Sunday, July 09, 2006

Empire's Workshop

Last week we came across the following in Eric Alterman's blog on the MSNBC website. The connection between religion and politics struck us as pertinent to this endeavor of ours. The book is Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism by Greg Grandin. Here is an excerpt from the author's summary of a part of the book (we took the liberty of breaking the text into smaller paragraphs to make it easier to read):
The Reagan White House tapped into this stirring evangelical internationalism to circumvent public and congressional opposition to Reagan’s Central American wars. At the request of the White House, for instance, Pat Robertson used his Christian Broadcasting Network to raise money for Efraín Ríos Montt, the evangelical Christian who presided over the Guatemala genocide.
. . .
In Nicaragua, groups like the Christian Aid for Romania and Transworld Missions used the cover of humanitarian aid to organize Christian opposition to the Sandinistas. In the United States, Campus Crusade for Christ and the Moon-affiliated Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles countered the fast-growing student movement opposed to Reagan’s Central American policy.
. . .
One aspect of the Central American wars largely overlooked is the importance of Liberation Theology -- which Central American evangelical activists described as the "single most critical problem that Christianity has faced in all of its 2000 year history" and a "theology of mass murder" -- in united the New Right.

Well before radical Islam, Liberation Theology, along with the Christian humanism of the domestic solidarity movement, was the “political religion” the Reagan Revolution squared off against. It provided a powerful ethical challenge to both mainstream conservative theologians and fundamentalists, who responded by reestablishing the link between free markets and morality and reaffirming America as a “redeemer nation.” So when Jeane Kirkpatrick remarked that the three US nuns raped, mutilated and murdered by Salvadoran security forces in 1980 were “not just nuns, they were political activists," she was being more than cruel. She was signaling her disapproval of a particular kind of peace Christianity.

The violence of Central America's counterinsurgent war stoked the fires of evangelical Manichaeism, leading Falwell, Robertson, and others to ally with the worst murderers and torturers in Central and Latin America. “For the Christian,” wrote fundamentalist Rus Walton, “there can be no neutrality in this battle: ‘He that is not with Me is against Me’ (Matthew 12:30).” Sound familiar?

Many of the death squad members were themselves conservative religious ideologues, taking the fight against liberation theology to the trenches. Guatemalan security forces regularly questioned their prisoners about their “views on liberation theology.” Others report being tortured to the singing of hymns and praying. Some evangelicals excused such suffering. “Killing for the joy of it was wrong,” a Paralife minister from the United States comforted his flock of Salvadoran soldiers, “but killing because it was necessary to fight against an anti-Christ system, communism, was not only right but a duty of every Christian.”

You can read the entire review here. More information is available here and here.