The Faith of George W. Bush: Christian Supremacy, American Imperialism and Global Disaster
George Bush’s personal commitment to and sympathy for Christian fundamentalism are well-known. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that his foreign policies, as in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Iran, are powerfully shaped by the Christian fundamentalist agenda of global conquest for Christ and Capital. Christian fundamentalists believe that Christ alone is the way to salvation, and that the entire world must be brought to heel before him, by force if necessary. In the past, this pernicious doctrine was used to bless bloody Crusades and wars of imperial plunder. The doctrine serves exactly the same purpose today, although in a somewhat modified garb, as the bombing of Afghanistan, the destruction of Iraq and the possible American invasion of Iran clearly indicate. Although these acts are sought to be justified by America as a ‘civilising’ mission or as part of its ‘war on terror’, the underlying white Christian supremacist vision behind American imperialism, a continuation of the logic of European colonialism, is unmistakable.
What, then, is the Christian fundamentalist vision that is driving Bush and his key advisors to world conquest, even if this could possibly mean destruction and chaos on a global and unprecedented scale? Stephen Mansfield’s recently published ‘The Faith of George W. Bush’ [Jeremy Tarcher/Penguin, New York, 2004], a hagiographic account of the American President, provides an interesting, yet deeply disturbing, account of Bush’s personal commitment to Christian fundamentalism and its bearing on the policies of his administration. The book’s cover describes it, obviously exaggeratedly, as a ‘national bestseller’ and quotes the Wall Street Journal as commending it as ‘a story of spiritual awakening’.
Mansfield would have us believe that Bush is almost a Christian saint or sorts, only a short step from being canonised. Referring to the enormous clout that Christian fundamentalism now enjoys in American decision-making circles, Mansfield writes with unconcealed glee that, ‘More than any other presidency in recent years, George W. Bush’s presidency is faith based’. ‘He has often said’, Mansfield approvingly mentions, ‘that faith saved his life, nurtured his family, established his political career and helped form the destiny of the nation’. Bush, so Mansfield claims, ‘incorporates his faith and belief in God into every detail of life […] The President relies upon his faith to direct his actions and goals’. Mansfield does not conceal his delight at the growing influence of Christian fundamentalists in the corridors of power in Washington under Bush’s seemingly benign patronage. ‘In no previous administration’, he says, ‘has the White House hosted so many weekly Bible Studies and prayer meetings and never have religious leaders been more gratefully welcomed’.
Bush’s Christian commitment that Mansfield so fervently endorses is not the world-renouncing faith of a Christian hermit, overwhelmed with Christ-like love and passionate concern for the poor and the needy. Rather, it is a vengeful, hate-driven creed rooted in the notion of the triumphalist Church that desperately seeks to subjugate the entire world and expand the borders of Christendom till the ends of the earth. It is this vision of Christianity that informs the worldview of Bush’s spiritual mentor, the American Christian fundamentalist and televangelist Billy Graham, at whose hands, Mansfield tells us, Bush experienced a re-conversion to Christ more than two decades ago. Mansfield approvingly tells us that Graham is driven by a visceral hatred of Islam, and quotes him as having declared that Islam is ‘wicked, violent and not of the same God [as Christianity]’. It is entirely possible that Graham’s deep-rooted Islamophobia has rubbed off on his disciple Bush as well. Graham’s Christian fervour has certainly been instrumental in developing Bush’s firm belief that ‘Jesus is the only way to God’, although Mansfield does admit that Bush ‘has been hesitant to say’ this, adding that once when he did so to a Jewish reporter it ‘ignited a powder keg of controversy’. Mansfield also dwells at length on Bush’s close bonding with other notorious American Christian fundamentalists, most notably Jerry Fawell and Pat Robertson, firm upholders of the doctrine that Christianity alone is the way to salvation and that all other religions are limited, false or even Satanic.
Bush’s agenda of imposing global American hegemony cannot be understood without taking into account his dogged commitment to the doctrine of Christian supremacy, as Mansfield makes clear. ‘From the tragedy of September 11 to the conflict in Iraq’, he informs us, ‘President Bush has learned to use his faith to help him live in public and private life’ and to ‘shape the affairs of his administration’. Bush, Mansfield says, sees himself as having been appointed by [the Christian fundamentalist] God to serve His divine purposes in the world. Bush is convinced, he remarks, that he is the President of America because he has been specially chosen by God for the post. ‘I am here because of the power of prayer’, Mansfield quotes Bush as triumphantly proclaiming.
His faith makes Bush, or so Mansfield claims, a ‘better man’. This ‘better man’, Mansfield says with passionate approval, has been inspired by his faith in Christ to invade Iraq, ostensibly ‘to root out a terrorist threat and remove Saddam’ and also to ‘make it a Midland of the Middle East, not so much as an exact cultural and industrial parallel but as the model of how human beings ought to live together’. Bush’s hopes for a post-war Iraq, Mansfield piously proclaims, ‘are safety, family, benevolent political leaders, good schools, sports, friends and love’. ‘All men should live this way, he believes. It is what he wants America to be and for America to model in the world’. This nauseating defence of American terrorism, the killings of thousands of people in Iraq and elsewhere by American troops, is thus blessed as a grand civilising mission to be thrust down the throats of unwilling non-white and non-Christian people, no matter what the cost in human terms.
True to his passionate commitment to the doctrine of Christian supremacy, Bush sees the world in stark Manichaean terms. In the Christian fundamentalist world-view, God and Satan, evil and good, are engaged in a constant battle that will culminate in the grand war of Armageddon that will engulf the world, heralding the Second Coming of Jesus. Seated on a throne in Jerusalem, Jesus will rule the world. All knees will bow before him and all unbelievers will be despatched to eternal damnation in Hell. Christian fundamentalists believe that the end of the world is near, and for this suitable preparations, including unleashing bloody wars against Christianity’s supposed enemies, must be made.
Christian fundamentalists see America as being actively engaged in a cosmic struggle, which might entail, among other things, waging war for the glory of Christ, for championing the ‘good’ and combating ‘evil’. As a Christian fundamentalist, Bush, Mansfield suggests, sees complex questions in the most simplistic terms, as simply a battle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Blind to the reality of brutal Western imperialism, economic, cultural, political and military, that is at the root of widespread distress and anti-Western sentiments among many Muslims, as well as other non-Western peoples, Bush, Mansfield says, is apparently convinced that Islamist militants and many other Muslims are opposed to America simply because, as he believes, America is ‘freedom’s home and defender’. ‘It is the price we pay for being good’, Bush piously proclaims, It is as if anti-Western feelings, including Islamist militancy, stem from a congenital Muslim/non-white/non-Christian madness or barbarity that can only be cured through military bombardment or else through the ‘civilising’ mission of Christianity. It is as if Muslims are inherently opposed to the ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ that Bush believes the American Empire represents.
Fired by a seemingly irrepressible zeal for the cause of Christian fundamentalism, Mansfield writes that Bush has actively sought to marshal Christian theological legitimacy for his imperialist wars, seeking to invoke the ‘Just War Theory’ that was first developed by the medieval Church to bless the anti-Muslim Crusades, expand the boundaries of Christendom and to subjugate the ‘benighted heathen’. This, indeed, is how Bush and his cohorts see the wars that they are currently waging in the Muslim world and elsewhere, a restatement of the arguments used to sanction the numerous bloody wars that America and its European allies sponsored during the Cold War against the ‘atheistic’ communists.
Bush’s fiery commitment to the Christian fundamentalist agenda also explains his fervent support to Israel. Although the Christian Church for centuries provided religious sanction to anti-Jewish hatred, many Christian fundamentalists are today vociferous supporters of Israel, Zionist expansionism and the brutal suppression of the Palestinians. Accordingly, the close nexus between America and Israel appears to have received a tremendous boost under Bush, who makes no effort to conceal his belief that his version of Christianity demands that he unabashedly support the Zionist state. Thus, Mansfield quotes Bush as declaring, ‘I am a Christian [..]. I believe with the psalmist that the Lord God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. Understanding my administration should not be difficult. We will speak up for our principles; we will stand up for our friends in the world. And one of the most important friends is the State of Israel’. ‘A top foreign policy of my administration’, Bush is quoted as proclaiming, ‘is the safety and the security of Israel. My administration will be steadfast in supporting Israel […]’. Bush’s commitment to Israel, Mansfield tells us, is widely recognised in Zionist circles, and he approvingly quotes Thomas Neumann, Executive Director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, as referring to the Bush regime as ‘the best [American] administration for Israel since Harry Truman [who first recognised an independent state of Israel]’.
Like other forms of religious fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism is a dreaded doctrine of supremacy, a cult of hatred and a recipe for disaster. And with an avowed born-again Christian at the helm of affairs in America who claims to be appointed to that position by God and to be dictated by what he claims to be divine communication, one shudders to think of what more brutalities are in store for the world if Christian fundamentalism is allowed to remain unchallenged.