Swans Commentary » swans.com April 10, 2006  



Kevin Phillips's American Theocracy
The Volatile Mix of Religion and Politics


by George Beres


Book Review



Phillips, Kevin: American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, Viking, March 2006, ISBN 0-6700348-6-X - 480 pages, $26.95 (hardcover).


(Swans - April 10, 2006)  No book is more politically insightful about the impact of religion on our nation today than American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips. Current failings of the US administration may be self-evident, but too often dissolve in the quicksand of humor that mocks a president's claim of "conversations with god."

It is essential that we leave behind mockery to place such claims in the context of this book, which describes how religion controls those who lead our government, and threatens our lives.

The book has impact because it describes what we ignore at our peril: that a segment of fundamentalist religion -- a very large segment -- is willing to risk the good earth and its inhabitants with destruction from its pre-planned Armageddon. The sacrifice that it hopes to bring down on humanity would, it believes, pave the way for what non-members recognize as a delusional goal of "rapture."

We all would suffer end-time consequences of this skewed Messianic view, so we must work to blunt its suicidal goal. If some choose to leap off a cliff of rapture, that is their privilege. It is not their right to take the rest of us along.

Political aspirations of fundamentalist Christianity and Extreme Judaism in contemporary society are defined with a shared scriptural phrase intended to describe what they oppose: work of the devil. Data in American Theocracy alleges they unwittingly place themselves in the service of that which they hate. For their fellow Christians to ignore this by playing with platitudes only brings us closer to religious havoc.

There is irony in the genuine fear among Christian fundamentalists and others about a looming "holy war" between the Christian West and Islamic East. It is a fabrication of political holy rollers to maintain control of the nation. The danger is that it moves toward reality because of destructive, religion-based policies of the current administration.

Another kind of "holy war," a non-violent one, may be needed. It would demand that mainline Christians -- opposed to Theocracy -- challenge the aberrant behavior of their fundamentalist cousins. This is a mandate of their faith that won't be fulfilled by pious comments from the pulpit or indignant conversation. Decisive action must be taken to forestall what would be eventual full takeover of government and our lives by misdirected religion.

We leave humanity vulnerable if we assume this is nothing more than a modern example of reactionary behavior seen among religious sects throughout history. This is for real because of the bargain political figures have made with religious partisans.

If mainline Christians limit themselves to prayer and a wringing of hands, they will turn all of us over to those who misuse scripture for political gain. That is reflected in how fundamentalists support the Iraq War because they believe conquest by Israel in the Middle East is a precondition for their rapture -- a requirement to achieve it is Armageddon.

That hellish notion is not for the rest of us. We must speak loudly and act with vigor to see this delusion is not pursued as national policy. Find a copy of American Theocracy to understand why. Read it to understand the danger.


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Phillips, Kevin: American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, Viking, March 2006, ISBN 0-6700348-6-X - 480 pages, $26.95 (hardcover).

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Internal Resources

America the 'beautiful'


About the Author

George Beres on Swans (with bio). (The writer, of Eugene, Ore., left the corporate church because of what he believes is the trend for patriarchal authority of the Ten Commandments to subordinate teachings of The Sermon On the Mount.)



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Published April 10, 2006