Election Section

Commentary: ‘Faith-Based’ a Cover for Fanaticism By NEIL A. COOK

Friday July 29, 2005

It’s interesting how the English language has been altered and rearranged to obscure the truth. When we don’t like the way something sounds and believe it to be too clear an expression of reality we just change the words and assume it also changes realit y. 

Take “faith based initiative” for instance. Please. 

You couldn’t very well call it “formation of state religion.” 

We are, after all, a nation settled by people who wanted to escape the religious intolerance of Europe so they could establish their ow n religious intolerance here. When it became clear that everybody imposing their own brand of intolerance within a certain area wasn’t going to make a very cohesive country, those early settlers struck upon the novel concept of keeping government separate from religion. 

Under this approach a Baptist could run for mayor in a town populated mostly by Methodists and win because (most) voters judged candidates based on their policies, not their religion. Sure, a Catholic still couldn’t get elected, but why would they be running for office outside of Boston anyhow? 

Eventually religious affiliation became virtually irrelevant to most voters and anybody (who was white) could be elected. 

As a predominantly Christian nation we rolled along for a years and mana ged to survive even after abolishing slavery. 

Then, during the middle of the last century, we watched other predominantly Christian nations give rise to one compassionate and considerate leader after another: Franco (Spain), Mussolini (Italy), Hitler (G ermany), Stalin (Russia). 

It’s taken us a bit longer, but we’re finally on the road to such bold and imaginative leadership right here. 

All that stands in the way is that last, quaint, idea of separation between religion and government. You see, you can’t have a really effective government leadership unless you’ve got a populace whose fervor is elevated to the boiling point; and there’s no better way to reach that boiling point than by infusing religion into politics. 

Whipping up public sentiment by bl aming others for every perceived wrong helps of course. A catchy phrase is handy as well. Leibenstraum has worked in the past, but most American houses already have living rooms, so that won’t do. Unions aren’t exactly catching fire right now so don’t exp ect some gibberish about ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ to work here.  

Nope, good old fashioned religious fervor is the ingredient that’s finally going to get America the kind of leadership that makes history. 

That little term, ‘faith based initiati ve’ is a subtle start.  

First we funnel tax money to religious schools. It’s worked well in Afghanistan in Syria and in Saudi Arabia and it can certainly work here. We ‘educate’ an entire generation to ignore science, ignore facts and concentrate instead on religion. The right Religion. The Religious Right. Pretty soon all that’s left is the Right. 

Stamp out alternative viewpoints. Scoff at the very concept of a free press, limit news media access to the facts, limit Congressional access to the facts, intimidate those who object. Create ‘camps’ to house enemies of the state. Devise means to detect such enemies wherever they live. Looking at library records could help. Clearly, only dangerous people read. Everything that safe people need to know will be fed to them through the anointed television network. 

Yep, we’re on the road all right. And there are only two alternatives for you: either lay down and let the machine roll over you on that road or .... Well, I’m sure there must be another alternative but I just can’t think of it right now. 

But remember, the September 11 missions were ‘faith based initiatives’ as well. So perhaps that other alternative has something to do with reigning in fanatics of every persuasion. 


Neil Cook is a Berkeley reside nt.