7 February 2005
In an essay by Bill Moyers (’There is no tomorrow’), ‘doyen’ of what passes for the ‘liberal’ media in the US, we read the following:
In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index.
That’s right – the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the “Left Behind” series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious-right warrior Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.
The essay goes on to tell us that effectively, the US is now run not only by a right-wing ‘cabal’ but an apocalyptic one, who wait, enraptured for ‘Der tag’ the day the Earth will be destroyed. But of course, any reading (and hopefully, understanding) of history reveals that in times of massive social, political and economic upheaval, the apocalyptics always magically appear with warnings of dire consequences because we’ve wandered too far from ‘God’s path of righteousness’ or whatever. The punishment normally involves extreme flagellation, followed by burning at the stake and a horrible death and finally banishment to the lowest depths of hell and eternal damnation, depending of course on your particular religious persuasion, but it seems Christianity has copyrighted the idea. And indeed, descriptions of the total destruction of Fallujah would seem to confirm this.
There is a certain irony in the use of the word ‘rapture’ – ecstasy, rhapsody, bliss, enthusiasm, eagerness, and great joy – considering that it’s all wrapped up in the coming Armageddon, but according to Moyers:
A 2002 Time-CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your radio tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations, or in the motel turn on some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, “to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture?”
But just how true is this picture of America and if it is true, how did it come to pass? Whilst it is true that Christian fundamentalism plays a disproportionate role in US politics, it is by no means the cause, rather it’s an effect. For missing from Moyers’ essay (aside from a couple of mentions almost in passing) is any analysis of the fundamental role of big business in determining the policies of the Bush administration.
Moreover, the election results give a distorted image of the role of the Christian right as only little over the 50% of registered voters actually voted and out of this only a little over 50% voted for Bush. Hence at best, Bush got only 25% of the registered vote and there are no figures to indicate what percentage represent the Christian right. So in real terms, the Bush administration is one based on a minority and in no way reflects the opinions of Americans as a whole, not that you’d know this from the way the media has reported things, but then the role of the media in projecting the illusion of a right-wing cabal is yet another aspect of the manipulation of reality taking place.
So what has brought about the palpable fear Moyers’ essay displays? Largely it’s Moyers’ concern over the all-out assault of the Bush administration on the environment. But just how different is this from earlier US administrations who have been conducting an all-out war on the environment since the founding of the Republic in 1776, starting with the total eradication of the indigenous population and the ecology of which they were a part? And whilst there have been ‘blips’ in the track record largely due to public pressure to regulate the ravages of the corporations, overall, big business has gotten its way, for surely the changes to the climate didn’t occur overnight, they are the result of an accumulated assault that goes back at least 150 years even if it’s only fifty years ago that we started to become aware of this (Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ was published in 1954, exactly fifty years ago this year).
The Bush ‘roll-back’ is due largely to the public opting out of the political process, a process that both the Republicans and the Democrats can be blamed for. Hence the ‘right-wing takeover’ is one largely achieved by default. As to the apocalyptic nature of the Christian fundamentalist (or at least a percentage), it seems to me that Moyers is all too ready (along with many others) to shift the onus from corporate capitalism onto those in the throes of enrapturement.
There is also the issue of whether in reality there is a ‘cabalistic’ takeover of the US government, that is after all the subtext of the Moyers piece. But any reading of US policy since WWII points to the fact that regardless of the public pronouncements by either Republican or Democratic administrations, the ‘right-wing’ have always been in power. Any reversals in the strategy of the imperium have come about because they have been defeated, not in the US but by those on the sharp end. This is surely is the hallmark of ‘democracy’ in America, namely that there isn’t any.
Perhaps more than anything else, Moyers’ reaction points to the failure of the ‘liberal’ voice over the past fifty years to face up to the fact that racism, anti-communism, the abolition of civil rights and the assault on the environment are merely different facets of the same thing – corporate capitalism.
If we look back and unpack the position of the Christian right, whether of the Klu Klux Klan variety or the Reverend Sun Yung Moon’s Unification Church or Billy Graham, we find that they have always been in bed with capital as advocates not only of unrestrained capital but of the most virulent attacks on any progressive voices, from abortion to preaching nuclear annihilation of the ‘Red Menace’. Has Moyers only just woken up to this fact? In fact, where has Moyers been for the past fifty years?
The danger of shifting the focus from capitalism itself to some kind of ‘lunatic fringe’ should surely be obvious for rather than challenging the fundamental premise of capital’s ‘God-given right to rule’, it assumes that by removing the influence of the ‘enraptured’ would in any way change things.
There is also yet another, even more fundamental issue to consider, namely that the ‘powers behind the throne’, the managers of the large corporate entities that run America, are hardly likely to let a bunch of lunatics of the enraptured (or any other) kind, screw things up for their investors. And whilst it’s true that they may be largely clueless about the future of capitalism and incapable of looking beyond the immediate, short-term gain, this doesn’t mean that they are oblivious to the dangers of allowing the running of America to fall into the hands of people so obviously unbalanced. This is after all, the same argument that was advanced to disconnect the rise of Hitler’s Fascism from his backers, big capital, that Fascism was the result of a ‘cabal’ of anti-Semitic fanatics, when the reality was that the threat of socialism was the real enemy as any reading of history shows.
For those of us on the left, it is vitally important to distinguish between the appearance of things and the underlying reality. And whilst it can be argued that those who are waiting for the Day of Judgement may well be used as part of a larger project, the larger project is the preservation of capitalism. The Christian fundamentalists are merely part of a much larger rationale used to justify the assault by capital on the planet that fits into the plan to demonise Islam in order to justify the US takeover of the Middle East.
By encouraging and giving voice to the enraptured through the mass media, we get the totally misleading image that Bush and co are in thrall of them. It is within this context that the role of Israel becomes abundantly clear, for by connecting the fascist right represented by Sharon and the ‘Greater Israel’ posse (yet another ‘cabal’ that has been around since the beginning of the 20th century) with Christian fundamentalism, the ruling class can tap into the fears, prejudice and just plain ignorance of people in order to further its plans for world domination.
If there is a lesson to be learned from all this, it’s ‘keep your eye on the ball’