26 January 2010

Book: Faith-Based War: From 9/11 to Catastrophic Success in Iraq

T. Walter Herbert, "Faith-Based War: From 9/11 to Catastrophic Success in Iraq" (Equinox, October 2009).

From the description on Amazon: "The Bush administration was prompted to invade Iraq by a religious vision that blinded them to the realities of the struggle against terror, and propelled them into moral and political catastrophe. The propaganda campaign that promoted the war, the choice of a self-defeating 'Shock and Awe' invasion, and the expanded torture program bear witness to a faith-based policy that violated democratic ideals and perverted religious truth. The White House embraced a version of Christian nationalism in which the president serves as the agent of God's of wrath to punish evildoers, in keeping with a tradition that descends from the Massachusetts Bay Puritans, who considered themselves a 'chosen people' occupying a 'promised land.' As native peoples resisted Puritan encroachment at the frontiers of expansion, they were marked as devils incarnate, fit for total destruction.

"A modern version of this imperialist vision was invoked on 9/11, when the social and political conditions giving rise to the terrorist atrocity were forgotten, and sanctimonious wrath against evildoers ruled the White House response. At the heart of this religious mythology stands the 'frontier hero,' who takes action when the 'not chosen' strike back against the advance guard of the 'chosen.' [...] The classic mythology of the American frontier allowed Christian militarists in the Religious Right of the Republican party to make common cause with broad sectors of the American public. They achieved predominant influence in the Bush White House, and in the future will seek to regain control over U.S. foreign policy."


Reviews: "In trying to expose the flawed political theology that may indeed animate too much of American foreign policy, Herbert simply exchanges one troubling political theology for another. Offended by the Right's secularized 'city on a hill' of imperialism and cultural and economic hegemony, he embraces the Left's secularized 'city on a hill' of international social justice. Disturbed by the Right's politicized Jesus who endorses 'Christian Americanism,' he embraces the Left's politicized Jesus who advocates a new order of humanitarian sympathy." (Richard Gamble, "The American Conservative")

"Herbert's Faith-Based War is a fascinating and richly perceptive blend of social ethical, political, theological, and historical analysis on the moral problem of American empire. Showing the relevance of political theology, it builds to a stunning meditation on the contradictions of 'Christian empire' currently playing out in Iraq." (Gary Dorrien, Union Theological Seminary/Columbia University)

T. Walter Herbert is Professor Emeritus of English at Southwestern University.

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