by Sean Jobst
March 21, 2015
A nine-day trip which took 60 Republican National Committee members to Israel beginning January 31, 2015, was funded by the American Family Association. Although coming from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) - a group with its own hypocritical political agenda - nevertheless the record of hate preached by this group raises serious questions about the links between "Christian" Zionists and a general racist ideology that extols the "superiority" of Anglo-Saxon Americans over all others, built around both a perverse reading of the Old Testament and American history.
Meet Bryan Fischer, a fanatical Zionist with close links to certain Tea Party groups. He gave up his own position as a spokesman of the American Family Association, although he continues as a daily radio host for its American Family Radio. Greeting news that the United States would sign a non-binding United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples in 2010, Fischer warned that President Obama "wants Indian tribes to be our new overlords," where he "will be the new chief over this revived Indian empire."
|Fischer, 19th-century genocide advocate in 21st-century business suit|
It goes without saying these bizarre fears were utterly unfounded. Obama had merely said the U.S. would "lend its support" to the declaration, vague verbiage that is clearly not an endorsement. In his blissful myopia ill-informed of history, Fischer failed to explain how the same federal government that has consistently ignored its own treaties with sovereign Native American nations, will suddenly find it in its heart not only to honor its own treaties with the limited land given to nations which are a miniscule fraction of what was promised, but actually yield its own power in some master conspiracy to cede land.
Fischer clearly has no knowledge about which he speaks. The sad reality is he expresses an ignorance of Native Americans and treaty obligations which is appallingly too common among Americans, as I experienced first-hand from my own two weeks learning experience on the Pine Ridge (Oglala Lakota) reservation and from the "schooling" I received from my Native American activist friends. I learned a very simple reality: The typical Native American knows far more about non-Native society than the non-Native American knows about Indian Country.
The history of these treaties is crucial to understanding the entire colonial structure that continues to obscure and rewrite history. "The people who are citizens of the U.S., these are your treaties. They aren't just the Indians' treaties," says Native activist Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee). "No one gave us anything. No one was dragging any land behind them when they came here. This was our land."
A genocidal revision of history
In February 2011, Bryan Fischer wrote a hateful screed entitled “Native Americans Morally Disqualified Themselves From the Land.” It is filled with the same sort of racist, colonial assertions one would think more representative of the 19th-century frontier than the 21st-century world-wide web. Initially appearing on the website of the American Family Association, in a sloppy attempt to hide the racism of their beloved, the AFA took down the article, but not before it had already spread like wildfire among a vigilant web-public.
We will examine this screed, and compare it with the actual facts of history and the present. Fischer asserts "the role that the superstition, savagery and sexual immorality of native Americans played in making them morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil."
There was no such thing as "America" but that was a term given to the continent by later conquerors. Before that, it was known by other names, including to many indigenous nations as "Turtle Island" such as the Lenape (Delaware), Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), Anishinabe (Ojibwa/Chippewa), and Lakota peoples. The name arose because of the shape of the "North American" continent, which resembled a turtle. This folklore was recorded by Dutch traveler Jaspar Danckaerts during his visit among the Lenape people between 1678 and 1680.
The fact that there was such legends that transcended different nations (I prefer this term over the colonial-ridden "tribes", which ignores the multi-faceted structure of peoples who also included clans and other forms), demonstrates a certain historical reality that refutes Fischer's portrayals of Native peoples as those "steeped in the basest forms of superstition, had been guilty of savagery in warfare for hundreds of years, and practiced the most debased forms of sexuality."
With his Anglo-Saxon Protestant exceptionalism, Fischer and those of his ilk similarly ignore how even their own term "American" includes an entire continent outside of only the United States and Canada. The various foods, resources and landscape of the continents had Indigenous names before Europeans "discovered" the continent. "Later on, the grandchildren of the Pilgrims seized the name and everything else. Now they are the Americans. And those of us who live in the other Americas, who are we?" (Eduardo Galeano, Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone, New York: Nation Books, 2009, p. 130)
On what basis does Fischer speak about the Native peoples' "superstition, savagery and sexual immorality"? Judging by savagery alone, the brutal conquest of an entire conquest and wiping out entire nations to make room for this alleged "superior" culture that Fischer extols is the very essence of savagery. The least he can do is to acknowledge it, rather than cowardly mitigating responsibility and hiding behind racist assertions about their "superstition" and "sexual immorality." The tragedy here is the re-definition of "property" into tools of conquest and annihilation on the old frontier:
"White Americans saw the acquisition of property as a cultural imperative, manifestly the right way to go about things. There was one appropriate way to treat the land - divide it, distribute it, register it. This relationship to physical matter seems to us so commonplace that we must struggle to avoid taking it for granted, to grasp instead the vastness of the continent and the enormous project of measuring, allocating, and record keeping involved in turning the open expanses of North America into transferable parcels of real estate. Like the settlers themselves we steadfastly believe in the social fiction that lines on the map and signatures on a deed legitimately divide the earth. Of all the persistent qualities in American history, the values attached to property retain the most power." (Patricia Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West, New York: W.W. Norton, 1987, p. 56).
Colonizers dehumanize the conquered people, in order to portray them as less than human, cheapen the sanctity of their lives, and thereby to justify any resulting oppression or genocide. This can often be done by simply denying the separate identity of the victimized people, such as the repeated Israeli-Zionist denials of a distinct Palestinian Arab identity. The Zionist Fischer himself makes a linkage of the two with his own "Christian" heresy based more on a literalist and selective reading of the Old Testament. One can be forgiven for forgetting that Fischer pays lip-service to the ethics of Jesus the Christ, rather than being an extremist rabbi on a West Bank settlement.
"The Amorites, or Canaanite peoples, practiced one moral abomination after another, whether it was incest, adultery, sexual immorality, homosexuality, bestiality or child sacrifice, and God finally said 'Enough!'," Fischer asserts. "By the time he brought the nascent nation of Israel to the borders of the land flowing with milk and honey, he had already been patient with the native tribes for 400 years, waiting for them to come to the place of repentance for their socially and spiritually degrading practices."
It lies beyond both my expertise or the scope of this article, to examine the truth of his claims. But what is most apparent is the selective hypocrisy engaged in by Fischer, who ignores the existence of these same things among the Israelites of the Old Testament. Incest was clearly practiced among the Hebrews (Genesis 29:16-28, Exodus 6:20, 2 Samuel 13:7-14, Ezekiel 22:10-11). Also to be found among the Hebrews was adultery (Genesis 38:13-24, 2 Samuel 11:3-5), bestiality (Ezekiel 23:20), and homosexuality (1 Kings 14:24, 15:12, 22:46, 2 Kings 23:7). Human sacrifice among even the ancient Hebrews abound throughout the Old Testament (2 Kings 3:27, 16:3, 21:6, 2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Samuel 21:4-9, Psalms 106:37-38, Ezekiel 20:30-31). Thus, the very same things for which Fischer castigates the "heathen" peoples was exhibited among the "chosen" Israelites as well.
Old Testament perversion
Fischer's ideas represent a perversion of religious ethics, in service of a political ideology of conquest, dominion and brutality. That is, the very purpose of faith in One God and an Afterlife, are replaced with a Statist concern with the here-and-now of land and settlement. "Whatever Fischer’s profession of faith and doctrinal views, the religion he promotes and practices is the worship of the American Imperium," notes the Christian individualist William Grigg. "This is a heresy far deadlier than any of the indigenous forms of superstition it suppressed."
Invoking the Israelite annihilations of entire peoples recorded in the Old Testament, Fischer was preceded by the Puritans and other settlers, who did the same exact thing in their sermons and calls for "Manifest Destiny". Literal interpretation of these stories led to justifications for their own genocide and expulsions of the Native Americans. In their utter pursuit to grab the land for themselves, the Puritan settlers invoked Joshua and the "sacred" exterminations of the Amorites and Philistines. (Thomas Nelson, "The Puritans of Massachusetts," Judaism, Vol. 16, no. 2, 1967).
"Colonists of all epochs and all nations have always sought a 'justification' for their annexations, robberies and dominations. The pretext was usually found in an alleged 'superiority' of culture which endowed the invader with a 'civilising mission' for his 'race' in relation to others. A religious pretext offered a precious additional aid to such colonial conquests - or, more generally, to any domination of one social group over another." (Roger Garaudy, The Case of Israel: A Study of Political Zionism, London: Shorouk International, 1983, p. 70).
The genocidal process of precedence and history repeating itself has turned full-circle in the modern experience of the Israeli occupation and killing of Palestinians, as noted by Gary Fields, Associate Professor of Communication at the University of California-San Diego: "What is occurring on the Palestinian landscape has antecedents in the landscapes of enclosure and dispossession in England and the Anglo-American colonial frontier." (Fields, "'This is our land': collective violence, property law, and imagining the geography of Palestine," in Journal of Cultural Geography, 2012, p. 20)
Native American writer Steven Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute. He writes in an expose of the current subject: "Fischer’s Old Testament views deserve our pity and contempt. Perhaps, though, one ought to thank him for being so open and forthright with the kind of extreme thinking Christian fundamentalists accuse elements of the Muslim world of exhibiting. He has opened up for scrutiny the kind of thinking that has been foundational to the building of American society. We find it most evident in the Doctrine of Christian Discovery that exists in U.S. federal Indian law, as expressed in Supreme Court ruling Johnson v. M’Intosh (1823), whereby the Court said that the first 'Christian people' to 'discover' lands inhabited by 'heathens' had assumed the 'ultimate dominion' to be 'in themselves.'"
|Trail of Tears, 1838|
The early British colonists initially conceded Indian ownership of land, but once their law redefined Indians as transient occupants, the culture of intolerance toward Indian property rights and presence on the landscape was inevitable. The landmark "Johnson v. M'Intosh" decision abrogated notions of Indian property ownership and transformed Indians into a new legal status as "tenants at will" (Fields, op. cit., p. 2). "By the early 19th century, ideologues for the new American nation, colonists and political leaders alike, conceived of the American landscape as a westward-expanding grid of property owners committed to improving land through cultivation and hard work." (ibid., p. 21).
When "Might-is-Right' philosophy becomes theological
Proving he subscribes to a materialist Social-Darwinist ethic couched in an Old Testament literalism, Fischer openly subscribes to the "Might-Is-Right" philosophy which has absolutely no place in the mind of one who allegedly follows the same Jesus who honored the meek (Matthew 5:5), was himself humble and meek (Matthew 11:29-30), counseled the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), wept for the dead (John 11:33-35), healed people (Matthew 14:14, Mark 1:40-41), and associated with the Samaritans (John 4:4-42) - but who was unyielding against those (like Fischer) who pervert the scriptures to suit their own agenda, such as the Pharisees (John 8:44-45, Matthew 3:7, 23:13-15,23-29, Mark 8:15, Luke 11:39, Revelations 2:9, 3:9) and usurers or money-changers (Luke 6:34-35, Matthew 21:12-13).
Conquest is actually one of the ways that Fischer believes leads to this dominion theory of land, based on a might-is-right philosophy that gave the settlers "a legitimate claim on American soil." He further asserted, "And the Europeans proved superior in battle, taking possession of contested lands through right of conquest. So in all respects, Europeans gained rightful and legal sovereign control of American soil." Would Fischer similarly lament, given this "legal right" of conquest, over the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian and Roman conquests of his beloved "chosen people" the Israelites? Similarly, how would he respond to a potential "conquest" of America by another nation? I suspect he would quickly change his tune in such an instance!
|Rounding up (settled) Cherokee people, prior to the Trail of Tears|
The way people live seems to be one of Fischer's obsessions, such as when he compares how the settlers lived in contrast to the Native Americans: "They established permanent settlements on the land, moving gradually from east to west, while Indian tribes remained relentlessly nomadic." This assertion is patently anti-historical, given that most of the Native American tribes lived a settled, sedentary lifestyle, and even had their own towns and cities. Even though some tribes (especially on the Plains) were nomadic or semi-nomadic, I fail to see how this makes them somehow "inferior" to a "superior" settled people. It also doesn't square away with his own veneration of the ancient Hebrews, who themselves lived a nomadic lifestyle, a nomadic experience crucial to understanding their culture and religion, their nomadic 40 years "wandering in the wilderness" (Numbers 32:13), and the same Bible that actually spoke spiritual positive about a nomadic existence (Hebrews 11:38).
Evangelism and the Plight of Modern Native Americans
The rest of his article is devoted to actually praising the racism that U.S. founders such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had towards Native Americans. The crux of the matter is simply his own interpretation of a religion that Native Americans did not possess, lamenting about how "missionaries were murdered in cold blood," while not even blinking an eyelid about the same massacres and slaughter of Native Americans that he justifies and praises as fulfilling "God's work"! The hypocrite Fischer thus reveals his Orwellian forked tongue through the cold-blooded shivering fingers he used to type such a hateful screed!
Fischer laments how the "savages of the wilderness" held onto their "superstition and occult practices" rather than abandon these for "the light of Christianity and civilization." His evangelical bigotry extends even to the modern-day Native Americans: "Many of the tribal reservations today remain mired in poverty and alcoholism because many native Americans continue to cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition instead of coming into the light of Christianity and assimilating into Christian culture."
I have personally stood at the front-lines of this battle against alcoholism on the reservation, during my stay on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota reservation and blockade of the border city of Whiteclay, Nebraska. I doubt Fischer has ever been there, but even if he would've I suspect his racism is such that he would simply gloss over the truth:
Contrary to the laws on the Pine Ridge reservation and the Federal government's own treaty promises to the Lakota people, the whole town of Whiteclay is set up solely for the purpose of selling alcohol to Native Americans. The reality is that the liquor store owners exploiting the poverty and selling alcohol to Lakota people, are white "Christians"! This crime is being committed in plain sight of the same authorities who invoke scriptures when it suits them for political purposes.
On the other hand, the alcoholism of Whiteclay is being opposed and actively fought against by a group of non-Christian, traditional Lakota activists and elders, inspired by their own spirituality and a deep love for their people! I had the good fortune to meet and know these individuals, and my own European heritage makes me feel far more affinity towards them than to the Pharisaic-inspired, Old Testament-perverting, evangelical Zionism of such cretins as Bryan Fischer.