Note: This is the first in a three-part series on religious hysteria in America and the spiritual warfare of Puritanical conservatism against socialism and the Indigenous Peoples Movement. As spiritual warriors like Sarah Palin battle to create a theocracy in the United States and bring on the Apocalypse in Palestine, American Indians are caught between tribal sovereignty and white rage. With the Tea Party on a rampage to reassert Christian white supremacy in American public institutions, it behooves us to understand the Puritan roots of this holy war.
FEARS OF PAGAN SOCIALISM
In Bron Taylor’s 20 April 2011 Religion Dispatches essay Debate Over Mother Earth’s Rights Stirs Fears of Pagan Socialism, he notes that, “Religious and political conservatives have long feared the global march of paganism and socialism. In their view,” says Taylor, “it was bad enough when Earth Day emerged in 1972, promoting a socialist agenda. But now, under the auspices of the United Nations, the notion has evolved into the overtly pagan, and thus doubly dangerous, International Mother Earth Day.” With all 192 member states of the UN General Assembly supporting a 2009 resolution proclaiming International Mother Earth Day as proposed by the socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales, American conservatives hostile to environmentalism responded with their usual religious hysteria.
In Paul de Armond’s 1996 essay A Not So Distant Mirror, he observes that, “I never expected to find parallels between the militant heretics of the Middle Ages and the current convulsions on the far right. The realization thrust itself upon me while I was trying to understand what I was witnessing as I attended meetings of the ‘property rights’ groups which began promoting militia organizing in early 1994.
Everyone seemed instinctively to know what part they played; the endless rants by a variety of characters full of not only themselves, but also full of a sense of a divine mission in struggling against unholy forces. The typical far right meeting is very similar to a service in a lay Christian fellowship of the more militant fundamentalist evangelicals.”
Concerned with a United Nations takeover of public lands in the United States, the militia meetings de Armond described in Northwest Washington State comprised a collection of Christian Patriots and Wise Users who had conflated conspiracy theories with white supremacist propaganda about an imminent UN invasion of the United States. “By chance,” said de Armond, “I was reading Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, a history of the turbulent 14th Century. Tuchman,” he notes, “explains her interest in the 14th Century as starting with ‘a desire to find out what were the effects of the most lethal disaster of recorded history — that is to say the Black Death of 1348-50 — which killed an estimated one third of the population living between India and Iceland.’
“Religious hysteria,” says de Armond, “was what I thought I was seeing at the confluence of the ‘property rights’ and militia movements. In their role as social critics and collectors of grievances, the ‘Patriots’ and Wise Users are remarkably acute, but they are unreasonable in both analysis and action — rejecting a discourse which supplies reasons and appeals to reason and instead relies on force for persuasion.”
“The prophetae of the militia movement,” notes de Armond, “come from the Wise Use anti-environmentalists and Christian white supremacists,” and like the leaders of the medieval social revolutions in Europe, “have been successful in obtaining political power and influence, and as they become part of the establishment and decapitated their own movement, their less successful brethren have repeatedly splintered off into more groups and become more violent and irresponsible in both rhetoric and action.”
Long before Indigenous peoples had to deal with Pentecostals and other Evangelicals committed to converting them from heathenism, there were the Puritans. In America, these religious fanatics — who washed up on the shores of Wampanoag territory and repaid Indigenous generosity with murder — have themselves undergone quite a transformation.
“The central tenet of Puritanism,” notes Wikipedia, “was God’s supreme authority over human affairs, which led them to seek both individual and corporate conformance to the teaching of the Bible, pursuing moral purity down to the smallest detail. The Pilgrims (the separatist, congregationalist Puritans who went to North America) are famous for banning from their New England colonies many secular entertainments, such as games of chance, maypoles, and drama, all of which were perceived as examples of immorality. They believed that secular governors are accountable to God to protect and reward virtue, including ‘true religion’, and to punish wrongdoers.”
“The popular image,” it goes on, “is slightly more accurate as a description of Puritans in colonial America, who were among the most radical Puritans and whose social experiment took the form of a Calvinist theocracy.”
In Laurie Goodstein’s 24 October 2008 New York Times article YouTube Videos Draw Attention to Palin’s Faith about Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, it was noted that videos taken in her church during her campaign for Governor of Alaska revealed her praying that God protect her from witchcraft, and acknowledging the Last Days prophecy of approaching “end times.” According to Goodstein, Palin’s long associations with religious leaders who practice a particularly assertive and urgent brand of Pentecostalism known as “spiritual warfare” is noteworthy in that, “Its adherents believe that demonic forces can colonize specific geographic areas and individuals, and that ‘spiritual warriors’ must ‘battle’ them to assert God’s control, using prayer and evangelism.”
“The Kenyan preacher shown on the video anointing her as she ran for governor,” says Goodstein, “is celebrated internationally as an effective spiritual warrior who led a prayer movement that drove a witch out of his town in Kenya.”
“Critics,” notes Goodstein, “say the goal of the spiritual warfare movement is to create a theocracy. Bruce Wilson, a researcher for Talk2Action, a Web site that tracks religious groups, said: ‘One of the imperatives of the movement is to achieve worldly power, including political control. Then you can more effectively drive out the demons. The ultimate goal is to purify the earth’.”
BRINGING ON THE APOCALYPSE
Circulating in October 2008 was a discussion among religious scholars about Palin’s plan for Palestine. The consensus was “incineration.”
The first step in her religion calls for all Jews in the world to be coerced to emigrate to Israel. The second step is to support the State of Israel in committing genocide against the Palestinians. The third step is for the US to instigate nuclear holocaust in Israel thereby incinerating all Jews (agents of Satan) and bringing on the Apocalypse.
Some American Jews misinterpret step two as a US guarantee for the apartheid state. They ignore step three and misunderstand step one.
American Zionists (Jewish and Christian) understand this plan, but split over the practicality of step one and the desirability of step three. Most Americans are completely clueless about all the above.
Palin’s followers, who believe she has been anointed for this task by God, in 2008 were already discussing the necessity of assassinating her GOP running mate McCain if he interfered with Palin’s plan. According to the participating scholars, the October 2008 anti-Muslim hate campaign in the US Midwest was a warm-up exercise for adherents of Palin’s religion and her domestic terrorism support base in the Militia Movement.
RELIGION AND THE RADICAL RIGHT
In her 25 April 2013 article Press Sanitizes or Ignores Howard Phillips’ Role in Using Religion to Radicalize the Political Right, Rachel Tabachnick at Talk to Action notes the key was uniting Free Market Christians with the white supremacists in the Constitution Party and the Christian Reconstructionists now behind Ron Paul initiatives through The Conservative Caucus. The New York Times article on Phillips, says Tabachnick, makes no mention of his party’s mission “to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations.”
“Like former Rep. Ron Paul, with whom he worked closely for many years,” says Tabachnick, “Phillips was at the nexus of the free market gospel and authoritarian Christianity, using biblical inerrancy as the justification for both social and economic policy. The redefining of libertarianism and ‘religious liberty’ as part of a theocratic agenda,” she says, “is a driving force behind the radicalization of today’s political Right and its ‘Constitutional Conservatism’.”
As quoted by Tabachnick, author Sarah Diamond wrote in 1991, “Howard Phillips correctly sees third party building as a long-term proposition, and he’s banking on the kind of economic downturns that will give his message greater resonance. ‘My hope is that there are circumstances in which people are so upset at the way things are going that without even necessarily knowing or buying into all of the things that we advocate or believe, they will support us in protest against the things they disapprove’.”
ROADS TO TYRANNY
The clear message in the Five Steps to Tyranny videos (no longer available) is that demonization is a political tool, used by politicians to suppress dissent and subvert solidarity. Two examples not in the Five Steps to Tyranny series are the September 2010 U.S. Department of Justice raids against peace activists by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the passage of American Pentecostal-supported legislation in Uganda mandating the death penalty for homosexuals. While not endorsing the right-wing, anti-Semitic Agenda 21 conspiracy theory, it is true that the Calvinist UN Millenium Development Goals do serve as pretext for ethnic cleansing of Indigenous peoples.
All of these examples are in synch with Christian Dominionism, such as that promoted by President Obama’s friend Rick Warren. Pandering to Christian bigotry, in fact, is arguably one of the fastest roads to tyranny in America, and is well documented on the Talk to Action blog. What the International Transformation Network of Christian fascists might be willing to do under a theocracy is perhaps best answered by Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale.
As Sarah Posner reported in her 22 March 2013 Religion Dispatches article Hiring Discrimination Issue Remains “Under Review” for Faith-Based Office, religious discrimination against Muslims and gays by federally-funded Christian non-profits remains an allowed violation of the U.S. Constitution by the Obama Administration. In answer to reporters questioning this abuse of power by the president, the newly appointed Faith-Based Office csar Melissa Rogers stated the discriminatory policy is under review. As Posner observes, though, the review has been going on for four years.
As Peter Montgomery notes in his 24 March 2013 review at Religion Dispatches, Loving Uganda to Death: The Global Reach of Far-Right Christian Hatred some religious-based non-profits have murderous intent. The fact President Obama blows off this human rights concern should be a source of outrage by American tax-payers.