Bush and Religion: Anti Christian, Polarizing and
Dr. Gerry Lower
The Bush administration has coerced virtually every branch of western Christendom in America back into the fold of Old Testament fundamentalism, the entirety of which is pre-Christian in origin, largely anti-Christian in content and historically anti-Christian in practice. Bush's polarization has driven American Christendom into two diametrically-opposed camps. These two camps are separated entirely by moral ground, those preferring a conservative Old Testament vengeance-based morality and those preferring a liberal New Testament compassion-based ethical morality.
It is taken for granted by religious Republicans that America is a "Christian" nation (in spite of its newfound Old Testament religiosity). It is assumed, somehow or another, that the human rights basis of American Democracy must have its roots in religious fundamentalism, legalism, penalism and vengeance. That measure of historical ignorance is simply mind-wretching in a democracy overtly based by Jefferson on nascent Christian values and human tights, and having had over two centuries to get it figured out.
The entire Republican interpretation of nascent Democracy and Christianity (based on demonstrably false interpretations of history) is an utter religious fiction, maintained as if the western church has no history of its own, as if the church has made no human progress whatsoever since the days of Biblical and Roman despotism. The Bush administration has succeeded in coercing the various branches of American Catholicism and Protestanism back into the fold of Old Testament fundamentalism, the entirety of which is pre-Christian in origin, largely anti-Christian in content and historically anti-Christian in practice (recalling here the fact of imperialism, colonialism and capitalism, as uniformly justified by Old Testament religious attitudes, e.g., choseness and self-righteousness).
One result of religious political dominion (under the "I am a uniter, not a divider" leadership of George W. Bush) is the further polarization of American Christendom into two diametrically-opposed camps. These two camps are clearly separated by moral ground, those prefering a conservative Old Testament vengeance-based morality and those prefering a liberal New Testament compassion-based ethical morality. Accordingly, these two camps pursue human dominion and liberation, respectively.
DOMINION THEOLOGY (Old Testament)
To worship an ethereal, supernatural Jesus in service to Roman dogma and self-righteous conquest and control.
The core of Dominion Theology is exemplified by the so-called "compassionate" conservatism of the Texas Southern Baptist political party as devined and defined in part by Marvin Olasky, a Bush friend and lay political "theologian." Promoting Dominion Theology without knowing it, compassionate conservatism is a politically-inspired religious cult (by definition), promoted by well-healed fanatics who essentially call for a return to the 11th century, to a time of lords and serfs, a time of perpetual religious war and preemptory conquest in the name of Christian compassion (and Roman dominion). It was the heighth of Holy Roman imperialism and it was, as lamented by Lewis Thomas, "the most horrible of times."
The values of those despotic times have now been installed into the core of American government by the Bush administration and a spiritually-bereft band of neo-conservative religious ideologues who conceptualize reality through Old Testament eyes in order to justify
themselves and their implicit visions of a pax Americana.
The neoconservative political movement emerged during the 1960s when religious ideologues found a political philosophy to their liking in the work of Leo Strauss, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. Strauss was a refuge from Nazi Germany who saw the world through Old Testment eyes (i.e., the entire world revolved around Jerusalem). Had he been genuinely interested in nourishing Democracy (as he claimed), he would have begun where democratic political philosophy began in America, with Jeffersons Declaration. He would have tried to see the world through Jefferson's eyes (centered around Bethlehem).
It all comes back to concepts of what causes what in the world. The conservative right wing in the 1960s saw the causes of civil disobedience as being due to a lack of religion and law in American upbringing. The liberal left wing in the 1960s saw the causes of civil disobedience as being more related to the sociocultural system" selling out on family and community values. In other words, the right saw the cause of civil disobedience as being due to too little right wing influence, and the left saw the cause of civil disobedience as being due to too much right wing influence.
Strauss began his political philosophy with Old Testament fears of cultural genocide and the traditional JudeoRoman willingness to fight tyranny with tyranny. This ideology, in neo-conservative hands, led ultimately to the Project for a New American Century and right wing plans to control Iraq and Iraqi oil, plans to install America as God's western marketing manager at the top of the global economic heap.
Dominion theology calls for exactly that, religious dominion over the minds of the people, precisely the kind of dominion against which Jefferson swore to God "eternal hostility." Dominion theology is simply a rehash of Old Testament Roman theology, devoid of the values of both nascent Christianity and the values of Jefferson's Democracy. It pursues a global pax Americana and rule by the ruling class, the already-too-rich and powerful.
Dominion Theology is supported by those who make the unsupported assumption that the rich and powerful, by virtue of their wealth and benificence, are the primary providers of jobs, the literal source of nourishment for those who must labor for a living. In fact, as Lincoln was quick to point out, Capital is only the fruit of labor ... Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration.
LIBERATION THEOLOGY (New Testament)
To worship the historic Jesus in service to compassion and human brotherhood.
The core of Liberation Theology is the historic Jesus, the Christ as a spiritual philosopher and social physician, as the man most responsible for introducing the world to the concept of natural human rights and setting the direction of human spiritual progress for the next two millennia.
The Christian message was largely held in check beneath the shrouds of Old Testament supernaturalism and despotism for 1500 years, throughout the eras of imperialism and colonialism, until the EuroAmerican Enlightenment, the emergence of Deism and the simple realization that the Old Testament vengeance-based punitive morality and the New Testament compassion-based ethical morality are mutually-exclusive, not belonging together in the same book. Jeffersons Deist Bible contains not a word from the Old Testament.
As part of that theological rebirth, came the concept that God is located on the human inside, located in the head and heart of every person and manifest in human ideas, words and actions, defined as "the will of the people," to use Jefferson's words. As a direct result of this inward-facing theology, Jefferson argued elequently for empowering the people through guaranteed human rights.
Today, Liberation theologians walk mostly on the same ground that Jesus defined and Jefferson implemented. They do not mourn a dead, ethereal Jesus in devout service to the Roman church, they celebrate the living, historic Jesus, the man who confronted Biblical and Roman despotism head on and in public, the man who introduced the concept of natural human rights to the western world, the man who gave his life in service to the honesty and decency inside all people, the man who inspired Jefferson's Declaration.
The world of Liberation Theology comes not (like Dominion Theology) from one political party (ignorant of the history of religion) or one political philosopher (ignorant of the history of western democracy) but from diverse branches of western Christendom, beginning with several Roman Catholic theologians operating more or less on the edge of excommunication. A sampling of Liberation Theologians:
Matthew Fox - Drawing heavily on the wisdom of St. Francis and the theological contributions of 11th century Christian mystics, Fox brings modern life to Christian Panentheism and the concept of a God within. (Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality, Putnam Group, 2000, ISBN: 1585420670).
James Kavanaugh - Poetry with theological content, birthed from compassion and nascent Christian values (There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves, Steven J. Nash, 1991, ISBN: 1878995138)
Disk Westley - a Catholic theologian discusses the cultural roots of social problems (Morality and Its Beyond, Twenty-Third Publications, 1984, ISBN: 0896222071)
Thomas Berry - the Catholic "Geologian" celebrates the Nature religion embedded in nascent Chrisitianity (The Great Work: Our Way Into
the Future, Harmony/BellTower, 2000, ISBN: 0609804995)
Tom Harpur - a Canadian theologian gets real. God is with us, for us and in us. (For Christ's Sake, McClelland & Stewart, 1993, ISBN: 077103945X)
Andrew Greeley - a Catholic demographer/theologian discusses human progress in the old church (The Catholic Revolution: New Wine, Old Skins and the Second Vatican Council, Univ. California Press, 2004, ISBN: 0520238176)
Bruce Bawer - a Protestant theologian discusses the perversion of nascent Christian values by the values of Old Testament religion (Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity, Three Rivers Press, 1998, ISBN: 0609802224).
Peter McWilliams - a Deist discusses the Old Testament religious roots of most western perversions (Aint Nobodys Business If You Do, Prelude Press, 1993, ISBN: .
By and large, Liberation Theology exists at the expense of Old Testament fundamentalism. At the same time, Liberation Theology tends to retain a sense of the supernatural and the miraculous and a belief in Jesus as a viable recipient and responder to individual prayer. Liberation Theology tends to see itself as providing a liberal basis for a religion that emphasizes New Testament values over Old Testament values, compassion over vengeance.
The division of American Christian into those abiding Dominion Theology and those living Liberation Theology is a continuing reflection of the centuries old conflict between Jeffersonian Christian revolutionaries and Hamiltonian religious Tories, the former winning the Revolutionary battles and the latter winning the Revolutionary War by drafting a Constitution inconsistent with the nascent Christian values and human rights of the Declaration.
Liberation Theology emerged in America, in part, due to the recognition that traditional religion had a tendency to emphasize the Old Testament legal/penal morality over the New Testament Christian ethical morality. It also tended to nourish a lot more than obedience and piety. It tended to nourish vengeance, choseness and self-righteousness. If it were to separate itself entirely from supernatural justifications, Liberation Theology would morph into Deist Theology, the theology of Democracy.
DEIST THEOLOGY ("Jefferson Bible")
To realize the thought of the historic Jesus.
The core of Deist theology is dialectic human thought which provides the values of Science, Democracy and nascent Christianity. Deism makes no distinction between the dialectic thought of Hippocrates, Jesus, Jefferson and Gandhi. All thought ascribed to Deity is human thought (with or without spiritual content). No supernatural thought about deity has spiritual content.
Jefferson was a highly accomplished Deist theologian and his nascent Christian Democracy is Deisms's highest accomplishment to date. Deism does not, however, restrict itself to Jesus but embraces all enlightened dialectic thinkers, east and west. Deism strives not to talk about enlightened thinkers but to realize (i.e., to think and act like) them, to accept compassion as the bottom line in all thought and action, to seek a creative ethical morality designed not to condone (eastern acceptance) or condemn (western judgement) but to heal.
Deism subscribes only to the TJV (Thomas Jefferson Version) of western scriptures, devoid of both Old and New Testament superstition and supernaturalism. Deism, as the Science of religion, provides the Theology of Democracy and the dialectic human values with which enlightened problem-solving begins.
Deism believes, with both Jesus and Jefferson, that all people are born on this earth with natural human rights, above and beyond the laws of the western church-state and the proper manners of eastern society. Deism believes that the people, as the voice of the highest authority on earth, ought be guaranteed the right to Life (Self-Knowledge), Liberty (Self-Determination), Fraternite' (Self-Growth and Maturation) and the Pursuit of Happiness (Self-Worth).
Deism accepts that praying to Jesus will not go as far as thinking and behaving like Jesus. It all comes down to thinking for ourselves, being our own judge of other's judgements, and making our own decisions, as both Jesus and Jefferson would have it. When good Christians stop talking about Jesus and begin thinking and acting like Jesus, when enlightened human values are once again thrust upon human governments by the people, then, of course, Jesus will be back home, second time around, this time for the duration.
Dominion or Liberation?
Constantine or Christ?
Religious Vengeance or Christian Compassion?
Religious Self-righteousness or Christian Honesty?
Laws and punishments or Human Rights?
Controlled Society or Free Society?
Religious Crony Capitalism or Free and Fair Trade?
Belligerence or Brotherhood?
Supernaturalism or Spirituality?
Meaninglessness or Meaningfullness?
Perpetual War or World Peace?
These are the choices that have been before honest and caring people in the western world since Christianity, with a Roman emperors insistence, moved from being a tribal religion to being an imperial state religion. These are the choices that were disallowed by the Roman and European church/states for a millennium and a half of imperialism and colonialism, respectively. Christian values were not to live by but to kill and die for, in the name of Christian values and Old Testament despotism.
The human intellectual ability to make choices is a gift from Deisms God within. The right to use that God-given ability, i.e., free thouht and speech, is a gift from Americas Deist fathers, a right never considered by the Old Testament Roman church, which has traditionally remained ignorant of the nascent Christian concept of natural human rights, never seeing in Christianity what Americas fathers were able to see - without recourse to supernaturalism.
Dominion Theology is what conservative Old Testament theology is all about. Liberation Theology is what liberal New Testament theology is all about. Human Theology in the interest of human self-concept and maturation is what Deist theology is all about.
Given the gift, one pays one's money and one takes one's choice, to put the nascent Christian message bluntly. Western Christendom can no longer afford to worship Jesus. The churches of western Christendom need to realize Jesus, as did Jefferson, by working to incorporate nascent Christian values (i.e., dialectic human values) directly into the operational policies of government, at the expence of Biblical and Roman despotism.
It is the answer to What Would Jesus Do? It is the answer to What Would Jefferson Do? Both men were realists, both men were empiricists, both men were dialecticians in thought and action.
Dr. Gerry Lower lives in the shadow of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His recent analysis of Bush World through "Jefferson's Eyes" can be explored at www.jeffersonseyes.com and he can be reached at email@example.com