George Bush's Reactionary Religious Beliefs
At the beginning of the 21st century, the leadership of the most
economically, technically, and socially advanced nation in history has
fallen to a politician with reactionary religious beliefs from a part of the
country with a primitive extractive economy. This article will examine
George W. Bush's reactionary religious beliefs and the impact of those
beliefs on the domestic and foreign policies of his administration. To
start our examination of Bush's fringe religious belief, we must go back in
history - back to England in the 1820's.
John Nelson Darby was an Anglican priest in Ireland who left the Church of
England in the 1820's to form his own sect, The Brethren. Over the years,
The Brethren spread through the British Isles, Germany, and North America.
Darby developed an elaborate end-times theory that he called Premillineal
Dispensationalism - this theory is one of the prevalent influences on
Southern Protestant fundamentalist to this day.
Darby's vision of the "end times" - which has not been altered by his
successors - holds the following beliefs.
· In the end times, Israel will be re-created as a nation-state.
· God will intervene repeatedly to save Israel from destruction.
· Eventually, Israel will be destroyed by in the battle of
Armageddon, in which an international federation will be led by the
Anti-Christ. Many fundamentalists believe the federation that will destroy
Israel is either the United Nations or the European Federation. Also, many
believe the antichrist will be a Jew who had renounced Judaism.
· Most Jews will be killed in Armageddon, but 144,000 will convert
to Christianity and be "saved."
· Jesus will physically return to Earth to defeat the antichrist.
· At this point, the ancient Jewish temple on the Temple Mount -
where the Al-Aqsa mosque stands today - will be restored as will the Throne
of King David, one of the kings of ancient Israel.
· Jesus will establish a world government in the form of a
theocracy and rule as a benevolent dictator for the next thousand years at
which time Satan will escape and be defeated again, this time forever.
The most prominent and influential Americans to accept this view of the
future were Dwight L. Moody, founder of the Moody Bible Institute, and Cyrus
Scofield of the Dallas Theological Seminary. Scofield's Scofield Reference
Bible has persuaded generations of Protestant fundamentalists that Darby's
bizarre interpretation of scripture is correct.
According to Darby, one of the conditions necessary to the return of Jesus
was the restoration of Israel to its "biblical boundaries" and the
establishment of a secure Israeli state. Israel's victory in the 1967 war
and its conquest of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank created a wave of
apocalyptic anticipation among Protestant fundamentalists in the U. S.,
especially in Texas and the rest of the South. The restoration of Jews to
"the Holy Land" has been a priority for the Southern right for a generation
before the Southern right hijacked the national Republican Party.
Now, review and think about what you have just read. In the 1820's a fringe
priest developed a theory that, before Jesus can come to earth again, Israel
must be established as a state. This belief led American fundamentalists to
sponsor the "restoration of the Holy Land" to the Jews so that the Jews can
be destroyed in the final battle of Armageddon, except for 144,000 who will
convert to Christianity.
By 2002, Southern Protestants fundamentalists in the U. S. had launched an
"adopt-a-settlement" program in which they provided financial assistance to
settlements in Israel to further the establishment of a state of Israel
occupying "Israel's biblical lands." One of the principal actors in this
movement is John Hagee, pastor of the San Antonio, Texas, Cornerstone Church
who announced that his congregation would give $1,000,000 to the government
of Israel to resettle Jews from the former Soviet Union. When Hagee was
told that U. S. law considered the Israel settlements to be illegal, he
replied: "I am a Bible scholar and theologian and from my perspective, the
law of God transcends the law of the United States government." According
to Hagee, the Israeli colonization of the occupied territories "is a
fulfillment of biblical prophecy." Some American fundamentalists are allied
with Jewish fanatics who dream of destroying the Al-Aqsa mosque in order to
build the restored Temple on the Temple Mount.
The leading conservative members of Congress from Texas were among the most
fervent supporters of the far right in Israel. In the last week of April
2002, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay said that all of the West Bank - which
he called "Judea and Samaria" in accordance with Jewish practice - belong to
Israel. On 1 May 2002, House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey endorsed
the call by the Israeli right wing for their military to engage in ethnic
cleansing to purge the West Bank of native Palestinian Arabs. In an
interview with Chris Matthews, Army proposed that over three million people
be expelled for the homeland where they had lived since history began.
The fervent support of Israel by Protestant fundamentalists - rooted in
Darby's fringe interpretation of the Bible - has been manipulated for over
25 years by right-wing Israeli politicians and their American
From 1948 until 1977, moderates and progressives in Israel kept the radical
right wing Likud party at bay. Then came the election of Menachem Begin,
the first Likud Primer Minister, followed by Yitzhak Shamir, Benjamin
Netanyahu, and Ariel Sharon. The Likud Party has opposed and eventually
destroyed every peace plan put forward for Israel. Since Begin's election
in 1977, American Protestant fundamentalists have been an echo for the
Israeli Likud Party: supporting Israel's invasion of Lebanon; opposing the
Oslo peace process; demanding an end to US negotiations with the
Palestinians; and, encouraging the expansion of Jewish settlements.
One of Israel's chief supporters among US Protestant fundamentalists is
Reverend Jerry Falwell, a Lynchburg, Virginia, Baptist preacher and founder
of the "Moral Majority." In 1981, when Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear
reactor, Begin phoned Falwell before he told President Reagan. In 1979, the
government of Israel gave Falwell a Lear jet. In 1998, when Netanyahu
visited the US, he addressed more than a thousand evangelical
fundamentalists at a Falwell rally before he went to Washington to see
The relationship between the Protestant fundamentalists and the Jews is
strange because the Protestant fundamentalist leadership is frequently on
record with anti-Semitic statements. Bailey Smith, an influential Dallas
Baptist preacher proclaimed that "God does not hear the prayer of a Jew."
Pat Robertson, in his book The New World Order, claimed that Jewish
financiers and Freemasons have caused most of the world's wars.
The alliance of white Southern Protestant evangelicals and Jewish
neoconservatives is strengthened by a sense on both their parts that they
are embattled and despised minorities in both the world and their own ethnic
groups. The Jewish conservatives are a minority within the American Jewish
community, which remains predominantly liberal in domestic policy while
Southern right-wingers and religious fundamentalists have always been a
minority among white Americans.
The fierce religiosity of Southern Protestant fundamentalists can be traced
back to Ulster and Scotland. The 18th century Irish and Scots who moved to
the American colonies from Northern Ireland combined frontier ferocity with
simple, unquestioning, fervent Calvinist Protestantism. These people
compare themselves to the oppressed Hebrews of the Old Testament and have
little or no use for the forgiving, loving, peaceful Jesus of the New
Testament. It is no accident that Southern Protestant fundamentalism is
called "the old-time religion." It consists of near-literal translations
from the Old Testament law; laws and social strictures in the South today
are near-literal transcriptions from the book of Leviticus. The gun-toting,
Bible-thumping Southerner with his devotion to the Ten Commandments is no
different from the Torah-thumping, gun-toting Israeli settler in occupied
The parallels between white southerners in the historically majority-black
Deep South and the Israeli occupation of Arab lands are obvious. In each
case, a minority, surrounded by an oppressed majority without rights lives
in fear of rebellion by the subjugated majority. In each case, the isolated
minority promulgates an ideology of racial and religious solidarity to
enlist the support of its ethnic kin to help keep themselves in power.
In his approach to the Middle East, the first President Bush and his
advisers - such as Secretary of State James Baker - reflected the pro-Arab
tilt of big business in the oil patch - rescuing Kuwait from Saddam Hussein,
pressuring Israel not to retaliate against Iraqi rocket attacks. In
response, the Israeli right-wing directed bitter, vicious attacks against
the first President Bush - attacks that no doubt were not lost on his son,
the second President Bush. George W. Bush is a devout Southern Protestant
fundamentalist and he shares with the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell,
and long-dead Charles Nelson Darby his commitment to the "restoration of
Israel and the temple" so as to prepare for the "second coming of Jesus."
The conservative imperialism of George W. Bush's administration has no
precedent in US foreign policy. However, it is strikingly like 19th century
British imperialism. Just like the British in the 19th century, the US
wants to rule the world in isolation - "dominance" is the word used in Bush'
s September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States - wants to
promote free trade, and foster the return of Jews to "the Holy Land" - which
was also a project of British evangelical Protestants in the 19th century
and now of American Protestants in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
In the 19th century United States, British imperialists found their closest
allies in the Southern planter class. The fact that the 21st Southern
conservative world view resembles 19th century British imperialism is no
surprise. The South, including Texas, is a provincial museum of dead
British ideologies, British religious denominations, and British customs.
The South's religion is 17th century British Cromwellian Puritanism with a
large dose of Darbyist Dispensationalism. The South's notion of social
relationships is that of the 18th century British landed elite.
Southerners failed between 1861 and 1865 to separate themselves from the US
and establish their own militaristic, devoutly Protestant empire,
conservative Southerners now seek to use the American presidency to remake
the world in the image of the 19th century British Empire. The fact that in
order to do so they must repudiate over half a century of US
internationalism and social justice does not bother Southern Protestant
fundamentalists - including George W. Bush - not one bit. After all, they
regard Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt as the enemy.