Bush, Religion and Eurocentric Geo-Politics
March 18, 2003
by Corey Gilkes
It has been said almost like a mantra since talk surfaced about the US plans to invade Iraq that Bush was after one thing, Iraqi oil. Many also argue that a lot of the present rhetoric is fuelled by the profound influence Israel has over Washington. All this is alarming enough. But there is another aspect that is even more disturbing and needs to be seriously looked at. On Thursday 6th March I read on MSN an article on Bush and his intense religious beliefs. It explored in some detail the extent to which he relies on his (fundamentalist?) Christian beliefs to guide him in virtually every major decision, including his intentions with regard to Iraq. After reading it I was convinced that I was justified in arguing that in its Western interpretation, religion and matters of faith have no business whatsoever in politics or other matters involving the state. It is chilling how relevant the works of Diop, Marimba Ani and Frances Cress Welsing are today.
This MSN article a clumsy attempt at propaganda spoke at length about his daily routine, which begins with a reading of evangelical mini-sermons; his turn to religion after a destructive drinking habit; his winning over of the religiously conservative voters of the South by striking their religious chords and his fervent belief that he and the country he leads is "called" by a higher force to make the world a safer place.
Now it is bad enough that the United States, as its European model before it, arrogantly and openly flouts international laws and treaties. But to do so spurred on by religious dictates and have access to nuclear weapons is really cause for alarm. Indeed, the ghosts of Europe's own expansionist ventures come back in a not so different context. Now while it is quite clear that "Dubya" is making full use of a post Sept 11 world and a farcical "War on Terror" to further geo-political ideologies, the idea that all this present instability and tension has largely to do with Biblical readings is enough to make this writer head for the backyard with a shovel and start digging a bomb shelter.
History is very clear about the way religion has been used by Europeans to incite people into supporting and participating in military actions that were almost always extensions of nationalistic and idealistic policies. This campaign and the religious content in Bush's speeches are cut from the same cloth of European nationalism that gave us the Crusades, the wars of conquest and enslavement; the colonisation of other people's land in service of the metropole, the imposition of Euro-centred ideologies and the setting up of infrastructure that would ensure perpetual dependency syndromes among former colonies. It is common knowledge that the Xian thought in particular has been one of the strongest supportive mechanisms in maintaining the European/Euro-American image of themselves [patrons, saviours] and others [children, savages, irrational, despotic]
What I have always found disquieting about religious types is the sincerity with which they believe in the superiority of their particular faith and the need to undermine and win over devotees of other faiths, particularly when these faiths are not Christian. In other words they are sincere in their bigotry. This religiously bigoted outlook has grown over the last few years spurred on in no small way by the approach of the 21st Gregorian century and the onset of a so-called new millennium as the religious forces have become more fundamentalist and yoked to political reaction, ethnocentrism and an apocalyptic outlook. For someone of Bush's stature to be making decisions based on a belief of the inerracy of the bible, then we need to be very concerned about how he views such things as the Apocalypse and how he can hasten the so-called Second Coming. This is not just wild speculation; there is actually historical precedent for this. During the formative years of Xianity the Roman authorities had to contend with pious Xian mobs committing acts of arson so as to speed up the return of the Christ. What differentiates that period and this one is that now we got cyberspace and some nukes, stupidity itself knows no time frame. Much of this stems from the romanticised way most people viewed Xianity as well as the failure or refusal by Xian clerics, pastors and the like to enlighten their followers about the many twists, turns, political and historical accidents over the last two millennia that shaped Western Xianity to what it is. Xian faith is known but Xian history is not.
It is amazing how often and how easily the "War on Terror" has been painted as a mission of God. In fact, many of his speeches are loaded with words and phrases that evoke images of this farcical "war" as being a crusade, a classic case of the struggle between the forces of Light and Darkness with the US as the principal agent of Light and Bush as the agent of Good. Historically, this is a recurring theme, the identifying of the military, missionary and exploratory expeditions of Europeans/Euro-Americans as a "Crusade" or an expedition undertaken at god's behest. We can also see here strains of ancient Greece long held as the model for most European and Euro-centred nations which viewed other peoples and cultures as barbaric, "irrational", in need of conquest and guidance by the "rational" cultures.
So in order to make sense of all this, it is important that the impetus for his actions be taken apart and carefully studied. In other words, Xianity as most of us know it to be, regardless of denomination, must be examined to understand what is unfolding before our eyes. It is beyond the scope of this work but this writer hopes that by highlighting this aspect of Eurocentric geo-politics, others can throw more light on this and perhaps change the direction the world seems to be heading.
To do this I continue to utilise as a working paradigm the Two-Cradle analysis of Cheikh Anta Diop. As examined in my previous essays, particularly "Orthodox" Christianity and the Birth of European Nationalism" Dr Diop divided the ancient world into two zones, the frigid Northern Cradle, Europe/Eurasia and the tropical Southern Cradle of Africa and southern Asia. Diop argued that the extremely frigid climate of the north in primordial times gave rise to certain patterns of behaviour among the nomadic tribes necessary for survival. Among the behavioural traits that arose out of this ecological condition were xenophobia, despotism and a type of perpetual siege mentality.
We must examine closely this xenophobic behaviour of these cultures and how fear of outsiders played a profound role in shaping the psyche and religious beliefs of the early Indo-Aryan inhabitants of Europe and by extension, European-centred societies today. Since primordial times the inhabitants of the Eurasian steppes came to fear and view with suspicion the presence of strangers. Given what we know about the scarcity of food in those times this outlook was essential for the survival of the mostly nomadic communities. Hunter-gatherer tribes across the frigid steppes competed against each other for precious food stocks and grazing land for animals. Clans were on the constant lookout for the appearance of another tribe and fighting, deception and theft became valued traits in the male of the clan. Another by-product of this nomadic, warrior-oriented culture was the emergence of a singular, usually patriarchal, figure who was often the strongest, most aggressive person in the clan. This of course was also reflected in the belief systems and it was out of the Northern Cradle the concept of the single, malevolent, warlike male deity came into being. One of these malevolent deities, Marduk, served as the model for the Hebrew Yahweh. Unlike the cultures to the south that had a monarch who essentially, was a figurehead and who made decisions only after consulting with the Queen Mother, priests and the council-of-elders, in the northern Cradle there could only be one figure of authority whose word was law.
Now how does this become relevant to Bush and Xianity? After all, as is often argued, Xianity, purportedly a religion of peace and love, tempers this aggressive outlook. This argument holds no water because overlooked is the fact that all religions are shaped by the secular cultures that existed around them and Xianity barring its Egyptian birth and influence was most certainly shaped by the Roman and Greek influence, among others. The same central hierchical figure and outlook that was present in secular Eurasian life from primordial times diffused into many Xian sects. Indeed, for the first three hundred years there were violent disagreements over who and what constituted the Divine and which church would be the Mother Church. The religious intolerance for which it became known was spliced into the culture from the very earliest days. This only came to an end under Constantine who ascended the throne in 312 CE. Constantine, seeking complete political unification of the Roman Empire set about bringing the various religious, ethnic and linguistic groups that lived under Roman rule. He accomplished this by instilling in Roman citizens a common sense of brotherhood, namely by identifying common enemies of the state. He also halted religious persecution, issuing his Edict of Milan in 313. Ironically, the same year he was doing this he was preparing to stamp out religious diversity within Xianity. In keeping with his instructions, his prefect in Africa moved against a schismatic Xian sect called the Donatists.
Having decided that this new faith would be his spiritual tool in bringing together his empire so as better to conquer new territory, there could be no diversity or difference of opinion in Xianity. He had the various bishops convene at Nicea to decide what would become "orthodoxy". That there was no element of piety in any of these decrees; the ecclesiastical decisions made by the bishops who sat at that conference were to conform to his dreams of political unification. There was to be only one approved form of jurisprudence, government and faith. Thus from that pivotal year of 325 CE Xianity was shaped to reflect the expansionist and militarist ethic of monarchs. And as was shown in "Orthodox" Christianity the ecclesiastical authorities, who had agendas of their own, decided on the doctrine of a bodily resurrection of their avatar because of the immense political weight such a doctrine carried.
By the time communities came or were forced together and became urban centres, this "siege" outlook had become firmly embedded into their collective psyche. One had to adopt a warlike disposition or else one would not enjoy liberty. According to Germanic custom, a stranger was an object without a master. Insofar as he was not protected, either by a powerful figure, or by inter-tribal treaty, he could be killed, his property scattered and his murderers could not be punished. When Germanic hordes overran Rome and the Roman Empire mutated into the Germanic Holy Roman Empire, their cultural traditions took firm hold of the Xian faith [not that it wasn't already part of Xianity]. Individuals came to live in fear of being so identified. To be marginalised was to be excluded and one of the new symbols of this was the church; by the Middle Ages, there were great city churches, designed to hold entire urban communities. Sermons exhorting Christian solidarity were blasted from these pulpits to their massed congregation. To stand outside the consensus was to literally stand outside the church walls itself.
If one looks at the way most European states came into being, one would notice that it was usually the coming together of tribes based on the need to defeat a common enemy. Much of this unification had to do with the efforts of ecclesiastical authorities. The pope's impulse was to unite the warring princes and the divided Church against a common enemy outside Christendom. This was a replay of Constantine's efforts to unify the divided Roman Empire by identifying and condemning its common enemies. In like manner the Medieval Church came to define itself by opposition to other faiths and cultures. If the historically conscious person listens to the words used in Bush's speeches as he exhorts people of the "free world" to support him in his campaign, one cannot escape the parallels with former leaders and their exhortations. Recall the Crusades as well as the genocidal exploitation of the so-called New World, the expulsion of the Jews from Catholic Spain and other parts of Europe, the enslavement and colonisation of Africa, India, Australia and Ethiopia [like the one launched in 1935 with the blessings of the pope]. These are all signposts. At the root of all of them lay a religious assumption and all of them involved a process in which a separate and adversarial Other was identified and labelled. During the first Crusades the Church tapped into a feeling of prejudice that labelled the Muslim [Saracen] as an infidel and at the onset of the colonial period, the Church and its Protestant spin-offs, was conditioned and was conditioning others to see unbaptised strangers as less than human.
Further, beginning with the Crusades of the 10th century, the biblical Jerusalem took on an elusive mystical aura in the Eurocentric thought process. In England, captured by William Blake and sung in the Gothic chapels of British public schools, Jerusalem became re-invented and recast as a way of praising and venerating not God but England. Thus Jerusalem would feed the fantasies of the Pilgrims in the Americas. When John Winthorp decreed in 1630, from the deck of a ship in what later became Boston harbour, "that wee shall be as a city upon a Hill, the eies of all people are upon us", he was envisioning [anticipating, if you will] the American self-image as a new Jerusalem. Even before them Columbus was envisioning his expedition to the west [the first of which may have actually been to locate a safe haven for expelled Jews, Moors and heretics] as a quest to found the new Jerusalem. By the early 20th century the United States took on the mantle of the "Crusader State". It is no coincidence that Dwight Eisenhower's memoir of WWII was entitled "Crusade in Europe".
Now many apologists would counter that what this writer had outlined above was only Catholicism. "True" Xianity the denominations that stemmed from Luther and the other Reformers is about living one's daily life strictly according to the teachings of the "Word". It is into this category that Bush falls. But this argument holds many fallacies. Xianity is by no means a "book" religion as say Islam; there is no such thing as true Xianity because no such period existed [remember the early Xian world was as divided as it is now] and most importantly, Luther and the other reformers were only trying to get rid of the vice and excesses of the Church, not found a new religion. In the process the bible the same one compiled, edited, excised and forged by the Roman Church replaced the pope as infallible. So now it was the bible, not the pope, that eventually became an idolatrous object. Biblical fundamentalism is a manifestation of this. Even more serious is the fact that the patriarchal hierarchical cultural outlook of secular Europe diffused to the Protestant faiths in much the same way as it diffused to the Roman Church before it.
What is also noteworthy at this stage is the immense psychological boost in the Western world, particularly in Xianity, of the German ancestry myth. Many scholars believe that US and British culture and ancestry are of Anglo-Saxon origin. In fact, many Europeans proudly claim that their way of life began in the forests of primordial Germany. These German forbears were said to be honourable, courageous and proud. The inhabitants of the German forests were and are painted as part of the pinnacle of European high-cultures. For a while this obsession with Germanic ancestry was so great that it was even tied into mythical biblical genealogy; it was widely believed that all European people were descended from Japheth. No less than Martin Luther claimed in the early 16th century a German ancestor for the Ashkenazim. This obsession was to intensify as a wave of nationalism swept Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Now others dispute such claims but the fact that almost everyone from the English to the French claimed the ancient Germanic people as their ancestors speaks volumes. That such a wide cross-section of Europeans believed that the ancient Germanic peoples were their ancestors meant that they actively or unconsciously sought to replicate the qualities of this ancient culture, including their aggressive temperament and conquering nature. Herein lies the psychological power behind the Eurocentric self-image: the Aryan myth.
This "noble" Aryan has been given a very revealing description by Edward Gibbon [1737-1794] in his famous work "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". All emphasis is mine:
The care of the house and family, the management of the land anc cattle, were delegated to the old and the infirm, to women and slaves. The lazy warrior, destitute of every art that might employ his leisure hours, consumed his days and nights in the animal gratifications of sleep and food. And yet ...they detest tranquility. [W]ar and danger were the only amusements adequate to [his] fierce temper. The sound that summoned the German to arms was grateful to his ear... In the dull intervals of peace, these barbarians were immoderately addicted to deep gaming and excessive drinking; both of which, by different means, the one by inflaming their passions, the other by extinguishing their reason, alike relieved them from the pain of thinking
..[N]or did they endeavour to procure by industry the materials of an advantageous commerce. To solicit by labour what might be ravished by arms was esteemed unworthy of the German spirit.
Remember, this is the model people that stirred up feelings of pride.
The point this writer is trying to make is that in the Eurocentric ethic that Bush exudes, there is no real element of god here in the spiritual sense, the identifying with nature sense. The "god" and "good" fervently worshipped in the Eurocentric interpretation is that of the warrior, the conqueror who is never fulfilled. The mysteries of nature exist only to be tapped into, harnessed and exploited. For the Euro an institution, be it feudalism, Xianity, "democracy", is only valid as long as it ensures their hold on world affairs remain.
Let us look at a few of Dubya's choice words. The following was taken from the same article:
Speech to congress Sept 20 2001
"Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them."
West Point commencement June 1, 2001
"We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name."
Context: Bush's references to "good" and "evil," on the upswing since 9-11, imply the Biblical clash between Christ and Satan.
State of the Union Address, Jan 29 2003
"There's power, wonder-working power, in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people."
Context: "Power, wonder-working power" is a direct quote from one of the oldest evangelical gospel songs.
State of the Union, Jan 29 2003
"The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity."
Context: This statement is not found in Scripture, but harks back to the writings of French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville. It raised a red flag for supporters of separation of church and state.
It is easy to see how such pontificating can take hold in the mind of the average religious type, who is blissfully ignorant of other faiths and interpretations of the divine as s/he is about his own. Most laypersons retain the same beliefs they were given as children complete with the dreaded coming of the Apocalypse and the struggle against the Antichrist. Now here we clearly have a tangible "Other" who is diametrically opposed to our freedom-loving way of life. The view that god is not neutral forces the simple religious mind to think that there are two clearly defined sides and one can only identify with the side that is "good". Since Xianity is the religion that preaches peace and love and brotherhood, it is a no-brainer that all right thinking people must come over on the side of the gentle Lamb of God. It is Xians and Xianity that freed the slave of Rome; it is Xians and Xianity that liberated women and gave them equality; it is Xians and Xianity that loosened the shackles of African enslavement, tamed the Americas and brought "culture" to far-flung places.
But the "civilised" way, the European way, is to bring laws, however forcibly, and the instruments of European [American] control to those whom Europeans have little or no respect. Western Xianity is above all else an institution designed to bring about order in the individual and the society under its influence. This by itself would not have been a bad thing were it not for the fact that Xianity has been shaped by the militaristic values of the northern Cradle. This "ordering" is only to ensure unchallenged conformity. The United States' nationalism is the extreme example of this warrior culture of "Old" Europe. George W Bush is as much a creature of the ethnocentric, racist, secular, colonising empire builders who preceded him in history as he is of the religion into which he was born [and Born Again].
US nationalism, like the religions that have contributed heavily to its development, involves the idea that elements of the "American way" should be adopted universally. That the beginnings of this country was through the values of Protestant Xians is particularly informative; hounded out of Europe because of their interpretation of Western Xianity, they quickly set about creating a state that reflected the values, interests and principles of their religious outlook. In the process they became every bit as dictatorial and intolerant as the people who ran them out of Europe. Steeped in the culture of their former persecutors, the Pilgrims cared little about understanding the ways and cultures of the Native Americans [who many times saved them from starvation]. Instead, they set about bringing them into the "Xian fold" so as better to subjugate them and, failing that, sought to exterminate them. The Native American, in the eyes of the Pilgrims, were children, savages and needed the firm guidance of the superior Xian propagators of the "Word" to save them from damnation. This theme was to be replayed over and over wherever Europeans went. This feeling of superiority has been internalised to such an extent that to this day Euros see the world outside of their sphere of influence [when they see it at all], as places needing their parental care and guidance. Any resistance to such a notion is often met with shock and dismay, recall the colonial period and the attitude among the British as their subjects were clamouring for independence, "How could they be like this?" "Is this the gratitude we get for bringing them into civilisation?".
The Euro's image of self makes it almost impossible to see the "Other" as anything other than a charge, a child, and a savage. The language has hardly changed in the last 500 years; back then explorers and conquerors went over the world to claim new lands for their patrons, meet new people and "make them know God" "compel them "to see the light of Christianity". Today the only difference is that the word "Christianity" has been replaced with "democracy" [which is little more than voting every five years or so]. In the Eurocentric scheme of things, the only sacred gospel is the Western gospel of "progress", i.e. the taking and exploiting of natural resources for the benefit of Europeans and Euro-Americans. Europe has always been poorly deficient in the resources needed for its survival, but only they have the intellectual skill, the expertise and the maturity to develop these resources. This is the message constantly stressed whenever one opens a history book, or analyses the economic and political decisions made by Europeans and the US in relation to non-Europeans.
Charles Kingsley, writing in the 19th century called the British "Teutons" who had a universal mission: "The welfare of the Teuton race is the welfare of the world". Lord MacCaulay boasted that the history of England "is emphatically the history of progress". The British "have become the greatest and most highly civilised people the world ever saw". Numerous European nationalists throughout the 19th century reiterated this. Former US President Woodrow Wilson planned to make the world safe for "democracy", as did Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan after him. From Hume to Kipling to Theodore Roosevelt to our very own "Dubya", the mandate Euros arrogated unto themselves to direct the affairs of the world around them has not changed. And why? Because God gave Adam dominion over the Garden of Eden! In the Eurocentric ethic, the world is the Garden.
We must understand that this Eurocentric ethic does not merely commit atrocities or flout laws and treaties and then rationalise them as "self defence" or with nationalistic expressions; this ethic is based on an assumption that one is obligated to act this way Bush and Blair [and Chirac, if France did not have oil companies dealing with Iraq at present] are compelled to make up the mind of Hussein for him, it is the logical extension of the Western Christian mission to go forth into the world and spread the gospel. The hallmark of the Eurocentric outlook, fed by the capitalist ethic, is the rights of contract and property. The most successful capitalist can do anything to rob and exploit whatever meagre resources occupies their interests as long as what he does is "legal".
This is why, in this writer's opinion, many of the anti-war protests are nothing but hypocritical twaddle. They are only protesting the method by which Bush wants to bring about "regime change" to the various "axes of evil". They would have preferred the more acceptable way of propaganda, clamours for human rights and gender equality [but only in the Eurocentric interpretation of these things] cultural imperialism and so on. But it was they who helped set the stage for Bush's campaign of regime change.
That some of them actually believe that they are doing good and that their missions of mercy in the so-called Third World are just that, makes them just as dangerous as the sincerely religious type for they have believed their own self-delusion. Indeed, the sincere, unknowing missionary is perhaps the most dangerous of them all. Ignorant about the true beginnings of Xianity and the extent to which it has been manipulated to reflect the expansionist outlook of nascent Europe they are, what Lenin once dubbed "useful fools". Many of them now recoil in horror at the rhetoric from the Bush camp not realising that their Xian "humanitarianism" was itself skilfully manipulated and has set the stage for what is about to take place.
All this is well fed by the average US citizen's ignorance of the world around them; by the culture of the United States, reflected in their action movies, of an unending string of hero figures defending the "American way" against the unending string of negative, adversarial Others, who opposes the "American way of life". The US, like the Xian Church of the Holy Roman Empire has come to define itself in opposition to those that do not share its views. "Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them" "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists".
The Romans had a saying "If you want peace, prepare for war". Looks like someone is.