We forty-nine states of the Union face a choice: mess with Texas, clean up its mess, or kick it out. Texas talks secession; I hope it walks what it talks. By seceding, Texas will define itself as a hostile nation, and we can break off relations with it. When its majority becomes Hispanic and if its majority wants to join Mexico, we should support its efforts. We should resist white flight and illegal immigration.
Texas has a special arrogance for two reasons, size and history. Its ego still regards itself as the largest state in the Union, although Alaska is more than twice its size. Its nickname, The Lone Star State, boasts its nine-year history from 1836 to 1845 as an independent country.
We made a mistake by admitting this country into the Union as a state and then re-admitting it after the Civil War. Sixteen years after admission, it seceded to join the Confederacy in defense of slavery. In the years since re-admission, Texas has supported Jim Crow segregation and the Ku Klux Klan; has made an intrastate sport of roadside killings of blacks; takes pride in the death penalty and its number of black and Hispanic executions unparalleled elsewhere in the country; and permits citizens to kill others in defense of their automobiles. A large minority wants its public schools to teach that creationism and evolution are equally valid theories in science classes and that America is a Christian nation in history classes. Outsiders would settle for Texans being good Christians. Instead, they get a state presuming to be Christian which is a volatile mess of political insanity, moral incoherence, legal callousness, religious zealotry, educational intolerance, Christian hypocrisy, and public approval of the nefarious and retrograde.
All of which I could discuss, but I want to focus on this “Christian nation” thing because Texas decisions about curriculum influence the textbooks sold in many states.
A friend sent me a film about the growing “persecution” of Christians in Great Britain, what with Muslims and homosexuals numerous and ubiquitous. It says that the same “persecution” is coming to America. It implies that a declaration that a country is Christian can stop this persecution. He meant to arouse my sympathy for their plight and to alarm me about our future plight. However, as only a “music” Christian, I was neither sympathetic nor alarmed. With Christianity’s history of persecuting other Christians of different beliefs, not to mention Jews, I neither blanched nor shed a tear.
Apparently, these “America-is-a-Christian-Nation” Texans believe that labels protect people and make them better. But Brits were not safer and did not behave better as a people or a polity when they were uniformly Christian and officially Anglican. Christians have not become endangered or behaved worse as their dominance has dwindled. And Christianity will not die out if the Church of England is disestablished. Christianity is not under attack; instead, enlightened people, many Christian, seek to curtail its hegemony out of respect for people different from them.
Texas responds to demographic changes with intolerance in proposing to instruct students to be intolerant on the presumption that, if America is a “Christian nation,” non-Christians are not part of it, thus not “real Americans.”
Whatever their religious beliefs, our Founders approved the First Amendment, which prohibits an establishment of religion—what a declaration of America as a Christian nation would be. We can amend the Constitution and make such a declaration if we want, but why? What would be the implications of doing so? Testing Christian identity? Outlawing Mormonism? Arresting Unitarians? Rounding up Jews and corralling them in ghettos? Deporting Muslims? Trying to deprogram homosexuals in re-education camps? Feeling good about it all?
Texas and Texans are too into ersatz Christianity to address such questions, probably because they disdain the civic-secular answers provided by that Constitution inside the Washington beltway. They are too into mammonic Christian megachurches which preach that God wants us rich (and happy; money buys happiness, don’t you know?). Those Gospel texts about the poor—their ministers missed seminary class that day.
I think that Christianity—or, perhaps a different thing entirely, the message of Jesus—is about love (enemies included), charity, and the Golden Rule. Fashionable or fundamentalist Christianity thinks it is about animosity toward outsiders and others: immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals—any stranger at the gate. Its followers are more into wearing the label than into living the love, and it shows, and it repels people. I suspect that many who regard Christianity unfavorably do so because the conduct of such people acting only in its name set a bad example and give the religion a bad reputation.
This Texan “America-is-a-Christian-nation” stuff is another undemocratic, unpatriotic impulse to betray the country. It contributes nothing to anyone’s spiritual life and moral conduct, or the nation’s political and economic well-being. It is a subterfuge both insidious and potentially dangerous. So let’s mess with Texas before it messes with us.