Drowning In Jesus Fish:
Watching my country become a Christian Theocracy
By Glenn A. Kirk
While traveling recently in my home "Red State" of Virginia, I was confronted by yet another sign of rising religious extremism in America. It was the "Jesus Fish", those stick-on symbols of sectarianism signifying ardent devotion to Christianity. It struck me that they are reproducing at an alarming rate.
My traveling realization was triggered by a group manifestation swimming on the rear end of a particularly vulgar Cadillac SUV. It was a literal school of them, five in all, a veritable nuclear unit; a father, mother, and three babies, neatly schooled and swimming in triumphant religiosity. I wondered, might their exponential jump in number be seen as harbingers of rising Christian fundamentalism across the land?
I doubt there is any question to the validity of this query. Fundamentalism is here and for the last six years it has been on a sharp rise. Symbolically speaking, the explosion in bumper fish may simply mirror that rise. What startled my thinking was that it might also be offering us a glimpse into how religious fanaticism has become a serious threat to our democracy.
There are many who believe as I do in the protection of individual civil liberties enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution. At particular issue is the "Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment, commonly referred to as the wall of separation between church and state. Regardless of the ongoing controversy surrounding differing interpretations of the original framers' clause, it is inarguable that their intention was to prohibit the federal government from declaring and financially supporting any "national religion". So far the Constitution has not yet been amended to conform to the extremist agenda of the so-called Christian Nation, or any other fundamentalist sect for that matter. Thus far the wall has held, but not for a lack of attempt to tear it down by an organized Christian majority.
Because our beleaguered republic has been forced to operate within a system suffocating under the strong totalitarian arm of extremism, corporatism, militarism, globalization, evangelicalism, and the punishing authoritarianism of the George W. Bush administration (regime), any further expansions of religion into this unholy and unconstitutional government caldron necessarily places the country mere steps away from theocratic rule. This is something truly phenomenal.
It's true that fundamentalism (bible thumping) has always been part of life (a problem) in America, especially in the rural enclaves, so why worry now? What is new, and very alarming, is that since He, GW Bush, stole the office of President in 2000, and since the fateful and tragic day of September 11, 2001, a distinct new breed of religiosity has reared and begun spreading ugly intolerance and xenophobia across the land.
Although many have become aware and concerned over this looming emergence of theocratic dominance, especially among the Left, they prefer to dismiss a harsh critique of it and try ignore its many clarion signs and symptoms. A lack of reliable empirical evidence is cited and the coarseness of these allegations are found to be discomfiting. The suggestion that the majority religion of western civilization and the predominant faith of America has actually become a danger to peace, justice, and democracy is thought to be too disrespectful of mainstream religious faith, an anethema bordering on anti-Americanism.
As an American-turned-resister of the New Kingdom, I believe that we now find ourselves in the turbulent throws of genuine culture, class, and religious war in this country, and that the future state of American democracy and social justice hangs precariously in the balance. One merely needs to open his or her eyes and report honestly on what is being seen.
I refer you to how the "compassionate" religious conservatives of the country are currently responding to the undocumented immigrant "problem"? A recent personal experience is highly illustrative. My family and I attended a Town Hall meeting in our community that was called by a new right wing Town Council member to discuss the topic of our "illegal" problem. The councilman recently proposed the drafting of new local ordinances ostensibly to "enforce the laws that the federal government refuses to enforce". In fierce response hundreds of angry white residents calling themselves "good, church-going folks", packed themselves into the town library to commiserate and shout bigoted anti-Latino remarks. "Shut down the borders!", they demanded; "Deport the illegals!"; "Send the them back home to Mexico". The mob accused "them" of rape, murder, drug dealing, job stealing, condom throwing, disease carrying, and even of course, terrorism. Invoking the name of Jesus - yes, "good" Christians all - they shouted my family and the few courageous hispanic supporters who braved the mob out of the room and into the street.
Look to Iraq. As the illegal Bush war rages on, with nearly 3,000 American soldiers dead and over 25,000 US wounded and yet unknown possible hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people missing, dead, maimed and displaced, the fierce drumbeat of American nationalism continues to infect every community in the nation. Bringing believers to their feet with hands clutched to their fearful hearts in loyal response to the scripted war cries of their brave "War President", their evangelical commander in chief who leads them blindly on into other battles in other "terrorist" nations, the suicidal "War on Terror" continues mostly unchecked and unabated. The direness of the present situation cannot be overstated.
Further reasonable evidence is necessary to support these assertions. Few Americans could have imagined that President Bush, the nation's first self avowed evangelical president, could have advanced his religious beliefs this far. Evidence and insight into his religious motivations can be easily gleaned from the public record (any quick Google search will do it). The following list reveals some of his known recorded admissions and slips:
August 1999 - During a campaign appearance in New Orleans, presidential candidate George W. Bush expresses doubts about teaching evolution in schools: "I believe children ought to be exposed to different theories about how the world started".
September 2000 - George W. Bush tells a George magazine interviewer: "I've heard the call. I believe God wants me to run for President."
June 2003 - Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen meets with the president at a summit in Aqaba, Jordon. According to an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Bush informs Mazen: "God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."
November 2003 - According to an article in the London Observer, then-governor George W. Bush told Fort Worth, Texas televangelist James Robinson, in 2000: "I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can't explain it but I sense that my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen...I know it won't be easy on myself of my family, but God wants me to do it."
July 2004 - While meeting with a group of 60 Old Order Amish at the Lapp Electric Services offices in Smoketown, Pennsylvania, President George W. Bush declares: "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job."
October 2004 - CNN airs an interview with First Lady Laura Bush, in which she denies reports of the President's divine commission: "You know, it's just a very important part of our life. My husband has never said that. I think this is some extrapolation from his critics, maybe it's that he felt like he was called to this. He's never said such a thing."
Bush's pious revelations have revealed to a world watching in disbelief that he holds a messianic opinion of himself. He believes he's been personally chosen to advance the moral, righteous work of God. At least his definition of it. For those many others who choose to answer to a different god, or who, like myself , are atheist, agnostic, naturalist, or Wiccan, there is an unequivocal expectation that the political leadership of this country refrain from conducting Christian bible readings or prayer circles in OUR government offices. Nor will we accept any semblance of a theocratic regime taking hold.
So just who in hell does George W. Bush believe he is speaking for and by what authority does he dare to speak for all of us? More dauntingly, how will this religious fanaticism effect the outcome of so many cataclysmic national and world events?
Besides the ubiquitous fish, there are a plethora of compelling reminders of the coming of theocracy. Roadside church signs dotted along the highways of America have been calling more stridently on congregants to prepare for the prophetic coming of "Armageddon". Advertising for Jesus to return has reached an all time high.
Dozens of anti-evolution lawsuits and challenges against Charles Darwin's theory, and science in general, in favor of the Christian story of creationism - advanced euphemistically as "intelligent design" - have surfaced in the states of Kansas, Colorado, Alabama, Ohio, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Montana. Christian sycophants are using the local, state and federal courts to mount challenges to public school curriculums so America's public school children can be taught the biblical version of how the Earth was created only 6,000 years ago. So much for epochal history of life on Earth, the study of geology, and the precise science of carbon dating itself.
No discussion concerning the rise of Christian theocracy in America can overlook the religious response to the horrifying attacks against America on September 11, 2001.
Perhaps more than any other cause, the event known the world over as "9-11" provided opportunity for charismatic evangelicals to exploit the fears, fantasies, and fervor of anxious religious souls throughout the land.
Five years later, rather than solemnly commemorating the tragic anniversary, the Bush Administration has mounted a full scale national tour de force of fear politics and war propaganda, transparent yet so effective. His messianic war cabal has studied history well and knows how easily a frightened population can be manipulated into submission.
The rise of theocratic influence can also be seen in the July Israeli invasion of Lebanon. During Israel's horrifically prolonged 30-day invasion and bombing of Lebanon, an atrocity and possible war crime pending international scrutiny, that ultimately took the lives of over 1,000 Lebanese men, women, and children, the Bush administration and a supine bipartisan US congress not only openly endorsed Israel's deadly invasion, but approved a rush order of missiles to assure Israel would complete the job of destroying Hezbollah!
Further, in a telling demonstration of theocratic coercion, during the Israeli bombing campaign a Christian evangelical leader named Pastor Hagee, leading over 3,400 evangelical followers, traveled to Washington and in a bizarre and unholy lobbying effort called for Bush to increase support for the bombing of innocent Lebanese women and children. The marching evangelicals, calling themselves "Christians United for Israel", openly stated their belief that the establishment of the state of Israel fulfilled biblical prophecy about Christ's return and the coming "Armageddon". Jesus must have given the nod to approve of Israel's dropping, among other horrible weapons of death, thousands of personnel killing "cluster" bombs directly into civilian population centers. The Principals of the Nuremburg Tribunals be damned. And the litany of atrocities in the name of Jesus Christ continues on.
Have I overstated the extent of this phenomenal turn of events and perhaps lost perspective in a state of secular paranoia? Is the steroidal strutting and flaunting of religious power and influence by the Christian majority merely a flash in the pan of history which will soon pass? Or might it one day be possible in the not so distant future that a small symbol of a fish will adorn a newly altered American flag flying atop the dome of the new Christian Nation?
I'm afraid in the end that recorded history may have to be the judge.