Celebrate the Facts!
While the United States is well into a Christian Nationalist revolution, the Republic of Ireland (Ireland) has transcended from a theocracy into a secular liberal democracy. Through this process, the economy of Ireland has bloomed. The story of Ireland offers significant lessons for the future of America.
Ireland moved from a theocracy to a secular state through many jumps. The excesses of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the remainder of the world are legend, including labor exploitation, cruelty to children and unwed mothers, the dominance of all systems of government, and child rape, among other horrid crimes.
Most experts attribute the move toward a secular government and the removal of church-dictated laws to the backlash against these crimes. Undoubtedly there are other reasons for the dramatic transformation of this society from one of the more repressive religion-dominated governments to a progressive and inclusive community. But, regardless of the cause, Ireland has bloomed into an inclusive society that refutes outmoded Christian bigotry’s role in governance.
Under the same Government of Ireland Act of 1920 that created the Irish Free State, the British created the Parliament of Northern Ireland. The Parliament consisted of Protestants who helped install a system of systematic discrimination against Catholics. The irrationality of two sects of Christianity at literal war seems surreal, but such appears to be a consistent tie among most religions.
Ireland became a theocracy because of the dominance of the Catholic Church hierarchies in its territory. As a result, the Catholics codified their beliefs into the civil law structure. Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. Ireland’s leaders promulgated its constitution in 1937 and allowed for amendments through referendums. The prime minister, who heads the cabinet, has executive authority.
It may seem bizarre, but until recently:
Recent changes to Ireland’s constitution have moved the Republic of Ireland from a theocracy to liberal secular democracy:
An excellent example of the opening of Irish society was the election of Leo Varadkar, an Irish-born man of Indian ancestry, to the position of During the campaign for the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum, Varadkar came out as gay, becoming the first serving Irish minister to do so.
Varadkar became Taoiseach, the Gaelic word for prime minister when he was 38 years old. He was the youngest person to hold the office. Varadkar was Ireland's first and the world's fourth, openly gay head of government and the first Taoiseach with Indian heritage.
Aside from the quality of life for all citizens, the move toward secular government is strongly correlated with economic growth. The primary economic growth measurements are gross domestic product (GDP) data. GDP measures the monetary value of final goods and services produced in a country. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) measures a country's economic output per person. The gold standard for GDP data is the World Bank.
Ireland outstrips its geographically nearest political group, the United Kingdom, in GDP growth rates and per capita GDP. The United Kingdom is a country run by England, which controls Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. While the comparison is imperfect, the contrast, plus the incredible growth in the economy of Ireland, is impossible to deny. Ireland has transformed from a country of poor people run by an archaic set of moral codes to a liberal democracy that is now a destination rather than a place to flee.
The correlation of economic growth with progressive governance is impossible to deny. A recent study of seven states in the south-central part of the United States, including Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia, confirmed they lagged the United States as a whole. From 1997 to 2019, these states cumulative had a GDP growth of 1.3% annually, compared to the United States rate of 2.3%, so they are falling farther behind the rest of the United States every year. After the end of Apartheid in South Africa, GDP growth rose to nearly 3% from 1.25% from 1980 to 1994.
Oddly, Ireland is the reverse of many of the changes in the United States. The rise of Christian Nationalism with its brethren white nationalism and conspiracy theory has helped move the United States from an emerging liberal society toward a theocracy led by Christian Nationalists. Recent events with an openly racist president highlight the changes in American society. Donald Trump appointed three openly Christian Nationalists to the United States Supreme Court. They will provide the necessary votes to overturn the right to abortion and continue to advocate for Christian causes.
While the theology of Christianity is benign and the faith traditions of the various Christian sects have some benefits to individuals and societies, Christian Nationalism is an awful movement. Christian Nationalists falsely assert that the founders of America were devout Christians, that they used Christian principles in developing the constitution, and the country must remain a ‘Christian nation.’ That’s mostly surrogacy for systemic racism and discrimination against anyone who varies from Christian normative values.
While some wish to dismiss this upcoming abortion ruling as a singular reversal, the Christian Nationalist majority on the court has four justices who arguably perjured themselves in confirmation hearings.
Clarence Thomas likely perjured himself in his denials of the credible Anita Hill sexual harassment allegations. Brett Kavanaugh appeared to lie under oath about credible allegations of attempted rape and his history of alcoholism and dissembling about his thoughts about abortion. Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch both dissembled about their predispositions about abortion.
Their troubles with the truth will almost certainly extend to convolutions necessary to reverse progressive causes and rights in future court findings. While apologists look to isolate this as one particular moral issue, the Christian Nationalist majority on the court will truncate or dismantle much progressive legislation and truncate human rights.
As the Supreme Court weakens the federal government's power, repressive states controlled by Christian Nationalists will enact laws and informal methods to implement their views. Those will include restricting access to abortion, weakening labor protection, repressing minority voting, imprisoning more minorities, and further eroding human rights.
And like other repressive governments, the wealth in those states and the standard of living will continue to decline. One can envision a time not too distant when the young, talented, and diverse will leave these places, if possible, and seek a better future in a welcoming and diverse environment.
In culture wars, each side tends toward ad hominem arguments. These are easy ways to degenerate into emotional exchanges that nourish neither side and change no one’s mind or political orientation. Nevertheless, the empirical data conclude the inverse relationship between autocratic and repressive governance and economic growth. And economic growth is not only desirable but correlated with virtually every public health measurement.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.