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Christian Fundamentalists: War for Souls and Empire

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  • yogi sikand
    Christian Fundamentalists: War for Souls and Empire Yoginder Sikand Although rarely commented on in the press, Christian fundamentalism has emerged as a
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2006
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      Christian Fundamentalists: War for Souls and Empire
      Yoginder Sikand


      Although rarely commented on in the press, Christian
      fundamentalism has emerged as a powerful factor in
      shaping American foreign policies, particularly in the
      ‘Muslim world’. With a born-again Christian
      fundamentalist as President of America this is hardly
      surprising. And that this can only further worsen
      already embittered relations between the ‘West’ and
      the ‘Muslim world’ is too obvious to need any
      explanation.
      Right-wing evangelical American Christian groups in
      America are among the most vociferous supporters of
      Bush’s global ‘war on terror’. As they see it, all
      religions other than (their version of) Christianity
      are nothing less than inventions of the Devil. Their
      followers, they insist, are doomed to eternal
      perdition in hell. For them, America’s current ‘war on
      terror’ is nothing less than a divine mandate to
      America to break down the walls of heathendom, paving
      the way for them to pursue what they call their global
      commission to spread the ‘good news’ of Christianity.

      The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is one of the
      several American evangelical groups strongly backing
      Bush’s imperialist offensives in Iraq and elsewhere in
      the ‘Muslim world’. Established in 1845, the SBC is
      the largest and most powerful ultra-conservative
      Protestant Christian organisation in the country. It
      has a membership of some 16 million in America, with
      some 42,000 churches. In a statement of its beliefs it
      insists that salvation is possible only through belief
      in Jesus Christ and his death on the Cross, and is
      predicated on baptism in the Christian church.
      Non-Christians, no matter if they have led morally
      upright lives, ‘become transgressors’ and ‘are under
      condemnation, that is, they are lost’. It insists that
      those ‘without a personal commitment to Jesus Christ
      will be consigned to a literal hell, the place of
      everlasting separation from God’. The SBC, like other
      evangelicals, sees as its primary task the conversion
      of the entire world to Christianity. ‘The Great
      Commission mandate of our Lord Jesus’, it declares,
      ‘compels us to disciple the nations’ (SBC Resolution
      on the Priority of Global Evangelism and Missions,
      1999). In 2003 its overseas church membership stood at
      more than 7 million, with 1523 international
      missionaries working in the field.
      Bush, for his part, has made no bones about his
      sympathies for the SBC. In 2002 he delivered an
      address to the SBC’s annual convention through
      satellite (accessible on
      http://www.sbcannualmeeting.net/sbc02/presidentbush.asp),
      where he explicitly acknowledged the role of preachers
      of the SBC in ‘nurturing’ his ‘faith’. He indicated in
      no uncertain terms his support to the SBC and its
      agenda by declaring, ‘You and I share common
      commitments’, including ‘protecting human dignity’ and
      ‘human rights’. He ended his speech by thanking the
      SBC for what he called its ‘good works’. ‘You’re
      believers, and you’re patriots, faithful followers of
      God and good citizens of America’, he said in closing,
      beseeching God to bless them and America.

      As an ultra-right wing church, the SBC’s political
      stance has consistently been pro-establishment, and
      one of its principal functions has been to provide
      suitable theological sanction to American imperialism.
      In the heydays of the Soviet Union, the SBC was
      regarded as a bulwark against what was seen as the
      menacing threat of communism. It lent full support to
      the American state’s war on communism, which it
      equated, in its own words, with ‘cancer’. The
      ‘Christian faith’, it declared, ‘is incompatible with
      communism’. It expressed its gratitude to ‘all
      agencies, organizations and persons who guard our
      homes, our churches and our nation against communist
      subversion’. ‘We speak our No to communism when we say
      Yes to Jesus Christ’, it announced in a resolution
      passed at its annual meeting in 1962 at the height of
      the Cold War. It insisted that the ‘proper and only
      adequate response to the challenge of communism is to
      be thoroughly Christian, and to seek to establish and
      support New Testament churches at home and abroad’.
      This, of course, tied in comfortably with the American
      policy of sponsoring right-wing Christian groups in
      the so-called ‘Third World’ to counter ‘red menace’.
      Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, American
      Christian evangelicals have been among the most
      forceful champions of the Huntingtonian thesis of a
      ‘clash of civilisations’ pitting the ‘Christian’ West
      against Islam. Leading evangelicals have issued
      statements that clearly indicate that they see America
      as engaged in nothing less than a crusade against the
      Muslim world. No sooner had Bush announced America’s
      latest imperialist offensive in Iraq (which he termed
      as a ‘crusade’) than the SBC rallied behind him to
      provide his declaration with religious sanction. At
      its annual meeting in 2002 the SBC passed a lengthy
      resolution on the ‘war on terrorism’, exhorting
      Christians to rally behind Bush. It enthusiastically
      blessed American imperialist aggression against Iraq
      by arguing that the Christian scriptures explicitly
      ‘command civil authorities to restrain evil and to
      punish evildoers through the power of the sword’. It
      fervently appealed to Christians to ‘pray for those in
      authority’, and applauded what it called the ‘moral
      clarity’ of Bush in his denunciation of ‘terrorist’
      groups as ‘evildoers’. It resolved to ‘wholeheartedly
      support the United States government, its intelligence
      agencies and its military’ in what it called the ‘just
      war’ against the ‘terrorist networks’. But, as it saw
      it, the war, while necessary, was not the final
      solution to the problem of ‘terrorism’, which could
      only come about through the global spread of
      Christianity. Hence, it concluded its resolution by
      insisting that the ‘conversion of the people of all
      nations to salvation through belief in the Lord Jesus
      Christ’ was ‘the only ultimate answer to all forms of
      terrorism’.

      The 2002 meeting of the SBC also passed an important
      resolution on the situation in West Asia. Like most
      other American evangelicals, and following faithfully
      the official American line, it expressed unstinted
      support for Israel. It insisted that the Old and the
      New Testaments ‘affirm God’s special purposes and
      providential care for the Jewish people’, and argued
      that ‘The Jewish people have an historic connection to
      the land of Israel, a connection that is rooted in the
      promises of God Himself’. It declared, in no uncertain
      terms, that Israel properly belonged to the Jews,
      claiming that the ‘international community’ had
      ‘restored’ land to the Jewish people in 1947 in order
      to ‘provide a homeland for them and to re-establish
      the nation of Israel’. No mention, of course, was made
      of the forcible occupation of the land by the Zionists
      and the consequent killings and forced migrations of
      thousands of Palestinians, both Muslims and
      Christians. In a thinly veiled reference to
      Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation it
      expressed its ‘abhorrence of all forms of terrorism as
      inexcusable, barbaric and cowardly’. It provided
      ‘Christian’ sanction for denying the Palestinians the
      right to oppose the Israelis (‘We denounce revenge in
      any form as a response to past offences’, the
      resolution read), but at the same time asserted that
      Israel had the alleged God-given right to oppose the
      Palestinian resistance ( ‘[We] support the right of
      sovereign nations to use force to defend themselves
      against aggressors’). In sort, it parroted what seems
      to be the standard American and Israeli line on the
      Palestinian issue.
      The SBC is just one of a vast number of well-heeled
      American fundamentalist Christian organsations that
      are today major players in American domestic politics
      and exercise a powerfully influence in shaping
      American foreign policies. The silence of the Western
      media, by and large, on their pernicious theology and
      their backing for Western imperialism is hardly
      surprising, given that the entire onus for the
      deteriorating relations between the ‘West’ and the
      ‘Muslim world’ is consciously sought to be placed
      solely on the onus of the Muslims themselves. Clearly,
      if at all the ‘clash of civilisations’ thesis is to be
      prevented from coming true and leading the world to
      the brink of Armageddon, Christian fundamentalist
      imperialism cannot be left unchallenged.



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