The overwhelming readership of the Left Behind series of novels by Lahaye and Jenkins reveals to what extent our "exceptional" American culture cannot distinguish between reality and illusion. A huge swath of the American public has gone out and bought these and other similar escapist novels by the millions. Many, many Americans seek to escape reality by drugs or by religious fantasies. It may well be a sign that many of us have died morally, spiritually, and intellectually. No other culture of industrialized countries is so hoodwinked by the vagaries of born-again evangelical cults.
Eventually, we Americans will have to wake from our state of self-indulged juvenility. Delusional interpretations of the Book of Revelation, which John wrote as an allegory of his spite for the Imperial Romans who imprisoned him, has turned into public policy about the most crucial areas of civilization's survival on earth: nuclear arms and global warming. Sensational gossip about celebrities passes for news and information, and middle-class Tea Party participants support the despotic right-wing agenda, in the hope that, yes, they too can become multi-millionaires simply by sounding like the wealthy corporatists who, in turn, deteriorate their own standard of living. In reality, in 1773, the original Bostonian Tea Party members committed acts of terrorism against the British imperial despotism--taxation without representation.
As the American ideals have been undermined by the corporatist, neoliberal, economic policies, our government has weakened to the point of losing its ability to bridle the corporations that impoverish our economy and destroy our environment. Many Americans prefer to cling to fantasies that God will snatch us up from this harsh reality and take us to a Disney World in the sky.
In times of despair and turmoil, many Americans have turned to demagogues, like G.W. Bush, who gave lip service to shallow notions of Christian faith, and charlatans like Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, or Joel Osteen who entertain us with reassuring wet-dreams of Christ coming down to enable us with wealth and prosperity or to swoop up only those among us who care less about our community and our own political interests so long as we get right with God.
These demagogues--like W, an American president who took a nation to war on the pretext that "God told me what to do"--they have led the gullible middle-class crowds throughout American history to destroy the very American ideals that enable us to become educated, wise, critically astute, and free citizens of a functional democracy, and not enslaved in the stupor of delusions and religious superstitions.
The word "rapture" appears only once in the Book of Revelation, yet, in America, it has taken on a life of its own, far from the actual text written by John. Without critical thinking, without a culture of literate, thinking people, we are doomed to enslave ourselves to the fear stirred up by charlatans, who sell us one version or another of one "sacred text" or another and keep us locked up in the shackles of fear that we might be left behind unless we conform to some televangelist conniver.
Now at the end of the war in Iraq, we have to dig our way out of the hole in which the evangelical born-again Christians and neoconservatives buried us all. The preemptive invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the policies that W's administration established only undermined America's Constitution and its values, from the justice system to national defense.
"When it came to constitutional checks and balances, to the powers of the executive branch, lines had been crossed, fundamental principles violated, putting at risk precisely what made America so special. Dick Cheney had led Donald Rumsfeld and the neocons in creating a separate, shadow national security apparatus to create a disinformation pipeline putting forth its own wished-for reality as a mechanism to start the war." (1)
The neoconservative, born-again Christians take liberties to invent a reality when it is needed to carry out Armageddon type actions, but creating a reality in order to justify the death of thousands of people and wasting trillions of dollars is nothing less than lying. Lying on a national scale like this equates to criminal fraud and deception.
How did W succeed in misleading the American people only to establish radical, extremist policies that bankrolled our economy and destroyed thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives? W explained why he pursued the policies of radical extremists, "There is a higher father that I appeal to."
During W's presidency, the neoconservatives and the right-wing Christians teamed up to manipulate the wishful thinking of an America that no longer knows the difference between TV drama and reality. There are two worlds in America, the fantastic view of right-wing religious fundamentalists who spin their own reality and act on it without considering the consequences even when engaging in war, and the pragmatic, humanists who work from rational sets of known facts as a basis for public policy that serves the greatest good of all citizens, including the poor and the middle class, not just the wealthy.
"Hitler, to the Family [a secretive fundamentalist Christian organization], is no more real than Attila the Hun as drafted by business gurus who promise unstoppable "leadership" techniques drawn from history's killers;" (2)
In the hindsight of the W administration, the most dangerous threat from extreme fundamentalists arises not from the Islamists, but the neoconservative, fundamentalist Christians. W's administration has proven this.
(1) Craig Unger, The Fall of the House of Bush, (Simon & Schuster, 2007) pg. 14.
(2) Jeff Sharlet, The Family, (Harper Perennial, 2008) pg. 3.