Glen T. Martin
It is important to consider what kind of Christianity can be attributed to George W. Bush and some of the Neo-conservative junta who have taken over the Executive Branch of our government. To say the least, their record of destruction illustrates a very strange version of the Gospels. To support this cabal is to support putting an end to democracy in our country as well as perpetual aggression and war against people in other countries. It is to support crushing the life out of thousands of men, women, and children in Iraq and Afghanistan who have never done us the slightest harm.
Supporting the “Christian” Bush means to support Pentagon training of brutal torturers and murderers at the Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Georgia and other facilities devoted to repression of popular movements worldwide. It is to support the destruction of environmental laws and protections that U.S. citizens worked so hard to develop over the past 40 years. It is to support the gutting of programs for the poor and elderly and seriously diminishing the legal protections for working people. How can all this be derived from the Gospels of Jesus Christ? The answer is, it cannot.
It appears that Christians such as George W. Bush orient their faith through the final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. They do not follow the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. The teachings of Jesus are very clearly about love of God and other human beings, about forgiveness, compassion, nonviolence, and a transformed life of gentleness and mercy. One sometimes sees a bumper sticker reading “My boss is a Jewish carpenter.” But one suspects the real boss of many, including George W. Bush, is the Book of Revelation.
At the Council of Carthage in 397, when the books of the present Bible were selected from a wide range of alternatives, the Book of Revelation was one of the most controversial and was nearly voted down by a significant minority of the early Christians present. It was nearly excluded from the Bible. And no wonder. Its unknown author spews forth a lurid and ugly symbology depicting a final war between the forces of good and evil in which good ultimately destroys evil and sends her (she is depicted as a woman) to hell forever. As many commentators have pointed out, the book is full of hatred for “the evil ones.” It is full of the desire for revenge on one-s enemies, and violence. This symbolism is very much the opposite of the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.
Here is where many Republo-Christians like George W. Bush focus. They think they are fighting a righteous battle on the side of a very ill-tempered and vengeful Old Testament God. They want the destruction and domination of all they conceive to be enemies. And they repeatedly imply, with frightening dogmatism, that anyone who does not see the world in their simplistic black and white categories has sided with “the enemy.”
As the recent Presidential debate between John Kerry and George W. Bush underlined, Bush thinks that vague, dogmatic slogans can substitute for careful analysis and mastery of the facts. As the debate also made clear, he has no qualms about lying to the American people. Both traits are characteristics of those who believe they are at war and that, in war, “anything goes.”
Bush appears to see himself fighting the final battles luridly depicted in the Book of Revelation. The symbology of this book is notoriously vague. The book has been interpreted in the service of people’s fears and lust for revenge ever since it was written. The first obvious target was the Roman Empire that persecuted the early Christians. There is clear hatred of the Romans expressed, for example, in the constant repetition of the number 7, representing, everyone knew, the 7 hills upon which Roman had been built.
But in every age, some Christians thought they were living in “the end of days” and turned to war and violence in the service of this book and its symbolism. The great 19th century novelist Fydor Dostoyevski wrote a novel called The Brothers Karamozov. This novel contains a story about Jesus returning to Earth during the Inquisition of 16th century Spain when the Church was burning “heretics” and “witches” to death by the thousands. Jesus is arrested by “the Grand Inquisitor,” a prominent Christian leader of the Inquisition. The Inquisitor visits Jesus in prison and realizes who he is, since Jesus responds with only love and compassion to everything the Inquisitor says to him.
Finally, the Inquisitor says, “No one can live according to your teachings. They are much too difficult. That is why we Christians have gone over to the other side. We have accepted all three of the temptations offered to you by Satan. We have accepted earthly power and wealth, false faith, and miracles. And that is why tomorrow I will burn you at the stake.”
Let us recall that in one of the three temptations, Satan brings Jesus to the top of a mountain overlooking all the kingdoms of the Earth and says “All this I will give to you if you will bow down and worship me.” Today, through worship of the Book of Revelation rather than the living Gospels of Jesus, Republo-Chrsitians like George W. Bush have accepted their nation’s position as military and economic dominator of the globe. And they do not think in terms of justice, equality, and decency for all persons on that globe. Rather, they think they are soldiers in a war of good against evil. They follow a lurid, simplistic, and frightening symbology glorifying “holy-war,” violence, and the desire for revenge. They are the mirror image of Islamic fundamentalists who fight the same “holy war” with the sides reversed.
In every age, including 21st century America, we again and again reenact the crucifixion of Christ. With every innocent Iraqi or Afghanistani child murdered, Jesus is again crucified. This, to me, characterizes the “Christianity” of George W. Bush.