This is an old op-ed — the column appeared Feb. 28 in The Washington Post, and I’ve been busy moving for the past 40 days so I never posted it. But I think the column is still relevant, as the religious right rides a wave of euphoria over victories in central Baghdad.
The Rev. Fritz Ritsch commented on what he views as the heretical militarism and idolatrous nationalism of the religious right.
Bush’s religious supporters are his greatest cheerleaders. Rather than his spiritual guides, they are his faithful disciples. He is the leader of the America they think God has ordained. Contrary to popular opinion, the religion that this group espouses is Triumphalism, not Christianity. Theirs is a zealous form of nationalism, baptized with Christian language. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was martyred by the Nazis, foresaw the rise of a similar view in his country, which he labeled “joyous secularism.” Joyous secularists, said Bonhoeffer, are Christians who view the role of government as helping God to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. He viewed this as human arrogance and a denial of God’s sovereignty….
All too often, the religious right worships at this altar of nationhood, not the traditional God of Christianity.
The president confidently (dare I say “religiously”?) asserts a worldview that most Christian denominations reject outright as heresy: the myth of redemptive violence, which posits a war between good and evil, with God on the side of good and Satan on the side of evil and the battle lines pretty clearly drawn.
War is essential in this line of thinking. For God to win, evil needs to be defined and destroyed by God’s faithful followers, thus proving their faithfulness. Christians have held this view to be heretical since at least the third century. It is the bread-and-butter theology of fundamentalists, whether Muslim, Jewish or Christian.
In contrast, the Judeo-Christian worldview is that of redemption. Redemption starts from the assumption that all of humanity is flawed and must approach God with humility. No good person is totally good, and no evil person is irredeemable. God’s purpose is to redeem all people. Good and evil, while critical, become secondary to redemption.
While most Christian denominations do not reject war altogether, diplomacy becomes integral to our understanding of the practical application of redemption.
I find this assessment of the religious right’s “joyous secularism” intriguing — and ironic, considering the movement’s contempt for what it (inaccurately) labels as “secular.”