Home > Terrifying Tyranny
As I have done in previous essays, I feel it appropriate to preface my remarks
by making it clear that I write as a committed practising Catholic Christian,
and by stressing that I am always shocked and upset by the misuse of religion
as a cover for, or in pursuit of, material and/or political gain.
On Tuesday night, my wife and I watched with growing fear and horror a television
report on "Arte" (the Franco-German channel) on the religiosity of Mr George
W. Bush. If the persons interviewed had not given so much detail of what they
told us, it might have been possible to consider that the matters reported were
We were also shown film of Mr Bush at various stages of his life and given very precise details of his disastrous financial adventures before he became Governor of Texas. These merely showed how incapable he is at understanding figures and how to run even a potentially prosperous oil company, after he had followed his father’s example by moving to Texas.
The fear which seized us had no connection with Mr Bush’s inefficiency and incapacity, but came from the careful analysis of how in a similar manner to his obvious role-models, Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, he and his backers have managed to build up a totally false picture of a "man of the people", which is how we interpret your expression a "regular guy". The other picture on which he has expended a great deal of time and effort is that of a "god-fearing" man, and this was examined with care in the programme.
Apparently, this son of a wealthy New England WASP family decided, after an extended period of youth as a drunken lout, to join a Bible class near his adopted home in Texas, and took advice from Billy Graham (described as a family friend) on how to join the extremist wing of "Evangelical" Protestantism. This curious use of the word "evangelical" is rather surprising to us here in Europe, where we describe Christianity in general as being evangelical as arising from a desire to spread the good news of the New Testament. As was explained to us during the programme, this term relates in the USA to those who tend to believe in the absolute literal truth of every word in a particular translation into English of the whole Bible.
Many of those from this group who were interviewed told us that they considered Mr Bush to be "one of us", and therefore identified with him. Upon being asked to explain this, they said that he shared their values as "Evangelical Christians", but it was difficult to discern in what manner any of them believed in Christianity as we understand our faith. We think of Christianity as being a faith based on our loving, compassionate and merciful God, but these people seem far more interested in making much of the mote in the eye of the other rather than in doing something about the beam in their own. The number count given to us of those who belong to this movement was enormous, and their simplistic (and unnaturally servile) form of faith made us think immediately of the brain-washing which was customary under Stalin’s ruthless rule. It had little or no connection with the liberation from evil announced by the Gospels and the other books of the Bible.
We have read a large number of explanations of the rise of this ruthless form of extremist religiosity, which appears to have no link whatsoever with genuine religion, but seems to be a form of exclusiveness based on a comforting and reassuring conviction that, if one is a member, one is thereby automatically better than everyone else. This certainty of being "holier than thou" seems a long way from the humility which is still taught to us in traditional Christianity, and its spread makes us very uneasy.
On the other hand, it explains why Mr Bush can feel that, once he has made a decision, he must stick by it regardless of later developments which would make any wise and/or thinking person change his or her mind. It also explains his choice of such a person as Mr John Ashcroft to be Attorney General, since he is another who does not believe in the relevance of doubts.
As liberated Christians, we are bound to have doubts on all matters of politics and human activities, and these doubts can only strengthen our faith because we have tried and tempered our beliefs as one tempers steel. Slavish certainty is far from the teachings of Christianity, and we only have to read what Jesus himself said in the Gospels about humility to recognise this.
This rigid conformity with certain terrifyingly blinkered rules and regulations has about it a likeness to other extremist cults, which threaten our families and the atmosphere of freedom in which we wish them to evolve. This development is also an explanation of the manner in which Mr Bush announced his "Crusade", or war against Islam, thereby giving Mr Oussama bin Laden and his ilk the justification which they sought for their enmity towards, and hatred of, the USA, as personified in your President.
To sum up, our fear arises from the sheer arrogant certainty with which the extremists interviewed declared their identification with
Mr George W. Bush as a "protector" of their values, and the fact that they did not recognise how much he has, by his actions since 11th September 2001, massively increased the dangers of terrorism throughout the world.