Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production


V041-01_lord-swordFReligion and war making go all the way back to Gilgamesh, the great priest-warrior-king who expunged his enemies and razed their cities in the same lands and with the same self-righteous zeal as does his successor, George W. Bush. So things haven’t changed much, despite the fact that America is supposed to be a secular, democratic nation and Sumer was a theocracy. American evangelistic Christians are among the most ardent supporters of George Bush’s war in Iraq, a war that was sold largely in an emotional atmosphere of vengeance for the atrocity of 911, but also plays well with those Christians who draw from Revelations the prophecy for the Armageddon that its to come from the Middle East. Images and examples of American pietism and patriotism can be seen everywhere (and, with criticism, in these pages on many occasions). Of course, the perpetrators of 911 were themselves religious fanatics who believed that Allah blessed their cause and welcomed their martyrdom. It bears repeating that the Bush Administration, ardent friends of the Saudi monarchy, continues to ignore the fact that almost all of the perpetrators were from Saudi Arabia (preferring to nurture the falsehood that they were Iraqis, when none were), and that Saudi Arabia’s Wahabbism make it arguably the most primitive and fanatic theocracy in the world. American fundamentalist evangelist Christians dumbly buy into the deceits of their president the way they buy into most of the feces that is fed to them by their religious leadership.


So wielding the sword of the Lord requires to some extent that the military sign on to the program.  (Cue the archangel trumpets and the Blue Angel flyover in the crucifix formation.) There’s General Boykin, for example, publicly stating that his god can whip the enemy’s god’s ass, but he’s only the dunce cap on the top of an iceberg of evangelical Christianity that has crept into the military over the years.


Now it is true, even if your faith is only of the most dormant form, that the terrors of war and the horrific wounds in can inflict will bring it to the surface.   “God help me” is something seared into our brains, heritable if not conditioned, to utter when it seems there is no earthly succor available or suitable. The true believer and the atheist might chorus such supplications as they share the same foxhole and the sound of an incoming artillery shell.  But it is conditioned reflex. The foe is, of course, pleading the same, but our side take some comfort in that our God is sorting their body bags into a different pile, lest we forget that war is not just the last phase of diplomacy, it’s is also our God’s injunction to expunge the infidel.


None of this implies any connection between war and the other connection religionists like to make—morality. The latest disgusting example has been the Pat Tillman issue.  Tillman, the Army Ranger who turned down a million-dollar contract to play professional football was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.   He had been set up as a poster boy for the Army, so they decided to lie and make him a hero rather than a victim, lying to his family in the process.  The truth came out when fellow Army Ranger Bryan O’Neal told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “I was ordered not to tell” the family of Pat Tillman the truth about how he died by friendly fire. Somebody was also ordered to immediately burn Tillman’s uniform and other evidence so that a tale of his “heroic death” in battle with the enemy could be cocked-up, complete with the awarding of a Silver Star. [1]   That’s Pentagon morality for ya.   Hell, if you are going to get people killed, you can’t do them much more harm lying about how you got them killed.   (I guess the don’t think there is any “collateral damage” from that reasoning.)


The Pentagon had good practice in this sort of deceit, having turned Pvt. Jessica Lynch, early in the war from the badly injured truck driver who’s life was probably saved by Iraqi doctors, into an amalgam of GI Jane and the Terminator.   Lynch has since written a book somewhat meekly setting things straight, but the Bush Administration propaganda machine has better access to the public.   She is at least around to testify for the lie the Pentagon fabricated for her (“ I am still confused as to why they chose to lie and tried to make me a legend”).   But the Army seems content to let the lie stand and one suspects that there has been more than a little pressure on Lynch to shut up or they can make life miserable for her.   After all, when the Commander-in-Chief is a proven liar, you have no place to go but down.   Any military officer who has the guts to hold “duty, honor, country” higher than allegiance to a guy who boozed his way through his National Guard “service” has been canned.


The Tilman family doesn’t care for having this lie clouding the death of their son to persist and they have to fight on his behalf.   They’ve been pressing for the truth to be made public since they learned it; they just don’t realize that it was a casualty before their son was. Most recently the family was told at a hearing they demanded by a Col. Kauzlarich that because their son was not a Christian he would not be going to heaven anyway, but would be “worm dirt”; in other words they shouldn’t give a damn about him and drop the matter. [2]


There’s an interesting little matter of reasoning in this that we have seen in the whole “left behind” logic; that is, believers and “born agains” get to go to heaven, those who are not are left behind and are “worm dirt.”   This is why Christian were called “cretins” in the Middle Ages.   When we think this one through we get the following:


•  Bad people, who kill, lie and whatever, will get to go to heaven if they say they are believers.

•  Any good people, who don’t kill, lie and whatever, if they are not believers, will not get to go to heaven.

•  God, if He exists, is stupid enough to have set things up this way.


One would think that the infusion of religion into the military and its academies would produce higher standards of reason and morality than this.   But this would only be to further the delusion.   We are not talking here of the somewhat simple and underplayed religiosity that we get from mention of God in the Pledge of Allegiance, or “In God We Trust” on a dollar bill,[3] or even some silly prayer at the opening of a Congressional session, but we’re talking about Christian Evangelists here. We’re talking about people who think the see the whole divine plan and prospect laid out before them in the Book of Revelations. [4]   We’re talking about people who see the world in terms of contending forces of “good” and “evil” and the good forces just happen to be aligned with those people in mega churches in red states standing and waving their hands in the air and singing halleluiahs to the blow-dried blather of some erstwhile roofing and siding contractor with his hand in their pocket.   We’re talking about people who see religion as war.

Pretty much since the time in which Christ preached to forgive our enemies and turn the other cheek Christians have been following their “human nature” and not Christ’s divine counsel, preferring to kill their enemies and giving it right back to those who smite their cheeks.    Bush’s admittedly “preemptive” war actually follows the principle of “do unto others before they do it to you.”   Like the sanctimonious scumbags that fill the airwaves and Fox News with their warmongering wrapped in religious zealotry, Bush pushes his war as though it were a messianic duty—he was, after all, in his own words “selected” by God and Antonin Scalia to keep America safe and well-oiled for Christianity.


Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,

           with the cross of Jesus going on before.

           Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;

           forward into battle see his banners go!


           Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,

           with the cross of Jesus going on before. [5]

©2007, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 5.1.2007)

[1] When it is said that the first victim of war is the Truth, the connotation is broader than is presumed.   The military will lie like hell when it suits its need.   The Navy might be the best at this particular talent.   When there was an explosion in a gun turret on a battleship that killed several sailors, the Navy decided to pin it on a putatively gay seaman and say he caused the explosion to commit suicide over some gay tiff.


[3] “In Alan Greenspan We Trust” was too big to put on the dollar.

[4] See, DCJ Archives, No. 33. 2, The Crapture: It’s A Revelation!   June 2006

[5] Words: Sabine Baring-Gould, 1864. Music: Arthur Sullivan, 1871.