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Monday, August 04, 2003

Tinfoil Time at the Guardian

I was having a bit of trouble finding things to be outraged about, but fortunately Silent Running comes to the rescue with this juicy tidbit by Janet Dubé in the Guardian.

The gist of the article is "Ung, Bush religious. Religion bad! Religion scary! Ook! Ook! Go away scary Bush! Eeeee! Eeeee! Eeeee!"

Now, the silliness of this stance toward Bush is one thing, but it's only been about the hundredth article in the Guardian with the same theme. It's the dog days of summer; they must be unearthing their old columns on this topic, shuffling the paragraphs around, and republishing the result. Soon they'll have run out of permutations, and start printing the columns backwards or something. They can't make any less sense that way.

The part that really sets me off is this:

Bush is succoured by the Christian right, some of whom believe, as Giles Fraser wrote recently in the Guardian, that when Israel fully occupies the alleged Holy Land, Jesus will come back for them. Away with the infidels! Down with their mosques! Jesus saves!

Well, someone is being suckered here, but I don't think it's Bush.

Really, this is an embarrassment to the Guardian. I'm quite serious. This sort of thing is not too distantly related to the articles in the Arab News warning of sinister Jewish cabals. Surely in the future people will read these and shake their heads, wondering what kind of publication the Guardian was, printing hysterical rubbish about dark religious conspiracies.

Perhaps this is the Giles Fraser column Dubé refers to. It's a rather alarmist little article about how the creation of the state of Israel has American religious fanatics rolling on the ground, babbling in tongues about the imminent coming of Christ. Well, just because it's in the Guardian doesn't mean he's wrong. Let's examine his evidence:

According to the most influential of the Christian Zionists, Hal Lindsey...

OK, that's it. We're done. The. Most. Influential. of the dark forces is Hal Lindsey, author of (among other things) The Late Great Planet Earth. Hal Lindsey. Hands up, who's heard of Hal Lindsey?

I first heard of Lindsey in about 1975, when I was in my early teens. I saw his book in our local bookstore; its predictions of Impending Doom at first led me to believe it was some sort of environmentalist tract. As far as I can tell, this was the zenith of Lindsey's influence and fame. I believe he's been predicting the imminent End of the World for about thirty years now, without detectable success. Oh, no doubt today there are families whose only two books are the Bible and The Late Great Planet Earth, and they conduct readings from each three times a day. But those people are not a terribly large or influential group.

Not that you'd ever hear that from the Guardian. Fraser goes on to say:

There are 45 million evangelicals in the US and they represent a crucial block vote for born-again Bush.

Forty-five million evangelicals. This is about one out of every six people in the United States. OK, if you say so. But "evangelical" does not necessarily mean "Christian Zionist", big fan of Israel. The conservative Christians I knew didn't particularly like Jews, and they looked upon Israel with everything from apathy to mild hostility. Of course, that was more than 25 years ago, when Hal Lindsey was a big deal.

I remember the Reagan years, when it seemed every wannabe-politician had to present his Born Again bona fides. I was genuinely worried in those days that the religious right's grip on society was only going to tighten. I don't think they were any more numerous in those days, but they had helped bring Ronald Reagan to power and so they were more confident and outspoken, and tried harder to make society in their image.

So I don't have any fondness for the likes of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson (or Ronald Reagan, because of them), and certainly not for the likes of Hal Lindsey. But I don't see any sign that George Bush is particularly influenced by any of them. He's certainly not beholden to them in the same way Ronald Reagan was.

As even Fraser admits, Bush has scarcely been the supposedly-influential Christian Zionists' mouthpiece to Israel, considering that he's called for a Palestinian state and has been pressuring Sharon to make concessions in order to get this "Road Map" on the road.

But what was it that terribly influential Christian Zionist Hal Lindsey was going to say?:

According to the most influential of the Christian Zionists, Hal Lindsey, the valley from Galilee to Eilat will flow with blood and "144,000 Jews would bow down before Jesus and be saved, but the rest of Jewry would perish in the mother of all holocausts". These lunatic ravings would matter little were they not so influential.

Now that is disturbing---gibbering about rivers of blood and the holocaust of the Jews. We certainly ought to be concerned if this kind of idiocy is going to influence one of the major players in the Middle East peace process.

Come to think of it, I have heard stuff like this, not too long ago, in connection with the Middle East. Now, where was it? Think...think...was it Rumsfeld? Powell? Bush? No. Hmmm. Darn! Can't remember.

By the way, Giles Fraser is described thusly:

The Rev Dr Giles Fraser is the vicar of Putney and lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford

The Vicar of Putney! I like to imagine a kindly, silver-haired old gent in clerical black with dog collar. He's advising poor Mrs. Dimbley on what to do about her daughter, who's become very wild, and going about with all the Wrong Element. After sending her on her way he returns to his cozy study, and pounds out a hysterical screed against the sinister American Christian Right who have insinuated their tentacles into all the corridors of power in the United States, following the lead of their masters, the International J---

What's that? Tea? Lovely!

Going back to Dubé, her main beef seems to be the "evil" in "Axis of Evil". I cannot understand the deliberate (surely it's deliberate?) obtuseness of those who can't seem to separate the religious meaning of "evil" from its colloquial meaning. Have they never said that something or someone is "evil" without believing that there was a literal Satan behind it?

At least now I know that I no longer need to take Elaine Pagels seriously:

"It's one thing to experience and talk about the events of 9/11 as evil acts and another to suggest that some countries or people are on an 'evil axis'" pointed out Dr Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton University.

That's right---unless you see the number 666 growing in Saddam's scalp, you cannot technically refer to him as "evil". Is the Dear Leader hiding horns under that kewpie-doll hair? No? Nope, not evil then. Have another helping of "special meat" and calm down.