Rumsfeld, Bush and their Cynical Use of Christ

11

May 22, 2009 by Gsmith

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The United States is the product of an internal revolution which abolished any connection between church, state and school. Much of Latin America, China and the late Soviet Union patterned their own government framework on the ideals of the American Republic. Unlike Canada and most of Europe, there is no official religion in the United States. Religious organizations are prohibited from attempting to influence political matters, and public policy is expected to be formulated exclusive of religious ideals or whims.

A good example of the wishes of the founding fathers in this regard is the Treaty of Tripoli, which stated that “the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”

One of the movements which has traditionally tried to subvert this healthy separation is known today as Neo-Conservatism. Many people use that term but few people know exactly what Neo-Conservatism is. Brother Grégoire is fairly conversant in what Neo-Conservatism is and is not, only because he has spent the last twenty years reading Trotsky. Defining it comprehensively would be well beyond anything I could do on a blog article, but attempting to insert religion into public life is one of the basic tenets of this philosophical movement to influence historical trends.

Leo Strauss, a German-born political philosopher who got tenure at the University of Chicago, is probably the godfather of Neo-Conservatism. One of his students was a man named Irving Kristol. Kristol is one of the very few Neo-Conservatives who will actually admit to being part of the movement, and he serves as something of a spokesman.

Strauss was disturbed by the fact that the secular state led to a tendency toward nihilism. He taught his students that the broad masses of people needed mythology, and that the easiest thing that a political leader could do is to use the existing framework established by Christianity and Judaism to control their thoughts and behaviors, and to direct society as a whole in the direction most convenient for those at the top.

Most importantly, Strauss advocated that the people at the top must appear to be Protestants, Catholics and Jews, but that they must never believe these philosophies in their hearts. They are only to use their membership in these traditions to identify with the people, and so that they can use their knowledge of the scriptures to influence the population they control and control their thoughts and behaviors.

All the original Neo-Conservatives were originally Trotskyists (anti-Stalin Marxist-Leninists) in the 20th century. Not all Trotskyists are Neo-Conservatives. Strauss appears to have cynically used selective interpretations of Uncle Leo’s work to build a cadre of people (like Kristol, who was a very active Communist in NYC) who eventually took control of the U.S. Government.

Many interesting examples of the “work” of the Neo-Conservatives exist, but nothing could be more timely than the following collection.

I would have posted this interesting collage yesterday, but I wanted to talk to someone at GQ first just to make sure they had no claim to these image. Despite the fingerprint, I was assured that these were legitimate products of the U.S. Government, paid for and produced by the American taxpayer, and therefore they exist in the public domain… no copyright, 2009

GQ is to be commended for releasing this collection. Please feel free to read the lengthy but illuminating article entitled Onward Christian Soldiers. [open in separate window]

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When I was a fifteen-year old little kid I visited a Christian tent revival with my foster family. The preacher was of the same denomination as a girlfriend I missed; so I went right up when he called out and got myself baptized a Christian. That’s the extent of my connection to Christianity; and yet even I find myself offended by this claptrap which has been foisted on sincere Christians.

In creating these cover sheets and distributing them throughout the military and White House, Donald Rumsfeld and his boss, President George W Bush, have perverted the true teachings of Christ and led many Christians into a false political consciousness, overriding their good judgment and encouraging them to commit acts of terrible barbarity. I hope this example is recorded, that the next generation might be a bit more skeptical about the next “crusade”.

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11 thoughts on “Rumsfeld, Bush and their Cynical Use of Christ

  1. Ron Madson says:

    gregoire,

    perfect. thank you. I saw this nonsense to a degree in our own faith back in 2002 through 2004 but it had died out or at least been less publicly vocal in recent years.

  2. Joseph says:

    Gregoire,

    I feel sick to my stomach as I view these. I had heard about this, but seeing the images and the (ab)use of scriptures sacred to me is really disturbing. A very important post.

    Ron,

    I remember that time as well. Given that the Book of Mormon explicitly condemns initiating an attack on anyone, even when you think they might attack you (or know they are going to attack you, like 3 Nephi 3:20-21), I never could understand how anyone could use that book for justifying Iraq. But they did, taking scriptures out of context, ignoring the verses right before that which very clearly stating that “they were also taught never to give an offense” (Alma 48:14). I’m glad someone else saw the incongruities as well. I often felt frustrated and alone.

    I agree with Gregoire on how deeply offensive these images are. I love Christian scriptures, and seeing them perverted in this way is very disturbing. Interesting that the military used a scripture which condemns reliance on military force. Unfortunately, this kind of thing has been going on for most of recorded human history.

    Joseph

  3. Zen says:

    Should we conclude that this is the most appropriate interpretation of “Taking the Lord’s name in vain”?

  4. theradicalmormon says:

    As we learned from Jesus’s experience in being tempted by Satan, Satan is a great scriptorian.

  5. Grégoire says:

    Dear Ron:

    …it had died out or at least been less publicly vocal in recent years.

    I’ve talked to more than one observant Mormon who describes the same general trend. I think this is hopeful for a number of reasons; but I suspect it’s mostly because the LDS Church is swinging back to being a more democratic, member driven organization, rather than a top-down authoritarian one. You guys who manage to be active and who dare to speak out in small ways are the people who are going to make it happen; so congratulate yourselves.

    I would love to go back to the LDS Church someday and be welcomed as an atheist, in the way atheists are welcomed at the Reform Temple I sometimes visit. I’d also like to have my wife and daughter see women in leadership roles. Perhaps I could even hear lectures on all sides of social and political topics, rather than just one.

    I’m sure this seems like a tall order, but that’s what I hope will happen someday.

    Dear Zen:

    Neat site! Please feel free to lift any or all of these images for your own amusement. They were produced at our expense. GQ just asked for people to give credit and possibly link back to the story, which is only fair.

    I find it strange that a men’s health/fashion magazine was forced to break such an important story. Time, Maclean’s and The Nation got scooped by the male version of Cosmo. Very interesting…

  6. Forest Simmons says:

    Grégoire, I suppose that orthodox Christians consider followers of Joseph Smith to be atheists because he taught that God never created anything out of nothing, and that the grand secret and key to religion is that “…God himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heaven, is a man like one of you.”

    Similarly, orthodox cosmologists have a very limited concept of the universe. According to them it popped out of nowhere less than 20 billion years ago, and therefore its extent is less than 20 billion light years.

    That’s pretty big compared to the size of things we are used to, but it is pitifully tiny compared to infinity.

    What something that (less orthodox) cosmologists call “Multiverse Theories” give more expansive possibilities of reality that are more in line with the teachings of Brother Joseph.

    The 20 billion light year diameter part of reality that we can observe is a typical part of a “multiverse” that is replicated with infinitely many variations infinitely many times, according to these open minded cosmologists.

    Every time that orthodox science has said, “There cannot be anything beyond what we already have observed,” they have been wrong. History is on the side of the expansive view.

    Now, why should we think that we puny mortals are the most advanced creatures in such a “multiverse?”

  7. Grégoire says:

    Dear Forest:

    Thanks for the question. I realize it was probably rhetorical. I make a point of repeating my own status here on this blog because I don’t want to be accused of leading anyone astray from whatever the teachings of Mormonism might advocate at this particular time.

    This is important because it has only been recently that I’ve realized that I never really got the whole Mormon experience. More than half my life was spent in non-Mormon environments. Making sure everyone knows I don’t believe the mythology of Mormonism is simply a disclaimer for the religious types, in the hopes that they’ll move on rather than get all upset and claim this is some sort of conspiracy to lead folks away from the truth.

    What you’re talking about seems like an outgrowth of the Everett/Wheeler thing… Relative State Formulation, many worlds… Everything that can happen is happening, multiple realities.

    This serves to bring quantum probability down to a level we can work with. I won’t claim to understand such esoterica, but I did study that stuff (under such luminaries as Pons and Fleischmann – little joke for those in the know) and am somewhat familiar with the basics.

    What I think you’re asking (and correct me if I’m mistaken) is how someone can believe in scientific theories like these, but at the same time reject theology.

    I’ve got a relative who used to make little coffin shaped boxes, stuff them full of herbs, crystals and Mormon memorabilia, and sell them to the superstitious. If you point the coffin at someone in a certain way, you can supposedly kill him from a distance. If you point it at yourself in another way, you can cure yourself of asthma, baldness, the clap, whatever.

    I guess in my case — and I think I speak for lots of secular types, atheists and agnostics, but certainly not all of them — I like the Everett/Wheeler theory because it explains things that are relevant to the world around me. Little coffins, blessings, spells, god, and Jesus really don’t serve to explain the natural world very well.

    It might just come down to a matter of taste. Maybe it’s the same part of our brains that make us like Japanese food over Italian. Or perhaps I was born without the ‘spirituality’ gene, or maybe I got brain damage as a kid and the ‘spirituality’ lobe got knocked out. Whatever the underlying cause, some of us simply aren’t interested in the esoteric aspects of religion.

    As for us being the most advanced creatures, I think perhaps our proclivity for warfare may doom the entire world. It might be that intelligence is a genetic dead end.

    Perhaps nature’s most advanced creation is the dolphin, dog, horse, honeybee, or East African Mountain Gorilla. All of these creatures can be counted on to behave much better than many of the chuckleheads I see on the (always depressing) evening news. If my housecat could build an ICBM with multiple thermonuclear payloads, would she launch it? I doubt it. My cat spends all day trying to be the best housecat she can be. I can’t say as much for most of the people in the world…

  8. Forest Simmons says:

    Dear Grégoire,

    my previous comment was intended to make you feel more welcome before the day arrives that you alluded to above when you wrote,

    “I would love to go back to the LDS Church someday and be welcomed as an atheist, in the way atheists are welcomed at the Reform Temple I sometimes visit. I’d also like to have my wife and daughter see women in leadership roles. Perhaps I could even hear lectures on all sides of social and political topics, rather than just one.
    I’m sure this seems like a tall order, but that’s what I hope will happen someday.”

    My main point was that we Mormons are all considered atheists by the Bible Answer Man and others who have their minds riveted to the orthodox creeds. So welcome to a bunch of “atheists.”

    My secondary point was that it seems to me that orthodox cosmologists are just as contracted in their views as orthodox Christians. Compared to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young who believed in “worlds without number,” inhabited by intelligent beings, and a plan of eternal progression that is “one eternal round,” scientists like Richard Dawkins are pretty closed and small minded. My rhetorical question was meant as a challenge for dogmatic atheists like Dawkins (not you), and something worth pondering for anybody.

    If I could convince Dawkins that there were creatures on other worlds that were trillions of trillions of years in advance of us in “goodness and niceness” (as agent 86 would say) not to mention power and intelligence, what would he say?

    I think he would probably say that we’re just talking about highly evolved creatures, not gods.

    Why not gods? Because they don’t satisfy the criterion of the creeds taken from Neoplatonic philosophy.

    Well we don’t believe in the god of the creeds, either; our concept of god is more in line with the advanced creature idea. So we are almost as atheistic as Dawkins, but not as dogmatic (or godmatic when dyslexic).

    Jehovah told Moses that he was the only god that Moses had to worry about and that this world was the only one he needed to be concerned about, but he did give Moses a tantalizing glimpse of innumerably many other worlds before he got back to business.

    Nibley has pointed out that Lehi was contemporary with Solon of Athens, and might have been personally acquainted with him. Echoes of Greek philosophy are certainly evident in Lehi’s teachings to his sons in chapter two of second Nephi, where good, evil, justice, mercy, wisdom, etc. are personified in the Greek manner.

    By the time of Lehi the Hebrews had pretty much purged themselves of the idea that there could be more than one real god. Zeezrom challenges Amulek on this point as did the priests of King Noah challenge Abinadi on the grounds that if god could have a son, wouldn’t that son also be a god?

    A few weeks before the assassination of JFK at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, I was pondering the plan of eternal progression as I then understood it. To me it seemed like a beautiful and consistent logical system like the Euclidean geometry that I had studied the previous year. A few choice scriptures, like Moses 1:39 “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,” seemed to form an axiomatic basis for the rest of the system.

    Lehi’s words, “… men are that they might have joy,” and Benjamin’s words on happiness through service formed part of that basis. The glory of god being related to intelligence made sense, because how could he do his work and glory without great intelligence, and how could we serve effectively without it. It made me want to learn and understand all I could.

    As I was pondering I was fully aware that a theoretical system can be logically consistent both internally and with our limited observations without necessarily being true.

    I had thought of this before, but this time I said to myself, “If it isn’t true, then men of good will should get together and make it a grand project so that some day, perhaps millions of years from now, something like it could be realized.”

    Immediately after that thought, totally unexpected audible words came into my mind saying, “You don’t have to worry about that. It is true.” Those words were accompanied by an indescribable feeling of warmth and security.

    Since that time I have had many spiritual assurances, but only a handful that strong with audible words. Another similar experience (not too personal to share) that I had years later is recorded on this webpage:

    http://www.blacklds.org/june-1978

    Logic can be used as a means of extrapolating our personal experiences, but without the personal experience we just get a nice logical system.

    Joseph Smith said that he didn’t blame anybody who didn’t believe his testimony; he admitted that he probably wouldn’t have believed it himself if it had not happened to him.

    Similarly, you can believe that I was hallucinating that fall day of 1963, but for me it was primal, powerful, and as real as anything I have ever experienced (and the same for that day in June of 1978, and a few other choice experiences).

  9. Grégoire says:

    Dear Forest:

    That’s an amazing story! Thanks for trusting us enough to share.

    By hallucinating I assume you assume (lots of assumptions there) I would think you and others who have these sorts of experiences are less than rational. That is simply not the case. Of course I interpret these things differently than a believer, but I’m confident that you’re totally sincere.

    Since you’re a physics buff, maybe you’ve heard the Pauli quote about “the psyche moving outward into the physical universe…”. Lots of hard science types, past and present, acknowledge that we don’t know absolutely everything about human consciousness. I’m not what they call a *strong* atheist. There might be a god, I just haven’t seen him.

    Since we’re spilling our guts, I’ll share my one and only experience which I think might compare with yours.

    I left St. George (where my mother and stepfather lived) on my 18th birthday and ended up in San Antonio, Texas. I didn’t tell them where I was going and refused repeated attempts at contact initiated by them and various other members of my extended biological family. I had only lived with them for 18 months, but had lived with them when I was a child and had always planned to simply cut ties and move on at my first opportunity.

    In the summer of 1988 (only a few short weeks after I had absconded) the local LDS ward found me. I attended a couple of meetings when the home teachers showed up unannounced at my apartment and insisted I go with them. I tried sincerely to become an investigator at this time, but religion just wasn’t interesting to me.

    Christmas of 1988 my mother and several other family members attempted to call me and initiate contact. I maintained a dignified silence and simply told them all I was not interested.

    In January of 1989, I got a registered letter from the local bishop inviting me to an excommunication procedure. It got delayed a couple of times and the silly “trial” eventually happened a couple of months later. In a conversation with the Bishop, who I had met only briefly a couple of times previous, he told me that by attending the trial I would be able to be excommunicated. He also revealed that my mother and stepfather had demanded the procedure and had accused me of having girlfriends and a non-Mormon social life, and also had accused me of abandoning the religious aspects of Mormonism and being an apostate (technically this was all perfectly true and no secret to anyone). This was part and parcel of why I left. Many members of my family are quite manipulative and I agreed to appear at the ‘trial’ on the Bishop’s promise that this would sever my ties to the LDS church completely.

    When I finally appeared I was asked a lot of personal questions. I was never active in the LDS church and had attained the rank of Priest in the Aaronic priesthood, so it was just the bishop and two counselors. One of them took it upon himself to demand names and personal details on all my female social acquaintances, and he asked me really graphic personal questions about sex acts I might have performed and things like this. To his credit, one of the three men was totally embarrassed and kept trying to move the procedure away from the subject.

    I naturally refused to answer these sorts of questions put to me by complete strangers, and took exception to their asking about third parties. The response was that they could not excommunicate me without my admitting guilt and answering all questions honestly, and that they were going to keep me on the rolls unless I played ball.

    I got panicked at this point and pulled out a business card from a guy I knew at the San Antonio Light newspaper, telling them that I’d call the media if they didn’t let me go. This was totally improvised, but it made an impression. At that point I was ushered out of the room.

    I went out into what Mormons call the foyer while they ‘deliberated’. While I was out there I got this amazing mental picture in my head of pioneers pushing handcarts. I’m not going to claim this was a vision or some sort of mystical awakening, but it was very profound and I think that I see it in much the same way you see your experiences. I was previously very keyed up and stressed out, with the idea that these people would continue to meddle with me and that I’d never be free of them. In just an instant I felt a total peace come over me, and I had a vision of myself building a handcart and pushing it away. I felt very strongly like I would have had the support of our ancestors in starting my life over. They struggled to build this tradition, and I was struggling to move on and build something new, but at the core we were motivated by the same things.

    So I went back when they called me in and they were very meek and told me I was excommunicated. To their credit, the LDS church has never interfered with me since. The missionaries come through my neighborhoods at random and I invite them in for sodas and in the past I’ve let them make calls home (naughty, fersher, but they’re nice boys and just talk to their parents) but the only contact has been by chance. That’s more credit than I can give my biological family, but they’re easily ignored.

    Maybe I see these things differently than you do. Biological responses to stress… psychological processes… I would never doubt the profundity of these sorts of experiences and would never mock them regardless.

    As I get older I realize that we all take different paths but end up at the same general places. I’m not one of the arrogant types who thinks he’s better than theists or more intelligent or more grounded. I just see the world and the things therein in a different way. That’s all.

    As an aside: Interesting you went to U.T.. When I was 14-15 I was stuck in a really crappy group home in the middle of nowhere, but on occasion we went to town (Austin) for outings when some charitable organization (Masons, Elks, etc.) invited us. I had some great memories at Zilker Park, Camp Willow and a few other places in the general area.

  10. Forest Simmons says:

    Gregoire,

    It’s amazing to me how you got through all of that without a lot of bitterness.

    I like you just as you are, so don’t think that I’m trying to change you.

    If it turns out that your experience was more than just a psychological coping mechanism, then you might be pleasantly surprised someday. You know that virtue is its own reward, so any hereafter will be pure gravy as far as you are concerned.

    Its really better if we all focus on the intrinsic value of what we are doing and not “dream of our mansions above,” anyway.

    My Best,

    Forest

  11. […] he was on a “mission from God” or the lovely paring of Christianity and War revealed by GQ magazine. Honest. This isn’t a joke. The president of the United States, in a top-secret phone call to a […]

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