Friday, December 02, 2005

War and Religion: When Myth Goes Too Far

By Nicholas Allanach

Despite the numerous (and heavily contested) reasons for the American led war in Iraq, some—specifically Evangelical Christians—believe they “know the undisputed purpose” for this reprehensible conflict. Unfortunately, as always with belief, there is little room for reason; thus, what many Christians regard as the “true basis” for the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq is based primarily on fear, speculation, and illusion. (Of course, how are the religious right’s justifications any different from those touted by the Bush administration?) But seriously, such harmful and destructive rhetoric from Evangelicals not only defies logic by espousing an all-encompassing apocalyptic scenario, but also weaves a self-aggrandized “end time” myth to explain away the (admittedly sparse, yet justifiable) reasons for the war (i.e. democracy and independence for the people of Iraq). This mode of thinking (assuming one can even call it such) is absurd, highly irrational, and—most importantly—capable of provoking greater and more intense acts of violence.

Religious fundamentalists hell-bent on Armageddon should be exposed, interrogated, and opposed. Their vitriolic oratory is malicious, dangerous, and shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone (especially a Christian) who considers themselves reasonable and sincere individuals. If we continue to entertain, or even tolerate such outlandish views, it will only be a matter of time before our world is truly brought “to an end.” However, such a finale may look nothing like the gory wet dreams of Evangelicals; this world will have no “savior”, but will, instead, be reduced to a horrific landscape of utter ignorance, perpetual violence, and compounded tribulations that have no hope of resolution. At this time, only the fundamentalists who brought this world into being will be to blame.

Admittedly, there has always been your standard “end is nigh” wackos, but now the real danger of this belief is due to not only the way it associates American hegemony with apocalyptic prophecy but from the manner in which it locates legitimacy from it as well. Much of this argument can be attributed to the method by which the Bush Administration deceitfully packaged the war in Iraq as somehow connected to 9/11 and the vague and broad concept of “evil.” By associating America with all that is “good” we subsequently rationalize all those against it as “evil”. Without a doubt, Islamo-fascists and BinLadenists are just as erratic in their theology as Christian fundamentalists; thus, the American administration should have devised a way to move beyond, instead of bolstering, the same empty rhetoric from those it purports to rally against. Consequently, this could be one reason why President Bush is having such a difficult time selling his “Strategy for Victory in Iraq”; after all, everyone now knows this war is less concerned with our “national interests” as it is about instilling Bush’s (and the Evangelicals who put him in power) own form of approved ideological interests.

Some, such as American fundamentalist preacher Michael Evans (author of “Beyond Iraq: The Next Move”) and pastor John Hagee, have taken Bush’s “good vs. evil” hyperbole a step further. In Evan’s book he discusses a blueprint for American domination blessed in the semblance of a global holy war. Evans likens Islam with the forces of the “Anti-Christ” and goes so far as to claim “Islam is a malevolent manifestation of a religion conceived in the pit of hell.” He argues America—being the self-appointed agent of Christ—should have no reservations about invading oil-rich Arab lands. Evans has also advocated terrorism as being an inevitable result of Islam. Of course by pitting Christianity against Islam, Evans seems to be reaffirming the racist myth of a civilizing mission of white America.

Such fantastic associations are obviously harmful and bigoted; moreover, groups preaching Christ alongside Pax Americana, see the U.S.-led imperialist war as a divine mandate that will usher in the “second coming of Christ” and subsequent “end of the world.” In this respect, many religious fanatics are determined to “stay the course” along with President Bush; unfortunately, the rest of the civilized world must be dragged down along with them into this black hole. I am not a religious scholar, nor have I spent years of my life studying the Old and New Testaments; however, I have read the Bible and the Koran and am well aware of the wonderful and deplorably foolish things both books communicate to its ardent believers. Nevertheless, I am adequately versed in current Christian notions of “the end times.”

Much of the “proof” men like Michael Evans and John Hagee purport to have had “revealed” to them come from their own racists and jingoistic ideals; for instance, Evans associates Christianity and America as “truth” and “good” whereas Islam is seen as a “Satanic force.” Accordingly, both men welcome the American invasion of Iraq and implore the United States to expand the theatre of war by invading other, primarily Muslim, countries. Presumably, after Iraq (i.e. Babylon) is destroyed, Christ will have his “second coming” in Jerusalem and establish his global empire, ushering in the “end of the world” or “Armageddon.”

The development of this “New World Order” and subsequent “Day of Judgment” is, in my opinion, an overzealous defense mechanism that ignorant people must, regrettably, use to explain away the admittedly complex and disconcerting realities of this globalized world. Just as death is an uncertainty and something we cannot control; so isn’t, in many respects, the various and complex forces of international affairs. It would be nice to say suicide bombers are “agents of Satan”, or that starving children are merely “signs of an impending apocalypse.” But in reality, this is not the case. Unfortunately, when we begin to explain away such complexities with religious myth we enter into a dangerous game that may just actualize the horrible outcomes we fear. After all, Christians do not see the “end of the world” as a bad thing; in fact, their entire system of belief relies on this narrative so as to be true; thus, if Christians can have something to do with achieving this goal that they believe in, it will only bring them closer to god.

To be fair, there are many Christians who are against the war. For instance a group of Christian clergy recently drafted up the following statement: “We believe that U.S. war against Iraq is unjust and immoral…we appeal to all refuse their consent to this war. We call them to nonviolent resistance, rejecting actions that violate moral law.” Unfortunately, such good intentioned Christians are being silenced by the ignominious fantasy spouting out of the “gnashing teeth” of their fanatic brethren.

Unlike John Kerry, who claimed “My religious beliefs are my personal business.” President Bush, on the other hand, blatantly claims “God wanted me to be President.” Such a man is highly dangerous because, like Adolph Hitler, he believes his actions are guided by god and are, thus, predetermined. Such a fatalistic world view makes Bush, like many Republicans, “morally complacent” since they are so obsessed with the end of the world they fail to enjoy life now, or help others in an effort to improve society. Moreover, like these many evangelical fundamentalists, Bush believes in the apocalypse and could conceivably play a significant role in making it happen. And all just to prove the reality of his foolish and weak-minded beliefs. Most regrettably, Bush actually has the power and tools at his disposal to do just that.

One thing the evangelicals are ironically correct in asserting is that we are living in dangerous times. I only hope the end will be of fundamentalism itself and not the world such individuals wish to destroy.

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