Mainline American Protestantism, when its elites were still theologically orthodox, viewed the United States as a providential instrument for prosperity and freedom. But after its elites abandoned traditional Christianity for a plethora of radical ideologies, it discovered that America is actually “demonic.”
The recently published “American Empire and the Commonwealth of God” vividly illustrates the cosmological hatred that mainline Protestant elites, especially in academia, now reserve for their country. “Empire” is a project of the Presbyterian Church (USA) publishing house, Westminster John Knox Press.
Authored by three theologians from United Methodist seminaries, with help from a Jewish professor of law from Princeton, “American Empire” asserts that the United States is the “primary threat to the survival of the human species (along with that of may other species as well).” At least one of the authors argued that America is worse than Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and all four writers rejoiced in resistance to the “empire” whether it is from communist Cuba, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, or various Islamic dictatorships.
Ultimately, the authors believed, the only effective restraint to the American “fascist” empire is a world government. The three theologians, with seeming sympathy from the Jewish law professor, rejected traditional Jewish and Christian concepts of an omnipotent God. Instead, they advocated a “process theology,” in which the deity is constantly evolving in reaction to human and natural events.
Not surprisingly, the authors of “Empire” faulted the supposed oppressions of the American imperial project on traditional Judaism and Christianity, which rely on the Bible’s supposedly dangerous notions of God as King and Lord. The authors’ brand of “process” religion depends on liberation theology, feminist theology, and eco-theology, they gladly acknowledged.
How else can the American Empire be stopped, unless God is reinvented, the authors grumbled.
“A theology of omnipotence electrifies the halo of American domination,” fretted author Catherine Keller, a theologian at Drew University’s seminary in New Jersey. “Might it be the very doctrine of divine omnipotence that charges the halo with its holy electricity?” she wondered.
Unfortunately, “even many thoughtful people assume that faith requires some big guy in the sky,” Keller complained. But more preferably, she opined that “God is called upon not as a unilateral superpower but as a relational force, not an omnipotent creator from nothing, imposing order upon inert entities, but the lure to a self-organizing complexity.”
Similarly, fellow “Empire” author John Cobb, a celebrated process theologian at Claremont School of Theology in California, excoriated the mindless Christians who “worship a cosmic ruler who came to earth to save them and sanction their country.” More intelligent Christians, like the dwindling numbers of students at radical seminaries, will look to the “actual message of Jesus” and help reverse the “headlong plunge of our nation into the lust for world domination.”
Of course, George W. Bush, who once named Jesus as his “favorite philosopher,” is among these thoughtless Christians, Cobb readily asserted. But the process theologian is non-partisan in his contempt for America. He warned that the “goals of the dominant faction in the Democratic party are not so different from those of the Republicans.” The only difference is that Democrats will pursue “multilateral methods” that make “American hegemony more acceptable and secure greater support from others,” which helps to reduce the costs of empire.
Princeton professor of law Richard Falk easily agreed with Cobb, noting the absence of any “mainstream alternative” in either political party to the “fascist implications” of the Bush-Cheney worldview. The epithet “global fascism” applies with equal validity to the extremism of jihadists and the proponents of American empire,” Falk equitably concluded. Llikewise, the mainstream media in the U.S. is untroubled by “the national readiness to commit mass suicide and engage in terrorism on a grand scale.”
“Terrorism” is natural for the American hegemon, observed author David Ray Griffin, a professor at Claremont School of Theology and a 9-11 conspiracist who believes the Bush Administration, and not al Qaeda, blew up the World Trade Center and torched the Pentagon. After all, American history is rooted in the “extermination” of about ten million Native Americans and another ten million African slaves. Its blood thurst still unsated, the United States, as fascist lord of “global apartheid,” now murders about 150 million citizens of the planet every decade, making it far more genocidal than any other tyranny in world history. Characteristic of his careful scholarship, Griffin derived these figures from his assumption that ALL deaths everywhere relating to poverty are the responsibility of the United States.
America’s ongoing global genocide might get worse. The human race is on a “trajectory towards self-annihilation through human-caused climate change,” which naturally is made in America. But all is not gloom and doom for these troubled theologians. They see in Jesus the antidote to American fascism. Griffin rejected the central Christian idea that Jesus bodily rose from the dead, which was actually a doctrine that the church contrived decades after Jesus’ death. Instead, Jesus had a spiritual “resurrection” over the demonic power of the Roman Empire.
Similarly, this Jesus, who is now recognizable as a feminist eco-theologian, will motivate a new generation of faithful apostles to rally against America’s global fascist empire. “For Christians in this country to denounce and work against the America empire will, of course, require courage, because we may be subjected to one of the many contemporary forms of crucifixion,” Griffin nonetheless warned. “It is good, therefore, that we have our resurrection faith.” Except this “resurrection” is, for Griffin, not a real thing, but merely a helpful political metaphor.
“The American Empire and the Commonwealth of God” was being sold by the United Methodist Publishing House at an annual Methodist Congress on Evangelism that I attended last month. But the book seemed to be untouched by the hundreds of Methodist evangelists and pastors streaming by, who were more attentive to the conference’s simplistic Gospel preachers. These naifs, evidently lacking enlightenment, spoke of a bodily resurrection rather than the “resurrection” into eco-feminist consciousness for which Griffin et al. hope.
This begged the question. If theologians write a book, and almost nobody reads it, did the book really happen? Likewise, religious Americans are largely tuning out the tired voices of 1960’s era protest religion, with its endless harangues, indecipherable conspiracies and self-contempt. Mainline Protestant elites may have collapsed into insensibility. But their audience has thankfully moved on to better performances.