Many disastrous conflicts in human history were led by men who spoke as if they were directed by God to lead the slaughter. President Bush asserts that “I trust God speaks through me and without that, I couldn’t do my job.” His sincere belief that the human carnage and destruction resulting from his war of choice against Iraq is somehow the will of God should not be a surprise to Americans of the Christian and Jewish traditions.
As a seven year old child in a Christian church in Alabama, I was appalled by the Old Testament’s story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho in our Sunday School class. Joshua, a great prophet of God and successor to Moses as the leader of the Israelites was commanded by God to commit genocide in the 6th chapter of Joshua. When invading Jericho, as instructed by God, the Jews "annihilated with the sword everything that breathed in the city, including men and women, young and old, as well cattle, sheep, and donkeys." Then God commanded the Jews take the “silver and gold, bronze and iron” for “God’s treasury”. When I asked the teacher why God would want his people to kill little children when Jesus loved the little children and was the Prince of Peace, our Sunday School teacher said the lesson was to obey God..
The Christian tradition of God as the warrior began in A.D. 312 with the Roman Emperor Constantine. Constantine said he had prayed for divine help before the engagement and then had a vision of a cross in the sky above his soldiers as they marched into the fray. This mystical event led to his Christian conversion after a major victory in battle against legions of his brother-in-law..
Christianity was declared the religion of the Roman Empire by Constantine, and the image of Christ as the Prince of Peace became conveniently interchangeable with Christ as the warrior God. Previously, the Roman Empire had persecuted the Christians because they were pacifists, taught not to serve in the military or use violence against others.
It had been unlawful for a Christian to be a soldier in the Roman army, but Constantine's conversion abruptly allied Christianity with Rome’s military and by A.D. 416 it was compulsory for all Roman soldiers to be Christians. The medieval crusades led by Christians continued the genocide in the name of religion and recent history continues the tradition.
Before he became the Chancellor of Germany Hitler said, “My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter ”, and as he launched WW II that devastated Europe Hitler said “I would like to thank Providence and the Almighty for choosing me of all people to be allowed to wage this battle for Germany.” In 1940, Adolf Hitler said, “But there is something else I believe, and that is that there is a God. . . . And this God again has blessed our efforts..”
In another speech to the German people Hitler said , “ The mercy of the Lord slowly returns to us again. And in this hour we sink to our knees and beseech our almighty God that he may bless us, that He may give us the strength to carry on the struggle for the freedom, the future, the honor, and the peace of our people. So help us God.”
Before he began his candidacy for President, George W. Bush told Evangelist James Robinson, “I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can’t explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen . . . I know it won’t be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.”
Bush has been called “a prophet” by Pat Robertson. According to Ralph Reed, God picked the President because “he knew George Bush had the ability to lead in this compelling way.”
Bush has said, “I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job”. Bob Woodward, a Washington Post editor asked President Bush if he consulted with his father, the 41st President about Iraq before invading Iraq and his reply was "He is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength; there is a higher father that I appeal to."
The BBC reported that Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath described his first meeting with President Bush in June 2003. Shaath says: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"
Some White House aides have described Bush’s behavior as arrogant and abusive, characterized by sanctimonious invocations of his personal relationship with Jesus Christ combined with obscenity-laced invectives against subordinates.
It is very interesting that Bush’s self-perception as being a spokesperson for God is history repeating itself when compared to other leaders who have wrought so much war and destruction. Should people of religious faith be comforted to know we have a Presidential Prophet of God in the White House? A self-described decider of what is best for our country? Is it God who is really directing Bush’s policies of aggressive war, torture, domestic spying and the unprecedented transfer of social wealth from the country’s working class majority to the multi-millionaires and billionaires that make up its financial elite?
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and political activist in Columbia, South Carolina.