All Night Long!
On Holy Presence


The world keeps getting weirder. Witness the Christian Exodus plan to relocate Christians to a Southern state with the express purpose of seceding and forming a Christian nation.

There's a temptation to indulge the glib reaction of "Good riddance!" Clearly these folks and I disagree mightily about the direction we want our nation to go in. They want prayer and creationism in public schools, and it won't matter how often people like me argue that public schools need to be accessible to everyone, without religious bias. They'd like to amend the Constitution to deny civil marriage rights to gays and lesbians, and it won't matter how often people like me argue that civil marriage should not be legislated on religious lines. This isn't a Christian nation -- we maintain a wall of separation between Church and State here. I think that's a good thing; they don't; and it appears there's no chance of dialogue between my viewpoint and theirs. I can see why some folks say that those who want to live in that kind of Christian nation should go start one someplace else.

On the proverbial other hand, I think America's particular genius (at least in theory) is the notion that people of all races, creeds, and religions can co-exist. Once we start splitting on religious lines, I fear that intolerance and misinformation will win out over human connection. And any nation which bases its existence on the belief that one path to God is right and everyone else is an infidel is playing with fire in a way that troubles me. History teaches that religious fundamentalism and democracy don't mix. I don't think it's possible to simultaneously privilege members of one religion over others and preserve rights for all. I wonder whether this kind of "Christian" nation at our border would create problems we currently can't imagine. (I'm putting "Christian" in scare quotes because I resent the implication that fundamentalists get to define Christian practice and priority. I suspect many Christians find this Exodus project as distressing as I do.)

There's also the problem that anywhere these folks choose to settle will necessarily already be inhabited. What would become of people who disagree with this movement who are unfortunate enough to inhabit whichever Southern state this group decides to steamroller? What of their rights? This strikes me as a pretty clear mimicking of the Free State Project -- which has yielded mixed reactions in New Hampshire. And the Exodus folks have a new twist on the FSP idea: they want to secede from the Union and become their own nation. To me, this plan is deeply problematic, and it highlights the growing divide that I worry may tear our country apart.

That's the real problem, I think: increasing polarization and divisiveness, with little or no hope of respectful dialogue. And without the dialogue, how can the situation change?