[R-G] George Bush and the Rise of Christian Fascism
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Wed Mar 31 23:16:57 MST 2004
George Bush and the Rise of Christian Fascism
Rev. Rich Lang
Trinity United Methodist Church Seattle.
02/14/04: (ICH) The men who wrote the Constitution of the United States knew
that we human beings have a tendency to 'not get along with each other'.
They knew that if power accrued into the hands of an elite the experiment of
democracy (power spread out into the realm of the people) would be over. So
they created a system of checks and balances which blocked access to any one
person, or any one special interest or elite gaining too much power over
others. Thus our executive, legislative and judicial branches of government
"checked" each other. The media was yet another "check" on the accrual of
too much power as was the Bill of Rights which was written into the
Constitution. The system wasn't perfect but it kept alive the possibility of
true democracy. It kept alive the dream that one day "we the people" could
live in a peaceful commonwealth where every person has what they need to
survive and thrive.
That dream died in December 2000 when the checks and balances of our
Constitution collapsed and George Bush was inserted into the Presidency of
the nited States. September 11, 2001 furthered the atrophying of democracy
handing the country into the hands of an emerging Corporate (and I say
Since that time we have witnessed and have been unable to prevent the
emergence of an Imperial Presidency that has the unrestricted power to
declare war against any country he chooses. The Imperial Presidency has
brought to an end the Constitutional mandate that 'ONLY CONGRESS' has the
authority to declare war. It has furthered weakened international law and
has undermined the potential of the United Nations to spread democracy
throughout the earth.
The President has also gained unrestricted power to round up unlimited
numbers of American citizens and incarcerate them in military brigs or
concentration camps for the rest of their lives. He can keep them from ever
again communicating with friends, families, and attorneys, simply on the
president's certification that the incarcerated are "terrorists," as he has
done with Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi. The President may also now kill
American citizens abroad solely on the basis of his certification that the
one killed is a "terrorist". Just ask the family and friends of Ahmed
Hijazi, anAmerican killed with a U.S.-fired missile in Yemen. Therefore
suspending the Constitutional right: "no person shall be denied life,
liberty or property without due process of law."
Ominous signs are all around us concerning the accrual of power into the
hands of the Presidency. If Mr. Bush stays in office I think our future will
continue to witness shrinking political rights, financial collapse and
endless war. Part of the power and seduction of this administration emerges
from its diabolical manipulation of Christian rhetoric. I want to flesh out
the ideology of the Christian Fascism that Mr. Bush articulates. It is a
form of Christianity that is the mirror opposite of what Jesus embodied. It
is, indeed, the materialization of the spirit of antichrist: a perversion of
Christian faith and practice.
This country, like it or not, is overwhelmingly dominated by the ideology of
the Christian story. It is not so much that our founders were all
Christians. Rather, they lived in an atmosphere scented throughout by
Christian thought and rhetoric. Just as most of us can't imagine how to keep
things cold without refrigeration; so too our founders couldn't help but
think through the lens of the Christian story. And what they saw was that
America had become the New Israel (the new Promised Land) of God. America
has understood itself as a benevolent nation seeking only the good of all.
We have understand our wealth as a blessing given to us as a sign that we
are a "chosen, special people" whose larger meaning is to help the world
into an era of peace, prosperity and justice. Every politician draws on this
"civil religion story" which gives authority to the politicians ambition and
agenda. Another way of saying this is: every nation needs sacred
legitimation. It needs the authority of transcendence: of a story larger
than itself . a story that connects past with present and future. An Empire
needs an even broader story: one that connects with cosmic and/or historical
redemption and new creation.
Martin Luther King understood this sacred American civil religion and was
able to wed it brilliantly with the prophetic religious teachings of the
Bible. He drew upon Biblical narratives which limited the power and
authority of the elite while calling for economic redistribution of wealth.
He drew upon teachings rooted in the personal morality of nonviolence and
compassion. George Bush, on the other hand, also understands this sacred
American 'civic gospel' and has brilliantly merged it with Biblical Holiness
and Holy War traditions. These traditions call for the emergence of the
Righteous Warrior who will cleanse the land of its impurity. These
traditions are rooted in the personal morality of righteous zeal and
1.. Mr. Bush consistently sends signals to his right wing religious base. In
last year's State of the Union he exhorted: "there's power, wonder working
power, in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people". It's
a phrase from a well known Communion hymn "there's power, wonder working
power in the blood of the lamb". Bush brings together the holiness zeal of
Christian evangelicalism with patriotic fundamentalism. The core belief
system of this 'civic gospel' goes something like this: The United States
was founded as a Christian nation with free enterprise as the only economic
system truly compatible with Christian beliefs. These religious values are
today under attack in America. The danger is that without faith in God
America will lose its blessing. Therefore, the government needs to act to
protect the nation's religious heritage.
2.. Mr. Bush's teachings on terrorism: "you are with us or against us"
cements for the hearer the apocalyptic world of good versus evil. There can
be no neutral ground. You have to make a decision. Patriotism is now all or
nothing: it is either total agreement or a slippery slope towards treason.
In the Church you come to Jesus alone for salvation. In the state you obey
the God-annointed leader and are thereby secured.
Renana Brooks writes (The Nation June 24, 2003: Bush Dominates A Nation of
"Bush is a master at inducing learned helplessness in the electorate. He
uses pessimistic language that creates fear and disables people from feeling
they can solve their problems. In his September 20, 2001 speech to Congress
on the 9/11 attacks, he chose to increase people's sense of vulnerability:
'Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any
other we have ever seen. . I ask you to live your lives, and hug your
children. I know many citizens have fears tonight . Be calm and resolute,
even in the face of a continuing threat.' (Subsequent terror alerts .. have
maintained and expanded this fear of unknown, sinister enemies.)"
The terror threat itself can only be combated with increases in military
force, domestic security and curtailment of civil rights through Patriot
Acts. There are no other options nor any dialogue or debate that would
create an alternative way to deal with terrorism.
3.) Mr. Bush certainly sees himself as a Messiah figure. Listen to his
language after 9-11: " I will not forget this wound to our country or those
who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in
waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people." Or,
in his 2003 State of the Union speech: "I will defend the freedom and
security of the American people". He has become the nation. He is its
embodiment. According to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, - Bush
told him: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he
instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to
solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not,
the elections will come and I will have to focus on them." This is Biblical
language . it isn't political script. This is Bush's soul language. He
understands himself as a man with a Divine mission. It also means that for
him leadership is not "representing the people" rather leadership means
transcending the will of the people. George Bush already knows the truth
before the evidence is presented. He is guided by God and must blaze the
trial even if the people are reluctant.
Iraq, for example, was a necessary war whether or not Saddam had nukes.
Saddam, for Bush, was a bad guy who tried to kill "my dad". The war, for
Bush, was holy and justified and necessary. Purging evil is necessary in the
Holiness/Holy War tradition of the Bible. The righteous will purge evil but
the unrighteous will be consumed by it. Think of an alcoholic: it's all or
nothing. The whole world is all or nothing.
Like all religions the Bible has various narratives within its pages: Jesus
drew on the prophetic traditions that called upon the people to change their
way of life even as it critiqued and called upon the elites to decentralize
their power. Jesus himself role modeled a lifestyle of service. Mr. Bush, on
the other hand, draws on traditions that call for purity and cleansing. It
is a language of hostility towards enemies and a strident call for
obedience. It calls forth a lifestyle of the RIGHTEOUS ONE who will purge
evil from the world through sacred violence.
All of this is not to say that the political world is of less importance. We
know that the planning for the Iraq war was at least a decade in
preparation. We know that America has had imperial designs and has
intervened militarily throughout the world. And we've known for 25 years
that Corporations have been savagely reducing labor rights while looting the
treasury. We know that Mr. Bush is not the cause of our problems. Rather,
the point I am making is that Mr. Bush is a sincere front man for an
emerging fascism. His religious rhetoric is an authentic merging of Holiness
Christianity with Imperial Americanism. The emphasis on security, law and
order is necessary to maintain the "high calling" of the American people.
The policies of fascism, in other words, are consistent with religious
holiness and holy war narratives. And fascism, woven underneath Christian
Holiness/Holy War traditions, is a powerful symbolic narrative that speaks
to the American people as evidenced by Mr. Bush's 58% approval rating.
The coming election will not be decided because of political policy. It will
not be decided in a debate over free markets versus fair markets; tax cuts
or no tax cuts, Patriot Act or no Patriot Act; war with Syria or no war.
None of these issues will determine the election because the candidates are
all for free markets, tax cuts, domestic security and a strong global
military presence. The election will be determined by the candidate who can
embody the deeply felt, often unarticulated religious yearnings of the
populace. Yearnings such as "who will save us, secure us, lead us??? who
will connect us with a power greater than the power of others?" Bush speaks
this language. Democrats are stuck in political nuance. Or, in other words,
Democrats cannot speak the language of Martin Luther King who understood
that social transformation requires a transcendent authority.
The problem comes down to this: Democrats, liberals, and social progressives
have simply not grasped how afraid, insecure and how deeply in despair the
populace is. They keep speaking as if objective analysis and idealistic
vision can win the day. What Bush and Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and
Pearls, Abrams and Bolton, DeLay and Rice etc, have clearly understood is
that truth is subjectivity. Unfortunately, the inner person of America today
is a hollowed out consumer who lacks the will power, stamina and imagination
to do anything more than be overwhelmed. Therefore, a politics of crisis, a
politics of fear will keep us locked into a state of conformity.
On the "civic side" of things America is being inundated with a rhetoric of
insecurity. Most of Bush's State of the Union was taken up with war themes
reminding us all of the horrible new world we live in post 9/11. We know
that further increases in the military and police budgets are on the way; we
know that the Patriot Act is going to be extended and strengthened; we know
that Homeland Security will continue to be a growth industry. We know that
this administration wants to break down the wall between church and state
with faith-based initiatives. The world is in chaos and the Bush-men will
fix it bringing us peace, prosperity, purity and purpose.
On the religion side of things apocalyptic theology is booming. This is also
a worldview of crisis and insecurity. It is a theology rooted in the
Holiness/Holy War traditions and it dominates the spirituality of this
current administration. More to the point, this is the dominant theology of
the mass media expression of Christian faith. It is a theology of despair
that has given up on the possibilities of redemption.
One of the most popular fiction series making the rounds these days is the
LEFT BEHIND series written by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins. Multiple millions
of people are reading these books which fictionalize the end of life as we
know it. It used to be that the Church could control people through the fear
of eternal damnation. Today it is through fear of the future. The theology
is basically this: The Bible is a code book that when rightly interpreted
reveals that we are living at the end of history. History is scripted and is
about to come to a catastrophic conclusion. The only hope is to accept Jesus
as your personal Lord and Savior so that you can be "saved" from the future
apocalypse. God will "snatch you up" (Rapture) right before a seven year
series of horrible events that will see the rise of Antichrist and the
rebuilding of the Jewish temple. There will be world war with most of
humanity dying. At that point Jesus will return to restore law and order.
This theology of despair "fits" our current culture of powerlessness and
fear. From SARS to weapons of mass destruction to the ongoing
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to ecological collapse, the whole world seems
to be on a "no exit" slide into an end times abyss. The theology of despair
is very seductive. It is shaping the spirituality of Christians which
provides a strong core from which Bush draws political strength.
And it has, at least, five political implications that affect each one of us
here today. FIRST: Israel is to be exalted and defended no matter what they
do to the Palestinian people. They are God's chosen people and must reside
in their Biblically anointed Land for the "end time clock" to tick to its
final minute. Israel has a Biblical mandate to conquer and control all of
the land from the Nile River to the Euphrates. Behind the politics of oil
lie the religious passion to fulfill God's will: Syria must fall.
Secondly: institutions like the United Nations are not to be trusted because
they are tools of the Antichrist. The Antichrist is thought of (not as a
spirituality or ideology) but as an personal embodiment of evil. The
Antichrist will be a living person who will come to power at the end of
history and proclaim himself to be god on earth. The theory has it that his
power will be generated from within a coalition of nations. Thus . America,
as God's chosen nation, will need to go it alone so as not to be duped by
Antichrist. Our destiny is to take the gospel to all the nations: a
benevolent gospel of therapeutic salvation for all.
Thirdly: since the world is passing away the environment is not of great
importance. There is no need to worry about issues of sustainability because
the world is in its final countdown. Part of the unconcern towards global
warming and other ecological crisis is the religious belief that we aren't
going to be around in 100 years. We're in the end times now . every moment
is merely preparation for eternity. Whether Bush himself believes this or
not is irrelevant. This is the religious worldview of those who exalt him
and the voter-bloc to which he plays. For Bush to act for sustainability
would require a major shift in his religious narrative. . As an aside this
past summer the National Park Service was instructed to approve the display
of religious symbols and Bible verses, as well as the sale of creationist
books at the Grand Canyon National Park. In December 2003 the Park Service
was ordered to develop a "more balanced" version of an 8 minute video shown
at the Lincoln Memorial Visitor Center. Conservative Christians wanted the
removal of footage of gay rights, pro choice and anti-war demonstrations
replacing it with footage of Christian rallies and pro-war demonstrations.
Fourth: the trust that Jesus died for "my sins" is far more important than
the teachings of Jesus. This fosters a domesticated therapeutic religious
expression that insists that "jesus in my heart" is more important than my
lifestyle. It's like the Mafia don who could order his enemies killed while
he himself was celebrating the baptism of his nephew. There is a disconnect
between one's inner experience of God's loving grace and embodying that
experience outwardly through one's politics. This leads to a discounting of
following Jesus in a lifestyle of nonviolence, economic justice and
compassion. Again as an aside . while Governor of Texas Mr. Bush was
interviewed by Talk Magazine concerning the impending execution of fellow
Christian Karla Faye Tucker. Bush imitated Tucker's appeal for him to spare
her life . pursing his lips, squinting his eyes, and in a squeaky voice
saying, "please don't kill me".
Fifth: a leader who loves Jesus is to be followed as God's man for the hour.
The Christian leader is God's shepherd over the American flock. As stated
before Bush sees himself as a Messiah figure (annointed by God for a special
redemptive purpose). When he decided on running for the Presidency he called
a group of evangelical Pastors together announcing to them "I have heard the
call" and then receiving from them the "laying on of hands" which
corresponds to divine ordination for the task ahead. On September 14, 2001
he stated: "our responsibility before history is already clear: to answer
these attacks and rid the world of evil". He then launched the crusade
Operation Infinite Freedom against Afghanistan. Yet other messainic
statements from Bush:
"History has called America to action. . The great hope of our time, and the
great hope of every time, now depends on us." ..
"We must also remember our calling as a blessed nation to make the world
better . and confound the designs of evil men."
"Our nation has been chosen by God and commissioned by history, to be a
model of justice before the world."
*** According to Vice-President Cheney: America "has the duty to act with
force to construct a world in the image of the United States."
In return for this messianic leadership evangelical Christians have returned
an annointing of prayer. During the Afghanistan crusade thousands of
"Presidential Circles of Prayer" and "Wheels of Prayer" were organized on
the Internet, running 24 hours a day.
WHEEL OF PRAYER FOR OUR SOLDIERS
Lord hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us.
Bless them and their families for the altruistic actions they are performing
for us in our time of need. This I ask in the name of Jesus, our Lord and
This prayer was so popular and was hit so often that the website crashed
Pastor Charles Stanley distributed among Marines as they entered into combat
thousands of pamphlets entitled "Duty of a Christian in Time of War". With
the pamphlet went a card instructing them to sign and send directly to Mr.
Bush. The card says: "I have committed to pray for you, your family and your
Administration." Specific prayers for the President were included for each
The point I'm trying to make is that we are not dealing simply with politics
when it comes to the Bush administration. The progressive left, which often
pays little attention to Christianity, will be making a huge mistake if they
overlook the religious ideology at the core of Mr. Bush personally and the
movement he represents. And we are talking about a "movement" (a movement of
'the people' not just the elites). We are seeing today the emergence of a
"fascist movement". It is bankrolled and organized by Corporations,
articulated through the ideology of neo-conservativism. but is fueled by the
right-wing church drawing upon Holiness/Holy War Biblical narratives.
When Dave Korten (author of When Corporations Rule the World) says that we
need a "new story"; he is talking about needing a transcendent authority in
which we root our political culture. Human beings cannot live in societal
form without a sacred narrative. Neither anarchy nor atheism can construct a
house that will hold our future. The Republicans know this well. But the
Democrats seem clueless.
In Biblical language the Republicans have become Pharaoh whose house is
strong because of economic exploitation of the populace and military
repression of the people. The populace is being asked to make bricks without
straw. We are seeking a "savior" . a Moses who can rally us out of these
mudpits towards the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey.
Unfortunately most Democrats are simply offering Pharaoh-lite: they still
will keep us in the mudpit making bricks.
What we need is a movement of spiritual justice. We need the language of
those who can wed America's civil religion with Biblical prophetic
narrative. We need to expand that language so that it can include the
language and stories that are emerging from the antiwar, fair trade and
human rights movements. Together this language can form a unique new
narrative that has the power to inspire imagination and courage. A language
that call forth a new coalition powerful enough to leave behind the mudpit
and to enter the promise of a new beginning. A coalition that understands
that "we are the ones we are looking for". Indeed, the new narrative will
proclaim "God with us" not "God above us".
Rev. Rich Lang
oddrev at yahoo.com
Trinity United Methodist Church Seattle
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