“Prayer is a different thing for Republicans than it is for the rest of us; you don’t actually ask God for things, you sort of ask God to make clear to other people what he’s already shown to you.” — Garrison Keillor
Not long ago, a certain right-wing politician that you’ve probably heard too much about already published a book attacking President Obama. (Say it ain’t so!). The book was titled To Save America, and that’s certainly an interesting instance of the propaganda technique we call flag-waving. But it’s the subtitle that we’re concerned with here: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine. Not just because of the obligatory right-wing characterization of the president as a “socialist” (which is certainly dopey enough) but because of the use of “secular” as a pejorative. It’s an excellent illustration of the third propaganda technique we’d like to examine, a technique we call Bible-thumping.
Usually, Bible-thumping means brandishing specific scriptural passages in an effort to defend specific extremist views. But we’re using it in a broader sense, to include using religion in general to defend extremist views in general. In your Professor Of Propaganda’s lexicon, Bible-thumping is the conviction that not only does God take sides in every petty human squabble, but he invariably sides with arrogance, ignorance or bigotry – and ideally with all three at once.
Our illustrious politician-author, and others of his bent, proceed from three assumptions: (a) America was intended to be a Christian nation; (b) religionists are more moral and more patriotic than secularists; and (c) “conservatives” are religious and “liberals” are not. All of these assumptions are premium grade horseshit. Granted, “liberals” are somewhat less likely to be religious than “conservatives”, but what’s far more significant is that “conservatives” are far more likely to be fundamentalists, and therefore far more likely to indulge in Bible-thumping – which is certainly no guarantee of moral soundness or patriotic fervor. (If you’re curious about how this secularist-basher applies Christian moral principles to his own life, have a look.)
We should note that Bible-thumping is an equal opportunity activity, not limited to followers of the Bible. You just as easily could quote the Koran, or the Upanishads or the Avesta or Peanuts. But it is the Bible, by far, that people are more likely to be pointing at your head when they say things like these:
- “I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good… Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called on by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.” (Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue)
- “We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will be (sic) get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.” (Gary North, Christian Reconstructionist)
- “We thank God that it (the atomic bomb) has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.” (President Harry Truman, after dropping the first of two holy offerings on Japan)
- “God told me to run.” (paraphrased from several right-wing politicians. Considering that they often run against each other, it’s clear that the Almighty either is a fickle patron, or wants most if not all of them to lose.)
- “America today begins to turn back to God.” (a certain Bad Actor, explaining why a crowd had mindlessly assembled at his blatantly self-promotional rally.)
There is never a good reason to mix religion and government. NEVER. No matter what religion, no matter what government. And whenver anyone tries to do so, you should be suspicious of their motives. And you should REALLY batten down the hatches when you hear a politician, especially if he happens to be the leader of the nation, say something like this:
“God the Almighty has made our nation. By defending its existence we are defending His work.”
I really hate to do this, but the nation this leader was referring to wasn’t the U.S. It was The Third Reich.