Monday, September 26, 2005
This opinion piece in the online version of the Wall Street Journal describes the plans of a group called "Christian Exodus," which seeks to move to South Carolina and "establish a theocratic government there. Only five families have gone so far, though leaders say that their 950 members plan to move to upstate regions of South Carolina, where they would take over county and state offices and ultimately force a constitutional crisis." The author, Philip Jenkins, writes:
However quixotic the Exodus movement sounds, it does remind us of some powerful strands within the Christian and the American traditions. Far from being a product of the contemporary "Religious Right," the idea that believers should cut all ties with an irrevocably corrupt secular world does have excellent credentials. Arguably such separatism is far closer to the spirit of ancient Christianity than are the widespread contemporary assumptions that religion consists chiefly in being good to each other and that God wants nothing more than for us to achieve individual happiness. . . .
Often, of course, such ventures ended in failure or ruin or, at worst, in authoritarianism and violence. The precedents for a contemporary exodus are anything but promising. But looking at these movements pushes us to ask: Which is the greater error, the worse misunderstanding of a religion--to believe that it teaches radical separation from a failed world or that it calls for immersion in that world and a thorough acceptance of its ways.
A more pedestrian point: What, exactly, would be the laws of the "theocratic" state envisioned by the "Christian Exodus" movement? How would they differ, specifically, from the laws that exist in South Carolina right now? (I am not suggesting, by the way, that South Carolina is a "theocracy", or anything like that. I just wonder what exactly it is that the CE folks are after).