Ideology, theology and insanity in the White House

Thursday, 10 March 2005 By monsveneris
When Bill Moyers, one of America's most respected and admired journalists (and founder of Public Affairs TV in Washington) retired three months ago, he was awarded the annual Global Environmental Citizen Award by the Harvard Medical School. This is an edited version of Moyers' acceptance speech.

Read it and weep. "One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven. Ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

"Remember James Watt, President Reagan's first secretary of the interior? He was the man who told the US Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in the light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said: 'After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.' Washington elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious.

"So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true - one third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good and decent Americans went to the polls believing in the Rapture Index. That's right - the Rapture Index. The best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes by the Christian fundamentalist and religious right warrior, Tim LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastic theology concocted in the 19th century from disparate passages in the Bible that has captured the imagination of millions of Americans.

"Its outline is simple, if bizarre. Once Israel has occupied the rest of its 'biblical lands', legions of the Antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. True believers will be transported to heaven where, seated next to God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the years of tribulation that follow.

"I'm not making this up. I've read the literature. I've reported on these people, from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they 'feel called' to help bring the 'Rapture' on as fulfilment of biblical prophecy. That's why they declare solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and back their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelation.

"What does this mean for public policy and the environment? We're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers. Nearly half the Congress - 231 legislators in total - are backed by the religious right. A 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 59 per cent of Americans believe the prophecies in the Book of Revelation are going to come true. Nearly one quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks.

"Drive across the country with your radio tuned to any one of the 1600 Christian radio stations, or in the motel turn to some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you will understand why people under the spell of such prophecies 'cannot be expected to worry about the environment'. Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the 'Rapture'? No wonder [Bush political adviser] Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling Onward Christian Soldiers.

"I can see by your faces just how hard it is to report a story like this with any credibility. But read the news. I read that this Administration wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act; wants to relax pollution limits for ozone and ease pollution standards for cars; wants to open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

"I read just last night the Administration's friends, supported by ExxonMobil and others, have issued a new report that climate change is 'a myth, that scientists who believe catastrophe is possible are an embarrassment'. And I read the fine print of recent appropriation bills passed by Congress with their obscure and obscene riders removing all endangered species' protections from pesticides.

"I see the future looking at me from my grandchildren's photos. We are stealing their future. Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage? All you gathered here tonight are the antidote to despair, the answer to the faces of my grandchildren. For your work and your witness I give you thanks."
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