Christian Fundamentalism and the American Empire
By: Yoginder Sikand
Christian fundamentalists have sought to provide Bush with theological sanction for American imperialism and aggression, leading America into a head-on clash with the Muslim world, resulting in the massacres of hundreds of thousands of people, mainly Muslims, in Iraq, Afghanistan and in new 'trouble spots' that the Americans seem to be adamant on creating.
Just because the mass media rarely, if ever, refers to it, it does not mean it does not exist. In fact, Christian fundamentalism is now firmly entrenched in America's politics and society. It exercises a powerful influence in shaping the country's domestic and foreign policies. So Esther Kaplan argues in her recently published book, 'With God on Their Side', a brilliant expose of the menacing clout that American Christian fundamentalists wield today, with the country being ruled by a man whom many Christian bigots see as having been appointed by God Himself.
Kaplan describes her book as an investigation into 'how Christian fundamentalists trampled science, policy and democracy in George W. Bush's White House'. And that she proves with ample facts and detailed statistics, the result of painstaking research. Her main thesis is that given the fact that the Christian right wing is Bush's primary electoral base it is but to be expected that they exercise enormous clout in shaping Bush's decisions. And this influence, she argues, has been fatal. Christian fundamentalism is fiercely right-wing, and this has meant that the poor as well as ethnic and other minorities in America have been badly affected by a range of policies that Bush has adopted on vital social issues. But much more tragic, of course, has been the influence of the Christian right-wing in shaping Bush's foreign policies. Christian fundamentalists have sought to provide Bush with theological sanction for American imperialism and aggression, leading America into a head-on clash with the Muslim world, resulting in the massacres of hundreds of thousands of people, mainly Muslims, in Iraq, Afghanistan and in new 'trouble spots' that the Americans seem to be adamant on creating.
Kaplan offers convincing evidence of what she calls Bush's 'embrace of right-wing Christian fundamentalism'. Kaplan quotes Paul O'Neill, who served as Bush's Treasury Secretary, as saying that ideology, rather than real world analysis, now rules the White House. And by ideology presumably is meant Christian fundamentalism. Attendance at weekly Bible Study sessions in the White House appears to be encouraged—more than half the White House staff participates in these. Daily Bible study sessions are held in the Department of Justice and are presided over by none other than America's Attorney General. Bush, for his part, makes no bones about what he bandies about as his Christian credentials. In fact, he has, Kaplan tells us, gone so far as to claim what is in effect a special cosmic status for himself—he has declared that he feels that God wanted him to stand as presidential candidate and had also commanded him to invade Iraq. The first conversation that he had with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin is said to have been about religion and he is said to regularly pray together with Tony Blair, another Christian fundamentalist.
Kaplan examines the writings and statements of numerous leading American Christian fundamentalist ideologues who enjoy close relations with Bush to show how powerfully Bush echoes their Manichaean view about the world. Bush considers America as engaged in a global war on behalf of the 'good' against the forces of 'evil'. This is precisely how large numbers of American Christian fundamentalists, too, view the issue. They see their version of Christianity as the sole truth. Many of them consider Islam to be 'Satanic', and other religions to be false cults. This naturally disposes many Christian fundamentalists to war against other faiths and their adherents. This is apparent in the firm backing that many American Christian fundamentalists have provided to the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and to America's consistent support to Israel against the Palestinians.
Islam, for many American Christian fundamentalists, has taken the place as the great demon that Communism once enjoyed, and this neatly dovetails with American plans for global hegemony. Kaplan provides ample evidence of this by quoting statements of leading American Christian fundamentalists, many of who enjoy close relations with the Bush administration. Thus, she refers to Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, whom Bush credits with his Christian awakening, as denouncing Islam as 'a very evil and wicked religion'. Incidentally, Franklin Graham had led Bush's inaugural prayer ceremony. Kaplan quotes the notorious Jerry Vines, onetime President of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, with which Bush has close links, as calling the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) a 'demon-obsessed pedophile'. Pat Robertson, another notorious American Christian fundamentalist declares Muslims to be 'worse than nazis', and Jerry Falwell, another such Christian leader, denounces the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) as a 'terrorist'.
Key advisors and colleagues in Bush's administration are fundamentalist Christians, Kaplan tells us. Bush's Pentecostal Attorney General John Ashcroft has made no effort to conceal his belief that what America calls its war on terror is a struggle between 'good' and 'evil' and for God, seeming to assume that God is on America's side and giving the latest American offensive the shape of a religious struggle of cosmic dimensions. His claim that 'Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you' provoked tremendous criticism, but, Kaplan says, Bush did not firmly admonish him for this. Nor did Bush convincingly condemn the statement of General William Jerry Boykin, appointed to trace Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussain, when he claimed that America was engaged in a battle against Satan, who, he claimed, wanted to destroy America, which he announced was a 'Christian country'. He had even declared that God had put Bush in the White House and had fervently appealed to Christians to join the American army in Jesus' name.
Bush, Kaplan writes, was warned to forcefully condemn such inflammatory statements demonising Islam and Muslims emanating from senior members of his administration. However, rather than doing this, he soon appeared along with two evangelical missionaries who had been jailed by the Taliban for violating a ban on proselytism in Afghanistan and declared that one reason why he invade Afghanistan was to release them.
Christian fundamentalism and American Empire go hand-in-hand, Kaplan suggests. This is illustrated, for instance, in the firm support given by American Christian right-wing groups for America's imperialist offensives in the Muslim world. Thus, Kaplan writes that America's invasion of Iraq was greeted as 'big news' by American evangelicals, hoping that American arms would pave the way for Christian missionaries to flood the Muslim world. 'There is a tremendous amount of excitement about the opportunity', Mark Kelly of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board announced when the American offensive against Iraq was in its second month. No sooner had Saddam fallen than American and other Western Christian evangelists descended on the hapless Iraq Muslims, armed with food aid, Jesus films and Bibles, in a well-designed campaign to convert them to Christianity. The events of 9/11 have given this Christian missionary zeal added impetus. Kaplan writes that since 2001 the number of Christian missionaries working in Muslim countries has gone up four times.
War-mongering Christian fundamentalists are implacably opposed to peace in the Middle East, Kaplan says. They insist that the Jews alone have the right to rule or live in Palestine, and they have been opposed to any suggestion of a Palestinian state. They see the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel as initiating what they call the Second Coming of Jesus, who, they expect, will return to establish a messianic global kingdom. All non-Christians would, they believe, then be killed and sent to hell. They also believe that those Jews who refuse to accept Jesus as the messiah would be slain. Yet, since they are fervent backers of the state of Israel, and because they identify Muslims as their principal enemies, they have been able to establish strong links with Zionist organisations in America and Israel, as well as with the Israeli state, a fact that Kaplan discusses in detail. Kaplan shows how the views of these Christian bigots find considerable support among key officials in the Bush administration and influence his politics in the troubled Middle East, further stoking the flames of war and destruction in the region.