Frank Zappa and the Dominionists
He would have been appalled, but oh, the songs he would write!
Bryan Zepp Jamieson
November 19th, 2023
While noodling around Facebook today, I came across this quote, attributed to the legendary musician Frank Zappa: “Socialism produces bad music, bad art, social stagnation, and really unhappy people.”
Well, that didn’t really sound like Zappa, who, while a staunch idealistic libertarian, openly admired the freedoms and personal spaciousness afforded by such socialist countries such as Finland, Sweden, France or Denmark. He would have understood that socialism isn’t what most Americans think it is. On that, he did say: “Communism doesn’t work because it is out of phase with human nature. Are we going to wake up one day to find this statement equally true when applied to the concept of Western democracy?” He did know the difference. He was a fierce defender of personal and artistic rights, and respected societies that observed those rights, having little interest in the political apparatus that was involved. On that he said, “Government is the Entertainment division of the military-industrial complex.” Oh, yeah. Current events sure support that notion.
I did look to see if the socialism quote held up to scrutiny, since as Geoffrey Chaucer once famously observed, “Depende not what thou mightst encountre upon thee internets and lendist not unto it thy minde, for it bee swarming with crappe.” The only source I could find (uncited) was on a ‘mens’ rights website. So safe to assume he never said it.
I doubt Frank would be impressed with what passes for Libertarianism these days, and may well have seen it as fascism in drag, a cynical ploy by moneyed interests to strip government and people of power in order to create a power vacuum for churches and corporations to fill. He regarded those as threats to freedoms and creativity, saying: “The biggest threat to America today is not communism, it’s moving America toward a fascist theocracy, and everything that’s happened during the Reagan administration is steering us right down that pipe. […] When you have a government that prefers a certain moral code derived from a certain religion and that moral code turns into legislation to suit one certain religious point of view, and if that code happens to be very very right wing, almost toward Attila the Hun.”
Now, comparing the fascist right to Attila the Hun would be considered mild. We have a Hitler-spouting authoritarian as the lead candidate for President in one major party, and the second-in-line for the entire country an open Dominionist who wants to subject the citizenry to his own toxic brand of Christianity.
I suspect Zappa would be appalled.
Certainly the Founders would be. Mike Johnson, the so-called Speaker who wants Jesus as King of America said, “The separation of church and state is a misnomer. People misunderstand it. Of course, it comes from a phrase that was in a letter that Jefferson wrote. It’s not in the Constitution. And what he was explaining is they did not want the government to encroach upon the church — not that they didn’t want principles of faith to have influence on our public life. It’s exactly the opposite.”
He’s referring, of course, to the Danbury letter in which Jefferson wrote, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.” While Jefferson was reassuring the Danbury Baptists that government would not be used against them, what they were concerned about were non-Baptists. Non-Baptists, using government to repress them or punish them for not being of the True Faith. They, like Jefferson and nearly all of the Founders, came from the British Isles, which had, at that time, a long and storied history of various factions within Christianity seizing secular power and using it to promote themselves and punish and repress others. Jefferson in particular loathed Britain’s Test Act, which denied public office to Catholics, Jews, and other non-believers. He insisted on the “No Religious Test” phrase in the Constitution, which, by its own language, is the only phrase in the Constitution which cannot be amended. “shall EVER be…” is what follows. He wanted anyone of any faith to be able to hold office, but he also wanted to make damned sure that none of those office-holders would abuse it to promote their own faith at the expense of others.
Far right nativists in America like to claim they are of “Scots-Irish” descent, a term that makes about as little sense as “Judeo-Christian.” Scotland and Ireland are two different lands, culturally and socially, and as a rule don’t like one another very much. But both, along with England, have people whose ancestors were punished, imprisoned, sometimes killed for being a member of the wrong religion at the wrong time. For Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists, that was recent history. In fact, in the UK it was also future history: freedom of religion wasn’t formally codified until 1998. Until then, it was illegal for a Catholic to be prime minister (yes, Tony Blair lied about his religious beliefs to hold office), and the monarch must still be Anglican. Scotland and Wales didn’t have separation of church and state until the early 1920s. Every year, England celebrates Guy Fawkes day. It’s a harmless and festive event now, fun for the whole family, but it started out celebrating Catholic traitors by burning them in effigy.
Dominionists don’t understand their their own country nor their own religion. And they don’t know history, which teaches that all theocracies, without exception, become cruel, corrupt and incompetent because the source authority is forever silent and thus easy for monsters, such as Johnson and Trump, to “interpret.” Dominionists are the yellow snow of politics.
Frank Zappa would have used something stronger than “Attila the Hun” to describe it. Cromwell, perhaps, or Pope Benedict IX, or even Hitler.
I’m glad he isn’t here to see this. But oh! The songs he could write!