be no deciding this policy or that is “good” for the nation or “bad” for the country because there is no basis for declaring anything “good” or “bad.” Lewis, of course, explains the concept far more authoritatively and far more intelligently than I, and as I’m sure there would be some copyright issue with quoting the entirety of his book here, I strongly recommend you read (or re-read) it.

Back to Karem’s postulation that Christian nationalism is a bigger threat to America than Islamist terrorists. Citing Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a rabid abortion advocate whom Karem classifies as “a constitutional scholar,” the Salon columnist quips, “The framers taught us that the biggest threat to religious freedom comes from theocrats who try to establish their own sect over everyone else.” Karem adds, “None of that matters to the Republicans. They revel in their own chicanery. They despise free thought and independence…” Nevermind that the vast majority of censorship efforts come from the Left, never mind that the preponderance of America’s founders were Bible-believing Christians, nevermind that “free thought and independence” in America were pioneered by those who put their faith in Someone other than the president or their local congressmen, nevermind that God Himself is the source (and, indeed, summit) of freedom and independence.

If Christian conservatives seem “hellbent on returning to the Middle Ages,” then Karem (and many a leftist like him) is “hellbent” on proliferating a self-defeating argument. Anti-Christian leftists deride “theocracy,” while simultaneously insisting that Christians aren’t being properly Christian. Leftists jettison the bulk of the Christian moral code and stick to the platitude “Be nice to people,” which Christ notably never uttered. Leftists fear a Christian “theocracy,” but also try to tell Christians we’re doing theocracy wrong. Which one is it, Mr. Karem? Is Christianity a violent, threatening, oppressive religion that cannot be tolerated openly in the public square? Or is it a peaceful belief proclaiming niceness and tolerance to all men? It can’t be both.

And let the record reflect that at no point does Karem address how Christian nationalists might launch an attack on America that slaughters over 1,400 in a single day, nor which book of the Bible condones taking and torturing hostages, nor indeed where in Scripture Christ promised his disciples any number of virgin-afterlife-brides in exchange for suicide bombings. At the end of the day, Hamas and other Islamist terrorist organizations pose an infinitely greater threat to America than devout Christians striving for the good of the nation.

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.