August 14, 2006

Bush, the Religious Right and End Times

by Rodrigue Tremblay

 

 

"I think that on balance the moral influence of religion has been awful.

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil;

but for good people to do evil—that takes religion."

Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate, Physics

 

"A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious."

Aristotle (384-322 BC)

 

Since U.S. President George W. Bush says that 'God' tells him what policies to pursue, maybe the religious side of the Israel-United States Axis should be more formally investigated. The more so since Bush has refused to answer a direct question regarding his own views about his religious allies' theory that 'God' is assumed to have a plan to end the world soon. He could have answered that such ideas originate from religious zealots and should be dismissed as hallucinations. —But he did not. What does this mean?

 

When religious extremists use their tax-free access to TV to openly call for a nuclear confrontation between America and Iran, and when they try to demonize the European Union by calling it "the Antichrist", it is time to ask what's going on in the U.S. —Is this wind of collective madness subsiding or getting up steam? Are the Armageddonite fanatics calling for the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ, in an Armageddon war supposed to kill two billion people, turning the U. S. into a madhouse, where the inmates seem to be in charge?

 

There are, indeed, as many as 30 million Armageddonite Americans—ten percent of the population—most of them members of the evangelical religious fundamentalist movement, to which GWB subscribes as an evangelical born-again Christian, and from which he borrows his religious language in defense of his policies.  (In the 2004 elections, exit polls showed that more than three-quarters of white evangelical Christians voted for President Bush.) Many among the evangelicals are known to nurture the crazy idea that if their preachers' end-of-the-world scenario were to be accomplished, they would be 'raptured' and would enter into some 'Heaven', without going through a 'Judgment Day'. Since the leaders of this movement are frequently invited to the White House for off-the-record policy sessions, and since many congressmen attend their meetings, it might not be so foolish after all to look at what these delusional characters have in store for the world.

 

What is frightening is the seeming convergence of interests between the pro-Israel and pro-war neoconservatives in the U.S., the Republican Party and its war-related electoral fortunes, and the religious radicals who are openly calling for a confrontation with Iran as a necessary precondition for their Armageddon. When a religious fanatic held a large meeting in Washington D. C., on July 18, 2006, to launch a war movement of Christian Zionists in favor of Israel and against Iran, the "Christians United for Israel" movement, President George W. Bush did not denounce such mad obsession with the end of the world, but rather sent words of support. He told them "Godbless and stand by the people of Israel and . . . bless the United States."

 

Not only that, but the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman, himself was one of the speakers at the meeting. The leader of the group, Texan John Hagee, proposed that the United States join Israel in a preemptive military strike against Iran to fulfill "God's plan" for both Israel and the West. Republican politicians, such as Sen. Sam Brownback (R- Kansas), Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), were attendees. Also among the guests were the Israeli Ambassador, Daniel Ayalon, and retired Israeli defense chief Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon. —Is it not true that reality beats fiction, when American religious radicals and foreign generals get together to team up for a religious war?

 

What is so disturbing is that George W. Bush and some leading Republicans seem to be listening to deranged religious people who, if they had their way, could precipitate a world war and a world economic depression, just to fulfill their religious fantasies. Considering that the policies of the Neocon-inspired Bush-Cheney administration are seen by many to be governed by an amalgam of "impulse and fantasy", shouldn't the world be worried? Indeed, the magazine Newsweek observed recently that President George W. Bush is a man who “still trusts his gut to tell him what's right”, rather than relying on professional advice, logical analysis, factual evidence and experience to arrive at conclusions. Of course, in such an environment of constant improvisation, anything is possible.

 

In particular, one should not dismiss the influence that religious thinking and the political Religious Right movement have on Bush's decisions. Indeed, what has been the Religious Right's influence on the Bush-Cheney administration's foreign policy, especially as it relates to the Middle East? For example, could it be that Bush's religious beliefs were behind his announcement on January 30, 2001, at his first National Security Council meeting, that from then on the U.S. would tilt its policies sharply toward Israel? Also, could it be that the reason Bush II gave the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert such unconditional and uncritical support and a total blank check, both to repress the Palestinians in Gaza and for attacking and bombing Lebanon, be found in the religious Right's support for such policies? Is George W. Bush listening to televangelist Pat Robertson, when this wild-eyed fanatic encourages Israel to destroy Lebanon because "The Jews are God's chosen people. Israel is a special nation that has a special place in God's heart. He will defend this nation"?

 

In the past, some religious leaders, on the Far Right fringe, also argued for mixing a dangerous cocktail of religion and politics. A few among them did not hesitate in calling for the nuclear obliteration of the entire Soviet Union, because it was thought to be a godless communist empire. This demonstrates, if need be, that armaments without morality or without law equals anarchy and disasters. —In 1948, for example, a bellicose and delusionary evangelist preacher from New Jersey, the Rev. Carl McIntire, became famous when he proposed in a radio broadcast that the United States carry out a "pre-emptive" nuclear attack against the Soviet Union. A religious fundamentalist, founder of the Bible Presbyterian Church, McIntire was persuaded that a worldwide nuclear hecatomb was necessary to "purify" the world of communist countries. He believed that no country should have a system that differed from his own religious model, whatever the cost. At the time, such delirious persons were few and isolated.

 

Nowadays, McIntire's successors are the Falwells, Robertsons, Hagees, etc. of this world. They are much richer and more powerful than in the past, thanks to their tax-free religious status and thanks to the Reagan-era liberalization of the rules governing the use of the media as one-track propaganda tools. Because of that, they are assiduously courted by Far Right politicians and are welcomed to the White House, where they receive a sympathetic hearing.

 

After loosing its anticommunist struggle as a fund-raising technique, the new Christian Right seems to have found another way to raise fear, passions and money. Its new crusade is directed against the 'wrong god' Islamic world and is fanatically in favor of Israel, whatever it does, and against the Palestinians and the Middle East Muslim countries, whatever their sufferings. They talk of having a biblically prophesized "mission" to save Israel from the Muslims and propose a new vigorous "crusade" against them, not hesitating for that purpose to call for the unilateral unleashing of U.S. military power in the region. In the apocalyptic words of John Hagee, one of their more delusional leaders, “We are racing toward the end of time,...Israel is the only nation created by a sovereign act of God, and He has sworn by His holiness to defend Jerusalem, His Holy City. If God created and defends Israel, those nations that fight against it fight against God.”

 

There are none more ferocious than those who kill with religious zeal.—That's where the world stands in the summer of 2006, a summer that may or may not duplicate the summer of 1914 or the summer of 1939.

 

In the 1930's, many people dismissed the German Nazis, later, to their bitter chagrin. They thought that the Nazis were somewhat extremist, but that they were also good Christians, good conservatives and good patriots. Just as the supporters of the Religious Right of today, Adolph Hitler professed that he regarded "Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life."  In fact, the Far Right in Germany was composed of rabid pro-war militarists, and they were dangerous from day one. Tens of millions of people died because of them.

 

The amalgam of belligerent religiosity and simplistic politics creates a threat that many have not fully realized. Those who currently revel in Bush's political religiosity and his flirt with those who advance end-of-the-world scenarios should be more aware that sometimes, crazy ideas can lead to crazy policies. —People should brace themselves. There is nothing that says that inept, ignorant, incompetent and power-hungry politicians cannot also turn out to be crazy politicians.

 

 

 

Rodrigue Tremblay is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Montreal and can be reached at rodrigue.tremblay@yahoo.com

. He is the author of the book 'The New American Empire'.

Visit his blog site at www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.

Author's Website:www.thenewamericanempire.com/

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Posted, August 14, 2006, at 6:30 am

 

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