God the Original Fascist

Part 1

Revolution #015, September 25, 2005, posted at revcom.us

EDITOR’S NOTE: This series of articles was submitted by a reader who was inspired by Bob Avakian’s writings and talks on religion and, further provoked by discussions and arguments with friends about the Bible, engaged in a systematic study of the first five books of the Bible. These books, which are known as the “Mosaic books” (and which contain such crucial passages as that outlining the Ten Commandments), lay out the foundation for some of the Bible’s most important themes. After having read these five, Mosaic books of the Bible, the reader was struck even more deeply by how profoundly the essence of the Bible’s message has been distorted and hidden

A series in four parts, submitted by A. Brooks,a reader of REVOLUTION newspaper

Introduction to the Series: Why Studying What the Bible Actually Says Is Crucial in These Times

“When you approach a town to attack it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it responds peaceably and lets you in, all the people present there shall serve you at forced labor. If it does not surrender to you, but would join battle with you, you shall lay siege to it; and when the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, the livestock, and everything in the town—all its spoil—and enjoy the use of the spoil of your enemy, which the Lord your God gives you. Thus shall you deal with all towns that lie very far from you, towns that do not belong to nations thereabout. In the towns of the latter people, however, which the Lord your God is giving you as a heritage, you shall not let a soul remain alive.”

Deuteronomy 20

“See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity. For I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His Commandments, His laws, and His Rules, that you may thrive and increase, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land you are about to enter and possess. But if your heart turns away and you give no heed, and are lured into the worship and service of other gods, I declare to you this day that you shall certainly perish. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life — if you and your offspring would live—by loving the Lord your God, heeding His commandments, and holding Fast to him.”

Moses, speaking to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30

“You’re either with us or with the terrorists.”

George W. Bush, shortly after September 11, 2001

Recently, I had a spirited and instructive debate with a close friend of mine. Like me, this person is an atheist, and thus by definition does not believe that the workings of the universe are governed by a God, or a higher power of any sort. However, she was arguing that whether or not one believes literally in a God, the “core principles” that are articulated in the Bible are good rules to live by.

This is actually a viewpoint that I have encountered relatively often, and I decided it was something worth looking into. It was actually this discussion, in large part, that provided the immediate inspiration for me to read and study the five Mosaic books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuter-onomy. As it turns out, almost from the beginning of the text, one can find the advocacy of codes of conduct and belief systems that, if followed literally, would do tremendous harm to any society. This, in turn, got me thinking about some eerie connections between the type of rhetoric, ideology, and actions one finds in these Mosaic books and the rhetoric, ideology, and action that pervades the Bush administration and its most devoted followers.

This country, and all of humanity, are currently confronted with a president whose policies and ideology are so horrific that they in many ways surpass those of even the most ruthless war criminals to occupy the presidency in the past (and this is indeed a competitive field!). The “Dubya” regime has been characterized by unprecedented and overt demands for total, unquestioning obedience to the program of this ruling class. This program has been centered around the perpetration of unspeakable acts of death, destruction, and torture against people in Iraq, in the Guantanamo Bay prisons, and throughout the globe. The ruling structure in power has, of course, sought to legitimize and enable these atrocities abroad by creating the basis for swift repression on the “home front” against all those who do not step in line to support this program.

Meanwhile, another element of Bush’s regime that has so many people correctly identifying Dubya as a “fascist” is his allegiance to and central role in the leadership of an Evangelical Christian movement that aims to transform society in a way that aligns it with a strict, literal interpretation of the Bible. In short, Bush and Co. aim to create a Christian theocracy. This, to say the least, would reap consequences for humanity that are disastrous in terms of the future of science in our society; the basic rights of people of color, women, Jews, homosexuals, and other groups that have been discriminated against and oppressed; the flourishing of critical thinking and debate, and many other areas.

It cannot be overstated that the coexistence of Bush’s vision of a society based on strict adherence to the Bible, and his policy of world domination and plunder, is anything but a coincidence. Indeed, Bush often articulates (sometimes subtly, sometimes directly) a vision of conquering Iraq and other “terrorist nations” in terms of a war between cultures and civilizations, with America carrying the sword of Christianity. In fact, General Jerry Boykin, currently one of Bush’s most trusted leaders in the armed forces, has openly referred to the war on Iraq as a war against “Satan.”

Many folks—including plenty of well-intentioned progressives and even leftists, as well as religious people who seek to emphasize aspects of their faith that seem to focus on serving and providing for one another rather than conquering or converting — have banded together to condemn Dubya’s vision as a perversion of the core principles of the Bible. However, while this viewpoint is clearly based on a fundamental hatred of atrocities carried out by the system and must be united with on that level, to classify what Bush and company are doing (and trying to do) as a misguided reading of the Bible is in an important sense missing the boat.

In actuality, and somewhat ironically, the Christian fascist reading of the Bible is not at all misguided but is instead quite accurate. In other words, the horrific vision of the current administration does not demonstrate the horror of deviating from the core principles of the Bible; rather, it shows the horror of following the core principles on the Bible.

To understand this more fully, it is necessary to do what is done far too infrequently, especially in this society, and even more especially at this particular juncture in time: We must examine some of the key principles that are actually articulated in the Bible, rather than merely relying upon what essentially amounts to literary “sound bytes”; i.e. the referencing of a few passages that are either not representative of the overall themes of the Bible or are taken out of their context—or both. In this way, I am hopeful that valuable discourse will have been generated that will seek to identify the very biblical roots of the deadly program the Christian fascist element of this system seeks to implement. I am likewise hopeful that such discussion will illuminate the necessity to oppose this program itself, as well as to recognize the horrors that inevitably result from efforts to implement the value system promoted by the Evangelicals’ most revered text: The Holy Bible.

Over the course of this series, I will center this discussion of the Bible around the five Mosaic books, seeking to subject these documents to a process that they far too often elude: critical analysis. While these books do not even represent the entirety of the Old Testament of the Bible, to say nothing of the New Testament, examining them nonetheless provides a valuable window into some of the key themes that the Bible addresses. In this series, the first five books of the Bible will be examined and dissected, using many references to individual passages to support my points, but with the ultimate emphasis being not on the same regurgitation of individual phrases that the Evangelicals focus on, but rather on the goal of arriving at a much more clear picture of the predominant themes that characterize the first five books of the Bible.

Over the course of this examination, I hope to demonstrate that in its essence, the story of the five Mosaic books is primarily one that many folks in contemporary American society know all too well: A repressive social order, consolidation of rule “at home” by way of fear and terror, and the bolstering of power by unrelenting conquest and destruction of “foreign” peoples and their countries. It is because of all these elements that I refer to God quite unapologetically as the“O.F.”—Original Fascist.

Part 1: The Core Principles, and the Actual Outlook, of the Bible

There can be little doubt that throughout history, awful events and acts have been initiated and justified in the name of Christianity. To briefly mention just a few powerful examples: The Crusades; the conquest of Aztec, Incan, and other Native American civilizations by Europeans who felt their society and religion were superior; the brutal enslavement of Africans in the Americas; the persecution of Jews throughout history, most horrifically and powerfully embodied in the Holocaust; and the present war against an “axis of evil” that many Christian fascists feel is synonymous with a war against the Islamic world. In addition, fundamentalist Christians have used the Bible to condemn homosexuality, and demand that women occupy a traditional, subordinate role to men in society at large, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom.

However, as mentioned, while many progressive-minded folks readily recognize the horrible ways in which the Bible and religion have been used over the centuries to reinforce oppressive social agendas and justify all sorts of crimes against humanity, what is far less understood is the degree to which these repugnant principles are actually articulated as plain as day right in the Bible itself. How in the world, many people wonder, can a book that emphasizes loving thy mother and father, serving the poor and disadvantaged, and respecting the humanity of others- be distorted to serve such vicious and cruel ends?

The answer, unfortunately, is that these high-minded principles, in actuality, have very little to do with the fundamental message of the Bible. I hate to say it folks, but as crazy as these Christian fascists seem (and are), they’re not merely pulling ideas out of thin air. The core principles that Dubya and the Christian fascists are seeking to apply and uphold today as the guiding light for America’s foreign and domestic policy are the very same core principles that one finds in the Mosaic books: conquest, plunder, oppression, and repression of all sorts.

In some ways, it is easy to see how good-hearted people could be deceived into interpreting the Bible as a source of moral goodness and love for others. All that one has to do is isolate the passages that seem to reflect these sentiments and then teach them as if they were reflective of the text as a whole. This is, in fact, largely the way that the Bible and other religious texts are traditionally taught in modern societies. For instance, in one passage in Exodus 34, God is described as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation.” Several other passages throughout the Mosaic books call for mercy to be visited upon those in need and even those who are oppressed. For instance, in Exodus 22, God reminds the Israelites not to celebrate their release from enslavement at the hands of the Egyptians by oppressing others: “You shall not oppress the stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.”

And in Deuteronomy 23, the principle is articulated that “You shall not turn over to his master a slave who seeks refuge” from his master; “He shall live with you in any place he may choose among the settlements in your midst, wherever he pleases; you must not ill-treat him.”

It is from passages such as these that progressive-minded religious folks have derived the idea that the Bible can be used as a tool to spread love for fellow citizens and as a weapon to fight social injustice. There is only one problem, however: While seemingly high-minded principles such as these are indeed sprinkled here and there in the Bible, they are in no way representative of—and in fact, con-tra-dict —the fundamental essence of the text. Just as the entire history of the United States—with its brutal oppression of women, people of color, homosexuals, and other groups, combined with the unspeakable savagery it has visited upon peoples throughout the globe—makes a mockery of the progressive-sounding rhetoric that can be found in some parts of the Declaration of Independence, so does the vast majority of what is written in the five Mosaic books reveal the few respectable passages to be nothing more than lip service.

The Bible and Science

To begin with something that is so obvious it is often overlooked, if one takes the Bible literally, then one must believe that the entire world, and the plethora of diverse life that can be found on it today, were created not over the course of millions and billions of years by natural processes but rather over the span of a mere seven days (or actually six days— let’s not forget that day of rest) by an all-powerful creator! This belief, of course, leaves those who adhere to it no choice but to disregard centuries of advances in science that have shown that life on earth has existed for billions of years, and that life evolves through the natural process of natural selection, rendering many species that once existed extinct but also creating new ones. (The topic of evolution is masterfully and thoroughly discussed in the excellent multi-section series by Ardea Skybreak, The Science of Evolution. Check it out—it’s fun!)

To use just two examples, taking the Bible’s version of creation as fact, one would have to conclude that God created such wonders of the world as the Grand Canyon and dinosaurs, both of which science has proven to date back far, far beyond the time that the Bible was written. Confronted with awesome discrepancies such as this, it is no accident that Evangelicals are left to scramble to devise ludicrous explanations such as that dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth at the same time, and that all of the Grand Canyon was created during the Flood mentioned in the story of Noah’s ark! The only thing more astounding than these explanations themselves is the frightening reality that these explanations are actually gaining currency in “mainstream” thought; for instance, as discussed in Esther Kaplan’s work With God on Their Side, the Grand Canyon gift shop was recently forced to begin selling books that “explained” that the Canyon’s features were carved out as the result of the great flood unleashed by God.

When ignorance and cruelty are combined great horrors result—and, as will be shown more fully in the rest of this series, that is what will happen if the Bible, and what it actually says, is taken as The Truth and acted on.

To be continued: Part 2: The Repressive Social Order of the Bible