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In George Washington’s farewell address, he stated, “Of all dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…and let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be contended to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Despite the father of our country’s admonition and caution, many Americans have a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of religion in our country and society. Further, many Americans have a false notion of what the separation of church and state entails. Separation of church and state is a phrase that refers to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In a letter, Thomas Jefferson referred to the First Amendment as the creation of a “wall of separation” between church and state in an attempt to delineate between fractious Christian denominations. Note: he intended that religious separation would serve as protection of the citizenry from state-sanctioned religion; it was not meant to be a guarantee that any semblance of religion would be perpetually and forcibly shunned from the public square. Religious freedom is imperative for the survival of our country. In fact, it is a foundational tenet of who we are as a nation.

As we look in the rearview mirror at the past two years of the COVID pandemic and our collective (over)reaction to it, the mantra of “Make Orwell Fiction Again” seems apt. Orwell’s 1984 dystopian superstate seems all too real to us in 2022; the rejection of freedom of conscience and forced atheism is not only essential to “the party’s” absolute power, but it is a compelled function of statism. People aren’t valuable except for how they might serve their master, the party. However, people can become part of something more important than themselves by joining the party. The party supersedes all else; it is an end to itself. Individualism and personal conscience cannot be tolerated; governmental elites to rule the day. Human life is devalued and made meaningless because people are all bound to die: especially the unwanted or weak or elderly or disabled or unborn. In a statist society, people are solely valued by their level of loyalty to the state and for their potential toward state production rather than for their status as image-bearers or any other inherent or intrinsic value.

Sounds familiar.

The Orwellian world of totalitarianism offers a way for citizens to rescue themselves from the threat of nonexistence by becoming agents of the state. In a soft totalitarian country (including the one we are living in and taking steps towards daily), citizens are intentionally divided into warring groups of politically polarized people; there is no equality of opportunity, and only intersectionality reigns. There are believers and non-believers. There are the chosen and the sinners. However, these believers hold no belief higher than the authority and ability of the state to achieve a worldly utopia; kingdom on earth rather than in heaven. Orwellian believers are statists, followers of the state religion of … the state. They follow governmental commands, not because the commands are right or true but solely due to the requirement of unquestioning allegiance in order to claim the status of the chosen. Conversely, non-believers are heretics and sinners who stand in the way of the collective safety and purity of the whole.

Sounds familiar.  

Carl Jung advocated that “the State takes the place of God,” and that “socialist dictatorships are religions, and State slavery is a form of worship.” In countries where the church IS the state, totalitarianism replaces personal religion with the idea that people find meaning not in the worship of God but in the worship of self. It is the historically classic worship of the created rather than the creator.  While nothing is new under the sun, self-worship is both tragic and false. In a totalitarian state, the persuasive methods of religious evangelism are redeployed to convince the electorate that the (false) dream of a perfect progressive state (or heaven on earth) justifies any and all limitations on personal freedom; the end justifies the means.  In fact, both the intolerance and control are for your safety. Lockdowns? Check. Mandatory masks and vaccinations? Check. Governmental checkpoints and restrictions on the ability to travel, work, worship and educate for those who refuse to comply? Check. Turning in friends and neighbors for disobeying the ever-changing orders of the state? Check. The punishment of dissidents via mandates, surveillance, imprisonment and possibly the death of individuals or groups is considered acceptable or even noble in a completely totalitarian state.

Sounds familiar. 

State-led science claims by chosen elites in public health and professional (but federally and state-funded) medicine, are presented as both more sophisticated and more truthful despite their obvious conflicts of interest and mistruths, are usurping true religion in the U.S. However, totalitarianism is not a viable alternative to actual religion; it is a secularized religion in itself. Soft totalitarianism is shifting toward hard totalitarianism and its appeal is spreading across the globe at an alarming and heart-rending rate. Our Canadian friends are serving as the unfortunate North American poster children for government on steroids, but the intentional perversion of our Constitutional Republic into a democratically controlled mob state combined with the American misunderstanding of the Establishment Clause and a lamentable level of pastoral weakness in the American church are feeding the statist beast.

To ensure continued allegiance and complete compliance in a totalitarian state, citizens must be kept in a perpetual cycle of fear. Threats of war, illness, global catastrophe or personal violence help fuel the ever-present fears of loss of social status, loss of income, and the fear of being alone or of dying. Fear is a powerful force that drives compliance and must be refueled on an ongoing basis; taxpayer-supported propaganda and the never-ending corporately driven news cycle empower compliant citizens and complicit businesses to help the state restrict dissidents. Elected officials drunk from the cocktail circuit and drunk on power ignore the call to represent their constituents and instead look for ways to control them. Social media virtue-signaling status symbols and other self-aggrandized badges of honor give the most loyal lapdogs the labels they desire. Continual corporate conditioning with professionally marketed memes and mantras like “We’re all in this together” shore up the allegiance of the masses. Governmental restrictions on citizens continually control individual access to wealth, education, food, gas, housing, and association. Increasingly, governmental authorities are used to punish dissidents and silence those who might be considering questioning unvarnished government control. Blind loyalty to those who seek to control and abuse others is wrong. Though abusers can become false saviors in the eyes of the abused, government is not a savior.

Religious persons are usually not a threat to public safety and the Judeo-Christian believers who are foundational to our county are certainly not a threat to the Constitutional Republic we have today. While ranting with raised fists in front of a menacing red and black backdrop before Marines stoically standing guard, the President instructed us that Americans with religious conscience who believe in “radical” things like the sanctity of traditional marriage and the right to life are the enemy of the state he envisions. The totalitarian state Biden is attempting to lead us towards isn’t honorable or true to the historical principles of religious freedom or self-government that every U.S. citizen enjoys and should take a renewed vow to defend.

It is a state ruled with the raised fists of forced compliance to the whims and ever-increasing demands of secular government officials. A totalitarian state is a country ruled by men rather than laws; it is a government of the governing rather than the governed. People of conscience are a threat to the U.S. government in the exact same way that early Christians were a threat to Rome; it was not that they wanted to overthrow the government but that they rightfully rejected the idea that the state should be worshipped. Believers in Christ were persecuted and killed not for what they believed, but for what they did not believe and that which none of us should ever believe: that government is God. 

Stephanie Holden Smith is an experienced policy analyst, political commentator, and public speaker. Smith has worked and volunteered in Governmental Affairs in Alabama since 1997, including lobbying for a Fortune 500 company and serving as Deputy Director of Finance for the State of Alabama. She is currently the principal of Thatcher Coalition LLC. To contact Stephanie, please go to http://thatchercoalition.com.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information Commentary@1819News.com.

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