Resurrecting God to Wage War
Back in the 1970s, The New York Times questioned whether God was dead in American culture, by highlighting the intellectual and emotional separation of religion from mainstream America. Americans do not question God's existence today, not even the staff of the New York Times. In the new millennium, God has been resurrected on the world stage to both wage and fight terrorism. Three monotheistic religions—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism—are at the center of President Bush's favorite word, terrorism. Is there any doubt that Bush, bin Laden, and Sharon find support for their eye-for-an-eye retributions in their respective heavenly fathers? To hear these three men talk is to hear that God is the ultimate terrorist. He is not only all-powerful and patriarchal, he is also revengeful. Bush may talk of Jesus, but he pushes aside Christ's teachings of peace and love for the Old Testament God of fire and brimstone. Bush, bin Laden and Sharon—along with Palestinian extremists—are engaged in a bizarre competition to see who can kill the most innocents in the name of God. There is a reason why these men evoke the name of God. It is the only way that they can justify the horror of their own worldly actions.
History tells us that if war is good for anything, it is good for religion. God and war are inseparable. The recent banter about the Pledge of Allegiance, and the almost universal support amongst our representatives in Washington for preserving the phrase "under God," speaks to that truth. Our leaders have forgotten that our forefathers made the First Amendment to the Constitution one that established not only freedom of religion but a legal separation of Church and State.
One need look no further than England, from which our founding fathers separated, to understand the origins of the First Amendment. England had (and still has) a national religion that perverted both institutions. To pretend that this separation is anything but absolute is to deny our nation's true history. And it is not just the politicians. I can't remember when American culture was more willing to shout, "I'm a believer." This year's Boston Pops July 4th celebration at the Hatch Shell in Boston resembled an Elmer Gantry revival. I recently watched the former contrarian Dennis Miller, now busy telling people what they want to hear, use the fact that the phrase "In God We Trust" is on our currency to justify keeping "under God" in the Pledge. I'll give Dennis the benefit of the doubt and assume he is ignorant of the fact that both phrases found their respective places in the Pledge and on our currency in the 1950s. Remember the 1950s, the decade Ronald Reagan said had no racial problems? If Miller told audiences that 1950s social mores, including the subjugation of woman and blacks, should govern our actions in the new millennium, he would never get on another stage. Dennis says this stuff to put a buck in his pocket. Politicians say it to put a few votes in their pockets. Miller is intelligent enough to know that removing these 1950s manifestations of religious dogma would be patriotic and in the spirit of our republic, while still allowing freedom of religion to those who wish to pronounce their faith.
President Abraham Lincoln used the phrase "under God" in the Gettysburg Address. Martin Luther King referenced God in his "I Have a Dream" speech. The First Amendment did not preclude the inclusion of God in what I consider the two greatest speeches in American history. Pretending that Separation of Church and State and religious freedom are mutually exclusive is a lie. The opposite is true. For religion to be free, it must be separated from the secular government. Bush need look no further than the word of his favorite philosopher, Jesus Christ, in the scriptures of the New Testament, to find support for this concept. Following the teachings of Jesus would require that he also put down the sword and walk forward in peace and love. Bush prefers a vindictive God. It takes real faith to "love your enemies." Gandhi had that type of faith. Alas, Bush does not.
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