Even clearing out all the old Da Vinci Code response books couldn't make room for the almost daily deluge of titles warning about the Religious Right's supposed takeover of America. Listing all the titles and authors would take the rest of this editorial space.

Fortunately, we needn't discuss each book specifically, because a single basic argument unites almost all of them: "A group of religious utopians, with the sympathy and support of tens of millions of Americans, are slowly dismantling democratic institutions to establish a religious tyranny, the springboard to an American fascism" (Chris Hedges, American Fascists). "Religious fanatics who run the country … are close to realizing their vision of heaven on earth: an American theocracy" (Robin Meyers, Why the Christian Right Is Wrong). "We must resist before the fundamentalists do what they have promised [and] turn the world's oldest democracy into a theocracy ruled entirely by 'righteous men'" (Mel White, Religion Gone Bad).

Some writers in this magazine have sounded their own alarm that Christian conservatives might be "lured by theocracy," and at least one occasional CT contributor is among the most prominent book authors warning that "the Religious Right hankers for the kind of homogeneous theocracy that the Puritans tried to establish in 17th-century Massachusetts: to impose their vision of a moral order on all of society."

Oddly, the title of that book is Thy Kingdom Come—a reference to Jesus' teaching that his disciples should pray for what can rightly be described as a theocracy.

Theocracy is surely one of the most explosive labels in contemporary American rhetoric. But for the first 18 centuries or so of its use, it was not primarily a reference to 17th-century ...

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November 2006

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