George W. Bush
Is Not a Christian
Uncovering the Real Power
Behind the US President
© By Robert Guffey
So one day Jesus Christ (Our Lord and Saviour) and Leo Strauss stroll into the Oval Office…. It could be the beginning of a joke. Instead it represents the beginning of the systematic massacre of the First Amendment, the rollback of civil rights, and the violent rape of the high ideals of the signers of the U.S. Constitution. Blues.
We all know Jesus Christ (if not personally, then by reputation), but much fewer of you know the name Leo Strauss. Strauss’s influence on recent United States foreign policy is slowly coming to light. A number of neoconservatives, who have been molding U.S. foreign policy since 2001 to apocalyptic effect, are either former students of Strauss or devotees of his philosophy. Foremost among these “neocons” are Paul Wolfowitz, the President of the World Bank and the former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Richard Perle, former Chairman of George W. Bush’s Defense Policy Board, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Irving Kristol, who popularised the term “Neoconservative” in his 1983 book Reflections of a Neoconservative, and Irving’s son William, founder of the influential think tank Project for a New American Century.
During a recent interview on CNN, Alexander Haig, the former Secretary of State for the Reagan administration, accused the neocons of having “hijacked” the Republican Party. Of the Iraq War he said, “This is a conflict that’s essentially political. It’s not just purely military. It’s political and religious and ideological. And it was driven by the so-called neocons that hijacked my party, the Republican Party.”1 The “hijackers” Haig named specifically were Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Pearle. These three men have in common an adherence to the teachings of Leo Strauss.
When discussing Strauss’s influence on their way of thinking, the neocons inexplicably revert to a kind of rhapsodic enthusiasm, near-orgasmic joy rarely seen in their writing even when they’re speaking of subjects close to their heart, like killing thousands of innocent people in the Middle East. Irving Kristol writes, “Encountering Strauss’s work produced the kind of intellectual shock that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He turned one’s intellectual universe upside down.”2 Kristol elaborates:
[I]n the United States… the writings of Leo Strauss have been extraordinarily influential. Strauss’ critique of the destructive elements within modern liberalism, an analysis that was popularised by his students… has altered the very tone of public discourse in the United States…. To bring contemporary liberalism into disrepute… is no small achievement.3
Strauss’s central beliefs are crucial to understand if one wishes to penetrate to the heartmeat core of the neocon’s duplicitous policies. Essentially, Strauss believed the vast majority of the human race was so unequipped to handle the disturbing truths of the universe that they needed to be spoonfed pretty lies in order to endure their inferior existences. On the other hand, what he called “the philosophers” (i.e., Strauss and his academic cronies) represent that rare breed of individual who can face the truth “that there is no God, that the universe cares nothing for men or mankind, and that all of human history is nothing more than an insignificant speck in the cosmos, which no sooner began, than it will vanish forever without a trace. There is no morality, no good or evil…”4
According to Strauss these philosophers must feed the ignorant with the “religious, moral and other beliefs they require” in order to survive. But they do this not out of benevolence. No, Strauss is clear on this point: the duty of the “philosopher” is to use his superior intellect to manufacture falsehoods “to shape society in the interest of [the] ‘philosophers’ themselves.”5 This is the only route to take, Strauss believed, if truth was to survive.
Irving Kristol comments on this facet of Strauss’s philosophy:
What made him so controversial with the academic community was his disbelief in the Enlightenment dogma that ‘the truth will make men free’. He was an intellectual aristocrat who thought that the truth could make some minds free, but he was convinced that there was an inherent conflict between philosophic truth and the political order, and that the popularisation and vulgarisation of these truths might import unease, turmoil and the release of popular passions hitherto held in check by tradition and religion.6
Allow me to translate. What Kristol is really saying is this: “If us rulers were to openly admit to the masses, ‘You’re all a bunch of sheep and you’re here to serve us, because we’re better than you, so kiss my butt,’ the masses might get a bit riled by such a comment and actually rise up and hang all of us assholes from lampposts.” Needless to say, the neocons don’t wish this to happen. In order to prevent it, therefore, dissimulation is absolutely necessary.
Strauss believed the philosopher must write his books in such a dense, esoteric style that its true secrets would be clear only to the initiated. Since the truth is so dangerous, it can’t be put in the hands of the naïve and the profane. The style of the book must be doubly-coded in such a way that the few novices who even attempt to understand it would merely come away from the book shaking his head in bewilderment and bored dismay. As Strauss himself once wrote, in a rare and paradoxical moment of clarity, “[A]n author who wishes to address only thoughtful men has but to write in such a way that only a very careful reader can detect the meaning of his book.”7
Strauss believed government policies should be designed in this manner. Just as Strauss’s texts were doubly-coded, the executive branch must operate in a similarly kabbalistic fashion if it is to do what is necessary for the stability of political life. While the masses are treated to the amusing and mundane caperings of an exoteric dog-and-pony show, beneath the surface operates the esoteric centres of power: the philosophers themselves. These “wise men” represent government’s esoteric underside. The exoteric side, meanwhile, is represented by what he called “the gentlemen.”
…the philosophers require various sorts of people to serve them, including the ‘gentlemen’…. Rather than the ‘esoteric,’ or secret teachings, the future ‘gentlemen’ are indoctrinated in the ‘exoteric,’ or public teachings. They are taught to believe in religion, morality, patriotism, and public service, and some go into government…. Of course, along with these traditional virtues, they also believe in the ‘philosophers’ who have taught them all these good things.
Those ‘gentlemen’ who become statesmen… continue to take the advice of the philosophers. This rule of the philosophers through their front-men in government, is what Strauss calls ‘the secret kingdom’ of the philosophers, a ‘secret kingdom’ which is the life’s objective of many of Strauss’s esoteric students.8
Which, of course, brings us to George W. Bush, and to Jesus Christ.
According to Strauss, philosophy has disproved the tenets of Christianity and all other religions. Nonetheless, he recognised these religions had many uses. “[C]ivil government,” he wrote, “is not in itself sufficient for orderly corporate life within society. Religion is a regulator of order in social life.… It is… a code of law prescribed for the many by higher intelligences.”9 The “gentleman” would have to be someone schooled in the basic tenets of religious teachings, someone with the ability to rattle off dogma for rhetorical purposes while functioning as the mouth piece of the wise men.
Professor Hugh Urban of Ohio State University has recently published a brilliant analysis of Strauss’s influence on the Bush regime titled “Religion and Secrecy in the Bush Administration: The Gentleman, the Prince, and the Simulacrum” in which he offers a concise summary of the overlapping ideologies of Strauss and the current neocon movement:
His appeal [for the neocons], I think, centres around four main ideas: 1) his sense that the modern Western world is in a state of intense ‘crisis,’ which is due in large part to the dangerous weaknesses within modern liberal democracy; 2) his emphasis on secrecy and esotericism, or the art of writing and reading between the lines; 3) his belief that religion is necessary for the coherence and stability of society, even though the philosopher or wise man has transcended such ‘noble lies;’ and 4) his description of the ‘gentleman,’ the public figure or politician who embodies the ideals of religious faith and virtue, and so serves as the liaison between the wise men and the common populace.10
Urban suggests that George W. Bush was tapped by the neocons for the express purpose of serving as this “liaison.” Bush, himself, need not understand a single word of Strauss to function in this specialised capacity, and Bush knows this. Bush is well aware of his severe intellectual limitations and never even believed he could win public office. His good friend and Yale classmate, Roland Betts, once quoted Bush as saying: “You know, I could run for governor but I’m basically a media creation. I’ve never done anything. I’ve worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business. But that’s not the kind of profile you have to have to get elected to public office.”11
What Bush saw as a limitation became his strength in the eyes of the Straussian neocons. When Strauss defines his conception of the “gentleman,” he’s essentially talking about a media creation: “The gentleman… is the political reflection or imitation of the wise man”12 – an imitation that is easily manipulated from behind the scenes.
Of course, numerous commentators have accused Vice-President Cheney of being the prime manipulator of the President’s actions since before Bush was even elected. When directly asked about this by a reporter from USA Today, Cheney replied, “Am I the evil genius in the corner that nobody ever sees come out of his hole? It’s a nice way to operate, actually.”13 Apparently, the Straussians are well aware of the simple fact that sometimes telling the truth can be far more effective than prevaricating.
If the administration’s collaboration with the evangelical Christian movement is merely a false front, is it then logical to assume that these religious leaders are having little or no effect on Bush’s actual policies? Absolutely not, for the neocons are skilfully manipulating the evangelical community to accomplish a very specific goal – and vice versa. The evangelicals have always had a perverse desire to witness Christ’s return to the Holy Land in their lifetime, preferably in the form of an apocalyptic showdown between the forces of God and Satan (or Good and Evil, concepts the Straussians claim don’t even exist) in the cradle of civilisation. The neocons certainly know this, and have manipulated the religious obsessions of these evangelicals to push their selected “gentleman” into the Oval Office, a “gentleman” with the power to conjure forth an insane foreign policy in the “Holy Land” for the express purpose of extracting what the neocons want most out of the Middle East: total domination over the region’s oil. As per Leo Strauss’s dictums set forth decades ago, they have utilised the religious delusions of the masses to attain the secret desires of the “philosophers” – the hermetic goals of the so-called “wise men” lurking just behind the throne.
Recently, more and more Christians are waking up to the fact that President Bush is an impostor dragging the name of their Saviour through the mud. A number of books written by Christians have taken Bush to task for his egregious duplicity, one of the latest being Christian Words, Unchristian Actions by John Stoddard Klar. If you know any Christians in desperate need of the truth, you might want to give them a copy of this book which is filled with any number of cogent analyses of Bush’s foreign policy from a genuinely Christian perspective. Here’s an example:
The War in Iraq desecrates Jesus Christ because it has been undertaken by a president and nation who call themselves Christian, while the violence and injustice of that war are akin to the actions of Christ’s oppressors – Jesus abhorred violence, and never endorsed its use, even in his own defense. The doctrine of just war is also violated by our country’s actions in Iraq. President Bush’s Iraq War smacks strongly of unchristian vengeance, was planned from before Bush came into office (the evidence is overwhelming to the willfully-informed), and had no supportable connection to 9/11, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, or humanitarian liberation. This tremendous waste of life, resources, opportunity (to actually combat terrorism rather than incite it), and American goodwill is demonstrably unchristian, and need not await an outcome in Iraq to be judged accordingly. For under Christ’s and God’s law, the end does not justify the means. If things deteriorate completely out of control in Iraq, that would not make Christian effort sinful: neither does ‘success’ (however that is measured) bestow God’s blessings on an unchristian action.14
To hear reasoned criticism such as this coming from the mouth of a Christian is refreshing… but also a little shocking these days, for just as the Republican Party has been “hijacked” by the neocons, the entire Christian religion has been hijacked by the fundamentalist evangelicals who believe they have the God-given right to steamroll over any viewpoint not shared by Pat Robertson’s myopic interpretation of the Old Testament.
So loud, so obnoxious, so authoritarian are these little crypto-Christian martinets that they have now come to represent the entire religion in many people’s minds. And when one dares suggests this to a Christian acquaintance, said individual will invariably reply, “I despise those fundamentalists as much as you do. I think they’re embarrassing.” And yet said individuals hardly ever speak up in public about their feelings, never refute the hate-mongering words of such philistines as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney… the same Dick Cheney who, in December of 2003, mailed out a personalised Christmas card to close friends and colleagues that read, “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”15
Of course, the honourable Mr. Cheney does not stop to consider the slippery slope of his analogy, the fact that the term “empire” does not only pertain to the twenty-first century American empire, but to all empires of the past including the Roman empire, the same very one that Jesus and his disciples resisted with all the resources at their disposal.
Cheney’s perverse definition of Christianity, one he has carefully molded to fit his imperialist agenda, should be a source of disgust for all Christians, and yet only a few of them have stood up to voice their outrage. Since it’s their religion that’s being manipulated and desecrated, it is their job above all others to stand up against these authoritarian warmongers.
David Ray Griffin, professor emeritus at the Claremont School of Theology and author of the 2006 book Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11, has recently called for his fellow Christians to ban together and resist the christo-fascist Bush regime, just as genuine Christians were forced to do in Nazi Germany when Hitler justified his worst actions by claiming he was fighting to restore what he called “positive Christianity” to his homeland.16
The number of such Christian resisters grows every day as the fragile lies of the Bush administration deteriorate further and further, the outrageous cover stories and propaganda techniques growing so brazen that even the most naïve, flag-waving patriot in Orange County, California is beginning to see through the scam. But these numbers are not enough. They need to evolve, as swiftly as possible, into a mass resistance strong enough to overcome these philosopher-manqués, these High Priests of chaos, who would sacrifice thousands of innocent lives in the pursuit of some misguided notion of attaining godhood here on Earth in the form of unlimited wealth and power.
Though such a dramatic revolution cannot occur overnight, nonetheless there are other, more modest, ways of combating this wave of christo-fascist terrorism being committed against us continually on the home front. The answer is to stand up to it whenever you encounter it. Don’t be afraid of these people. What is there to fear? After all, their own god isn’t even on their side.
A Strange & Portentous Case Study in Creeping Christo-Fascism
I teach English at California State University at Long Beach, and I’ve been doing so for over five years. After teaching 600 students over the course of those five years, I’ve finally received one complaint.
However, this wasn’t a complaint from a student. This was a complaint from the father of a student, a surprising incident on a campus where the students are adults. This is not high school. And yet apparently somebody, a Jesus freak with a rather limited view of the word “education,” decided to take it upon himself to write a letter of complaint directly to the President of the University upon hearing from his daughter that I had said, on the very first day of class, that Jesus was a robot from outer space.
Now, apparently it didn’t matter to this individual that I never said such a thing. Nor did it matter to the President of the University. Nor did it matter to the Dean of the English Department. Nor did it matter to the Associate Dean for Curriculum and Personnel. Not one of these people went to the trouble of simply asking me what I had actually said.
This is what I said: I visited the Crystal Cathedral in Anaheim, California (also the home of Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth) in the company of a friend from New York, the novelist Jack Womack, where we saw a statue of the baby Jesus that was perfectly smooth and silver and reflected sunlight like a mirror. It resembled a robot. I offhandedly mentioned this observation on the first day of school. This comment took up about thirty seconds of class time.
Nobody asked for clarification. Every single one of my “superiors” assumed – because, after all, my exact words were quoted secondhand in the letter, weren’t they? – that I had authoritatively stated that Jesus Christ was a robot from outer space. Nobody likes being accused of doing something they didn’t do, but it’s particularly offensive when you’re accused of doing something that’s A) utterly absurd and B) even if it were true, protected by my rights as a free citizen of the United States of America under the First Amendment of the Constitution. Every single functionary I was forced to deal with during the course of this madness acted as if they had never heard of such a document. When I called what is ostensibly my union to ask them what my rights were under these circumstances, this is the response I received: “We have the utmost respect for the freedom of speech… but you have to watch what you say.”
To educate my readers in countries outside the U.S., the First Amendment of the Constitution reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Note the fact that it doesn’t say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press (but you have to watch what you say.)” Note the fact that it doesn’t say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press (but you can’t say anything negative about Christianity).” Note the fact that it doesn’t say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press (oh, but you can’t say Jesus was a robot from outer space).” It says none of that. I should know because I’ve become intimately familiar with the First Amendment over the past few months. In fact, I keep a copy on me at all times now, because after all you never know when you might find yourself in a situation where it won’t come in handy. Like this one.
The reaction of one of my colleagues to this entire incident was illuminating. When I confided in another teacher, a woman who’s almost retirement age, her immediate response was to compare me to Adolf Hitler. I found this to be an extreme comparison. With a straight face she told me, “Robots are below Man. The last time I looked, Jesus was above Man!” [Insert Twilight Zone music here.]
Almost everybody around me told me to act as if none of this had ever happened, to just forget about it… but I couldn’t do that. Every attempt to suppress freedom of expression must be challenged. How could I teach my class knowing there was one person in the room who might go home, repeat whatever “objectionable” remark I had made that day, and start the whole nasty process all over again? Such psychological terrorism creates a chilling effect that compels you to second guess every single word that comes out of your mouth. You begin contemplating avoiding certain subjects simply because you don’t want to embroil the entire school in another controversy. But you can’t allow this chilling effect to set in. You must combat it.
After contemplating the situation for some time, I managed to think my way out of the dilemma. I passed out a copy of the First Amendment in class and we analysed it word for word, just as we would any other piece of writing. I discussed the incident with them, rather than ignoring it, and tied it in with the many attempts to ban Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (the novel we were reading at that time). I taught them the difference between the signifier and the signified… that the map is not the territory… that icons are not people… that statues are not the same as the figures they’re intended to represent. Indeed, I said, if people began to lose sight of the difference, this could very well lead to something called idolatry. The last time I looked, the Old Testament had some rather nasty things to say about idolatry.
The point seemed to get through to them. And, by extension, to Daddy Dearest. I have no way of knowing what dark thoughts are brewing in the cellars of that gentleman’s mind, but nonetheless I haven’t received any further complaints to this date. Of course, that could change at any moment because, ultimately, I decided not to alter the way I taught the class despite the fact that my “superiors” strongly advised me to watch my every step. But to do so would be a living death. To do so would be giving the christo-fascists exactly what they want. And if you let these people win without even attempting to fight, then what is the use of the First Amendment? If the First Amendment has no use, if there really is “no more academic freedom,” then what use is a university at all? Why are we teaching? To collect a paycheck and eventually retire to a little cabin in the hills outside Marin County… or is it to teach students viewpoints they wouldn’t be exposed to in any other way? If we’re not going to make even the slightest attempt, at the most microcosmic level, to defend our right to say what we want and teach in the way we think is most beneficial to the students, why don’t we just burn down the university and build a prison in its place? If the christo-fascists are allowed to have their say, nobody would even notice the difference.
It’s so easy to say nothing. It’s so easy to do nothing. And yet the sad irony is that the vast majority of human beings on this planet do not agree with the authoritarian views of the neocons and the christo-fascists. Almost all of my students were shocked that someone had been offended by my offhand comment. Every single one of my students agreed that I had not said what I had been accused of saying. One student even came up to me after class and said, “Hey, I’m a Christian and I wasn’t offended.” But that guy’s not going to write a letter to the President of the University praising my teaching methods. Only the christo-fascists seem to exercise their power to speak, their power to vote, their power to change the world around them. They know that action is required to change the world. They are radicals, true radicals, and they will stop at nothing until every single person on the planet is either converted to their way of thinking or have been bombed into tiny, jagged, bloody pieces.
Iraq and Afghanistan are being bombed for real right now, but the United States is no less under attack. It’s not Muslim terrorists who pose the greatest threat to America’s freedom, but the wolves in wolves’ clothing who are now stalking the corridors of power, on the hunt for their next prey. And when they’ve finished gutting the Middle East, don’t think for a moment their appetite will have been satiated. Inevitably, they will turn their sights inward. And their appetites will have grown much heartier by that point. What is now limited to threats and intimidation and Madison-Avenue-style psychological warfare will evolve into full-fledged, jackbooted parades down the streets of our cities: young, baby-faced soldiers waving the white flag while hefting the severed heads of Iraqis into the sky… proclaiming victory in the name of the Prince of Peace while constructing wooden gibbets for the profane and the unholy and the just plain difficult… bragging to other countries about the superior freedoms of the West while broadcasting swift executions of dissidents on a Fox Television reality TV show titled Salvation Through Transmigration in which unwilling contestants gain the reward of eternal peace by first proclaiming their loyalty to the Lord right before having their heads chopped off by a golden axe held aloft by a priest from Anaheim with a personal computer and a stylised letterhead and a panic-stricken, doting daughter waiting for him in the dungeon at home. Hell, all them letters really paid off, the priest will think, elated by his new brand title, “Homeland Security Theological Grand Inquisitor.” He intones the final rites for the Accused in the original Latin, then brings the blade down on his neck with an anticlimactic thunk….
“No need to be concerned, ladies and gentlemen. These transmigrations are not intended to be punishments. They are rewards. We televise these special events to give you hope for the future, not to instill fear. These transmigrations are by no means meant to be interpreted as threats. This administration respects the right of freedom of speech as much as any other administration. Yet this is a new world. Times have changed, as I’m sure you’ll agree. You have the freedom of speech. You always will.
“But watch what you say.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, for our next contestant this evening…! Just put your head down right there and confess your sins, beginning with early childhood….”
An exaggeration? Perhaps. But as the Patriot Act is strengthened and the writ of habeas corpus stripped from the Constitution, as the U.S. Senate officially approves torture and black Homeland Security buses with barred windows cruise the streets of my own neighbourhood in Long Beach, CA, I really have to wonder if one’s worst nightmares are all that far out of reach.
Which is why it’s so important to remain steadfast in our opposition to the nightmare by fighting the authoritarian bastards at every level, no matter how small or insignificant or absurd the battle may seem at the time.
Keep a stiff upper lip, chum. The truth will out. As Jesus Christ himself once said (and he said it in red ink, so it must be true), “Nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest” (Luke 8:17).
– Robert Guffey
Robert Guffey is a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts Program at California State University at Long Beach, USA. He is also a graduate of the Clarion writer’s workshop in Seattle, WA. His first published short story “The Infant Kiss” received an Honorable Mention in the 2001 edition of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror (Vol. #14). His short stories, articles and interviews have appeared in such magazines and anthologies as After Shocks, The Chiron Review, Like Water Burning, Mysteries, New Dawn, The New York Review of Science Fiction, Paranoia, The Pedestal, Riprap, Steamshovel Press, and The Third Alternative. He is currently teaching English at CSU Long Beach. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
The above article appears in
New Dawn No. 100 (Jan-Feb 2007)
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