Mike Huckabee says he’d “love to the world to be led by people who have a biblical worldview.” That is a statement we have to take a serious look at, because a biblical worldview is proven to be a worldview that is far from forgiving and far from benign. Twenty centuries of repression, persecution, and genocide is not an uplifting thing.
So when Mike Huckabee says, “I’d love the world to be lead by people who have a biblical worldview,” as he did the other day at a “Faith, Family and Values” fundraiser for Statesville Christian School in North Carolina, we ought to be very afraid. The consequences of such a scenario are too terrifying to ignore.
We’re not talking about loving your enemies and turning the other cheek here, after all. A biblical worldview, and there is no escaping this, is an intolerant worldview. Keep in mind I am not addressing the beliefs of individual Christians here, many of whom are very tolerant, but this tolerance is not biblical.
As Jan Assmann writes, it was monotheism (what Jonathan Kirsch calls “one-god-ism”) that put the true and false equation into religion. In the age of polytheism, all gods existed. But the moment you say “There is only one god” you have become intolerant. It is negation: The basis for all monotheistic religions is the idea that “only my god exists,” and this is inescapably an inherently intolerant position.
“Ancient polytheisms,” Assmann writes, “functioned as…a technique of translation,” as a “coherent ecumene of interconnected nations.” Polytheism, as religion, united, rather than separated.
The polytheistic religions overcame the primitive ethnocentrism of tribal religions by distinguishing several deities by name, shape, and function…Because of their functional equivalence, deities of different religions can be equated…they functioned as a means of intercultural translatability. The gods were international because they were cosmic.
The “Mosaic Distinction,” as he calls it,
[W]as therefore a radically new distinction which considerably changed the world in which it was drawn. The space which was ‘severed or cloven’ by this distinction was not simply the space of religion in general, but that of a very specific kind of religion. We may call this new type of religion ‘counter-religion’ because it rejects and repudiates everything that went before and what is outside itself as ‘paganism.’”
The consequences of this repudiation are profound:
[Religion] no longer functioned as a means of intercultural translation; on the contrary, it functioned as a means of intercultural estrangement. Whereas polytheism, or rather ‘cosmotheism,’ rendered different cultures mutually transparent and compatible, the new counter-religion blocked intercultural translatability. False gods cannot be translated.
Religion now divided people. It has divided people since Josiah began his anti-polytheist pogrom in the seventh century B.C.E., since Christianity violently and ruthlessly exterminated polytheism, since Islam embarked on its jihad under Muhammed in the seventh century C.E.. All through monotheism’s bloody history the means by which a biblical worldview is imposed is by the sword.
One can easily see where many of today’s world’s problems originate. If Gaza was still a polytheistic city (and it was one of the very last polytheistic cities) there would today be no religious struggle over it between Christians and Muslims because the friction is a purely monotheistic struggle based on the idea of “false gods” and “paganism”. Today’s jihadists and Christian crusaders could not exist without monotheism and without this Mosaic Distinction of “true” and “false” in religion.
There were no holy wars, and no crusades, and no inquisitions in the polytheistic world. There could not be, because all gods exist. The idea of “my god is better than yours” is, as Bart Ehrman writes, not a part of the polytheistic worldview: “There was no sense of exclusivity in Greco-Roman religions, no sense that my gods are real and yours are false, that you must convert to my gods or be punished.” As he puts it, modern Westerners think “it is simply common sense to think that there is one God and only one God.” But “for persons in the ancient world…this was non-sense.”
As Jonathan Kirsch writes,
“Nothing in human nature…suggests the inevitability of the notion that there is only one god.”
The gods of polytheism didn’t care if you sacrificed and prayed to one today, and to another tomorrow. The one god, however, is a jealous god.
Gerd Lüdemann points out that salvation or damnation depends upon “whether they believe or do not believe in him [Jesus]: ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. But whoever does not believe will be condemned’” (Mark 16:16).
“How soon the Good News developed into Threatening News,” Lüdemann writes. What happens “if the offer of salvation was turned down?”
Church leaders soon equated right belief with obedience. They projected onto the screen of heaven a social fabric based on subordination and increasingly shaped by a culture of suppression.
Lüdemann points out that it was “humanists and Christian minorities [who] first raised the call for tolerance” and when they finally achieved it, it was “against the will of both the Roman and Reformed Churches.”
To be sure, the church’s resistance against tolerance was, historically speaking, a necessity. For the overall thrust of Holy Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, is to promote God and his reign and to silence all dissenting voices.
Given the End Time scenario embraced by fundamentalist Christians, Lüdemann’s conclusion is that “intolerance seems to be an inherent, even necessary ingredient of the Christian religion” seems obvious. He cites theologian Karl Barth’s statement that “No sentence is more dangerous or evolutionary than that God is One and there is no other like Him.”
The fate of the 450 prophets of Baal will be the fate of all who make the wrong choice, indeed, who make any choice at all, since what is demanded of us is not choice, but obedience.
“In reality,” as Lüdemann observes, “neither Christian theology nor the church can champion freedom of religion without betraying a considerable degree of hypocrisy.”
For tolerance requires an unconditional acknowledgment of the freedom and dignity of human beings without recourse to God. Yet the jealous Yahweh of the Bible, who demands unconditional obedience can never approve of such liberal affirmations.
The sad truth is that Christian theology is not compatible with the ideas of the modern liberal democracy, which stresses that freedom of religion, pluralism, and diversity of thought and belief.
And as Kirsch writes, “At the heart of polytheism is an open-minded and easygoing approach to religious belief and practice, a willingness to entertain the idea that there are many gods and many ways to worship them. At the heart of monotheism, by contrast, is the sure conviction that only a single god exists, a tendency to regard one’s own rituals and practices as the only proper way to worship one true god.” And sadly for the world, “monotheism turned out to inspire a ferocity and even a fanaticism that are mostly absent from polytheism.”
Fundamentalist Christians today like to point to Islam as a religion of terrorism, but Kirsch points out (as do many scholars) that religious terrorism “begins in the pages of the Bible, and the very first examples of holy war and martyrdom are found in Jewish and Christian history.” In the Old Testament, YHWH decrees a holy war against anyone who refuses to acknowledge him as the one and only god worthy of worship and this holy war, this jihad, if you will, is reaffirmed, as we have seen, in Mark.
Theologically, it is not only Islam that is at war with unbelievers. Jews and Christians were old hands at jihad long before Mohammed lived, or the Qu’ran was written. (It is also instructive to remember that Muslims, Jews, and Christians are all children of Abraham, so from a non-monotheistic standpoint there is only one god who is the problem.)
So when Huckabee says, “Wouldn’t it be an exciting thing to have leaders who believe all of us are equal?” what he is talking about is the complete and utter destruction of the constructed other, in other words of all those who are outside of Christianity, those “pagans” Jan Assmann speaks of. He is talking about the complete and utter destruction of choice, of pluralism, of diversity, of freedom of belief, and all the other ideals of a modern liberal democracy and against the very ideals embodied in the United States Constitution.
Huckabee says, driving that true/false dichotomy home, “I always answer that actually it’s a lot easier to be a Christian,” he said. “I wake up every day knowing what I believe.”
So do the rest of us, Mike, all of us, even if it’s simply a choice to believe in many gods or in no gods at all.
Here is a final thought for you: What is the difference between the Nazi Holocaust and the Christian End Time scenario? None at all. The only difference is that the genocide of the Christian End Time scenario will be more comprehensive, directed not only at Jews but at all others who refuse to accept Jesus as their “lord and savior.” The result would be even more horrifying than the scenes from 1933-45.
Keep that in mind when you vote in 2012.
Jan Assmann, Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism (London and Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).
Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Third Edition (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Jonathan Kirsch, God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism (New York: Viking Compass, 2004).
Gerd Lüdemann, Intolerance and the Gospel: Selected Texts from the New Testament (Amherst NY: Prometheus Books, 2007).