Oct 14

Between Babel and Beast, America and Empires in Biblical Perspective, by Peter Leithart ★★★★★

This is one of the better books I’ve read in a while, and so will spend more time than usual in offering a review. It is uncommon that I would order more copies of a book soon after completing it, in order to encourage others to read the book, but this book is an example of such a text. It is a must-read for Americans. I  enjoy reading Leithart, even though our denomination (Presbyterian Church in America) has occasionally attempted to label him a heretic for his stance on federal vision, an entity that I’ve yet to have a competent theologian adequately define for me.

I’ve been  interested in the dynamics and politics and religion since it is an election year, and the politicians are out selling themselves. Some theonomists would argue that there is no difference between politics and religion (such as Rushdooney), since the only legitimate government is a Christian government that follows the civil law of Moses. Such will be the case when the saints alone rule the earth in their original condition absent of original sin. Until then, we must always differentiate between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Leithart asks a penetrating question as to how the kingdom(s) of man treats those of a Christian faith. Do the various nations of the world act against God’s kingdom or in support of it?

The introduction to the book first explains the purpose of Leithart writing the book. In a way, it is a sequel to another book he wrote titled “Constantine”. This book was reviewed by me previously. Before beginning the book, Leithart gently reminds the reader that he (assuming that the reader is an American Christian) is first and foremost a Christian, but also a reminder that America is a part of the city of man. He will elaborate on that much further in the book.

The first three chapters with its conclusion are a history of empires from a biblical perspective. Beginning with the first empire ever, Babel, Leithart outlines in the first chapter the evolution and children of Babel through the book of Genesis. Babel is not used in a particularly perjorative sense, but simply to define an institution that is the “city of man”, a political state or empire established on earth. Introduced in Genesis is also God’s imperium, God’s rule on earth, found in those faithful to Him. The promise to Abraham to build him into a great nation echoed that counter to the Babel that Abraham came out of. Chapter 2 continues with the children of God (Israel) being delivered from the Babel of Egypt. The allusions to the similarity of Abraham being called out of Ur were emphasized. Similarly, the call of the Jews out of Babylon/Persia back to the land of Israel was again likened to the exodus of Moses. Leithart spends much time in Daniel, first discussing how empires could be beasts (by mistreating God’s people) or not, such  as Cyrus returning the Jews back to the homeland. Thus, the conclusion was that the Old Testament was not against empire, but against rival imperialisms, “rival visions for the political salvation of a human race”. The third chapter continues into the Roman empire, with both bad news (the execution of Christ and martyrdom of the saints) with good news, such as with Constantine and most the emperors after him supporting the Christian church, and allowing it to behave freely. Good news included protections in the apostolic period, where Paul appealed frequently as a citizen of Rome, and Rome protecting Paul, giving him free transport to Rome to build the church there.

Chapters 4 & 5 comprise a new section, titled “Americanism”. Chapter 4 (Heretic Nation) describes what it means to be American, holding “an assurance that the declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution establish the best political order the world has ever seen, the last best hope of mankind… Our national self-consciousness is a “Messianic consciousness””. Chapter 4 is a lengthy chapter that I will inadequately summarize. Leithart discusses how with the rise of Constantine and eventually the fall of Rome, the struggle for identity of the roles of church and state have been prevailing themes. Church historians, including Eusebius emphasized that Constantine was like another Moses, delivering the people of God. Thus a transformation occurred on how church and state regarding each other. Such examples include Pope Gregory VII instituting the concept of a holy war. As national identities became more prominent in Europe,  the state played on this notion, leading to many religious wars. The puritans sought delivery from this, sailing to America to form a new hope for man, a new world order, a nation that could be religiously free and beacon to the world; essentially, it was the formation of a new “Israel” , and puritan reading of scripture had a strong nationalist bent. Leithart offers many examples throughout American history of politicians likening America to the new “Israel”. Leithart continues, “Americans are today biblically illiterate, but biblical cadences continue to echo in our political rhetoric, setting the terms of our nation purpose and mission. It was no accident that President Bush memorialized the first anniversay of 9/11 with a Statue of Liberty speech full of intertexual links with the opening verses of John’s Gospel… Bush like many American Christians, has so instinctively and viscerally identified Jesus with the spread of American-style liberty that he can hardly distinguish them.” American wars were referenced to “Americanist typology…  “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the Coming of the Lord,” … fighting and dying like Christ not to make men holy but “to make men free””. Concluding, “Sacrifice American style can only go on and on. For in Americanism, this fourth great biblical religion, there is no final sacrifice, no end to bloodshed until we have rid the world of evil, until the American creed becomes the creed of humnity. In this too, we are a heretic nation”. Chapter 5, summarized briefly, mixes quotes which adamantly state that we are not an empire and we do not interfere with the affairs of other nations, with the examples that prove that we do everything but that. Starting with Benjamin Franklin, John Quincy Adams, Monroe’s doctrine, speeches from Washington, he shows the extreme political hypocrisy. Sadly the examples of history do NOT start with our involvement in WWI like we are typically taught, but rather from the inception of our empire, with the war against the Barbary Pirates in 1803, to our involvement in conflicts in the Philippines in 1813, our treatment of the Indians, and our development of manifest destiny, all show our early and aggressive entanglements around the globe.

Part III of the book, labeled between Babel and Beast, everything is attempted to be put into context of how Christians should view America. Chapter 6, American Babel, starts…”Europe’s secularization is its long retreat from Christendom, the disestablishment of the church, the decline of active Christianity, the migration of the holy from the church to the nation. Americanism is impervious to secularization of the European variety because America was never part of Christendom to begin with”. The growing spirit of the importance of the American message in the world is then shown by Leithart in numerous historical examples, one example being that of John Foster Dulles, a very devout Christian, who helped form the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and felt it important for America to make the rules for how nations should behave with each other. In all points “American policy must estabish, ensure, and maintain the dominance of America. Whether the dominance was of American ideals or America as a great power dictating the terms of a world made comparatively little difference”. Later, Leithart states “Anyone who thinks that apocalypic political rhetoric is a thing of the past, or who thinks that Americans have given up thinking of ourselves as a messianic nation, … has not been listening carefully to the rhetoric of the war on terror. . . Americanism is a mythology that justifies American power and explains–sometimes explains away–American action… Scratch Americanist rhetoric, and the reality beneath the skin is often un-American and undemocratic. These inconsistencies are perhaps inherent in Babelic imperialism: Babels call the nations to a glorious vision of a single tower and city ands speak with a single lip, but the aim is finally to promote Babel’s interests and advance Babel’s power.” Many examples of America advancing their influence in the world contrary to our own states principles are given. Leithart offers a lengthy diatribe against our stated agreement from the 1923 Hague conference against using warfare, most notably aerial  bombardment, as a means of inflicting injury on civilian populations. The offenses  against warfare against civilians since 1923 are too numerous to mention, but perhaps one needs to be reminded of the true story of Kurt Vonnegut in Dresden at the end of WWII. It makes one want to weep. Chapter 7 finally asks whether America, as an empire (Babel), is a good empire, or an evil one (beast). He mentions how the US has done great good, mostly through our citizens (eg., Voice of the Martyrs, intervention on Afghan converts, etc.), something no other nation would have done. The tone quickly changes as to how much of our foreign aide has gone to nations who aggressively suppress Christianity. In effect, much of America’s actions seem to be detrimental to the kingdom of God (the church) on earth. He ends with the sober admonitions, “we play with beasts, and our Americanist lenses do not allow us to see the danger. We fund our favorite beasts, then turn a blind eye when they devour the saints. It is a dangerous position, not only for the Christians who suffer at the hands of our allies, but also for the United States. Those who consort with beasts might become bestial, and beasts do not long survive”. “As far as Christians are concerned the only appropriate response is to repent of being Americanists…”.

Unfortunately, most who read this book, or the summary that I offer, will either a) object vehemently to Leithart’s admonitions, feeling that he is unfair to the American experiment, or b) somehow feel that we are beyond or above this book. None of us are above the admonitions in this book. Americanism has pervaded us to the point of being beyond recognition. Leithart does not call us to leave the U.S. We cannot establish a haven elsewhere in the world as such an action is nothing more than repeating the error of our ancestors in coming to America. He is quite perceptive about identifying the political mis-thinking of much of the American church, and to that we must give our undivided attention.

As a side note, Leithart does not hold to conspiracy theories, or a dark mind working behind everything. He would be the first to identify the crisis of Babel results from original sin, which is unescapable in this life. I would agree that Americanist ideology is the second tier above that, as Leithart identifies in this book. The corruption and influence of the trade and banking system is only subservient to the ideology of Americanism, whether it be to oppress poor nations by import tariffs, or create wars to promote the military industrial complex. Those who feel that the bankers control the world are naive to the ideologies that control the banking systems. Whatever your take on this book, the reader will find it thought provoking, and well organized. To Americanism, we must weep and repent.

 

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4 Responses to “Between Babel and Beast”

  1. […] Feucht has posted a review of Peter Leithart’s Between Babel And The Best: America And Empires In Biblical Perspective. […]

  2. Mark says:

    Great post..Thanks for sharing your review of this book!

  3. Onkel Dennis says:

    ” the only legitimate government is a Christian government that follows the civil law of Moses. Such will be the case when the saints alone rule the earth in their original condition absent of original sin”

    This is the kind of thinking about God and government that has put the modern church in the doghouse. Rushdoony was one of a very few Christians who saw the obvious in scripture: that God has not left it to man to rule himself.

    Did God give his Law to Israel so that they could use it for governing Israel only after Israel was sinless? As Paul said, sinless people don’t need law. What does the word “Lord” mean, anyway? Throughout history there have been examples, including the American Colonies before the U.S. putsch, who had such biblical government, and they were not perfect either.

    “Until then, we must always differentiate between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man.”

    Yes, for the purpose of making sure we are in the former and not the latter. People in the KoG identify with the people in it and its Lord, and do not say “our” when referring to God’s enemies ruling the nation-states but only when referring to Christs’ government.

    “good news, such as with Constantine and most the emperors after him supporting the Christian church,”

    Constantine was very mixed news, for it was he who set in motion (or at least supported the growth of) the great apostate church. Much has been written on this; I need not add more. Constantine, a Briton from Colchester whose parents, Constantius and Helen, drove the Romans off the island, ended the 150 year war of Rome with the goal (from Claudius, who admired British Christians) to destroy Christianity and Druidism by conquering the stronghold of both in the first century, the Britons. Instead, Rome fell to a Brit.

    “Good news included protections in the apostolic period, where Paul appealed frequently as a citizen of Rome, and Rome protecting Paul, giving him free transport to Rome to build the church there.”

    Is the logic here as bad as it seems to be? Is this argument intended to simply deny that government in rebellion against God cannot do anything good at all? So what is the point? That we should look favorably upon any entity that is not completely evil?

    “…Bush like many American Christians, …”:

    Does this guy pretend to be a scholar and say something this idiotic? Bush a Christian – what a delusion! He ought to study the Power Elite before writing a book about them.

    “Chapter 5, summarized briefly, …”

    The dedication of the USA to war as a way of greed and control needs to be brought out and I commend the author for doing this. Too bad he didn’t start with the putsch itself – the secret meeting in Philadelphia. The U.S. was conceived in iniquity. It was an overthrow of the biblical governments of the American colonies, which in their constitutions recognized the lordship of Christ over the colony, to an Enlightenment-inspired humanistic best-effort of man in which Jesus is not only not acknowledged as Lord but the J-word is not even mentioned in their (not our) Constitution.

    It is easy to show historically that at least since that runt of a coward on a horse, Teddy Roosevelt, that every hostile action of the USG has been initiated by them or Britain (WWs I and II). And behind the govt, driving them to do it are their controllers, the international banksters. It is not much harder to show that every single war involving the U.S. was initiated by the US or Britain. One might except the French and Indian War from US initiation, but maybe not. And Roosevelt, a Rough Rider? He wasn’t even present at the charge on Bunker Hill! Go check the history (not the propaganda). He was involved in a skirmish in which the Spanish were outnumbered 5 to 1. Great hero, that Teddy – to the Power Elite, that is.

    U.S. political history is a pathetic history from which any Christian would withdraw any association. Instead, the church is full of God and Flag syncretists.

    ” …one example being that of John Foster Dulles, a very devout Christian, who helped form the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and felt it important for America to make the rules for how nations should behave with each other.”

    Leithart disqualifies himself for writing a book on this topic with such a clear demonstration as this that he does not know the first thing about the Rulers. My response to the author is: learn something about these people! He is seriously lacking – indeed, delusional – in factual support. He just does not know basic facts about the American power structure.

    “It is a dangerous position, not only for the Christians who suffer at the hands of our allies, but also for the United States. Those who consort with beasts might become bestial, and beasts do not long survive”.”

    He is right about this but it does not excuse his ignorance of the System. He needs to start by taking the course on World System 101 from Bill Domhoff:

    Who Rules America?: Power and Politics, G. William Domhoff, McGraw-Hill, 2002.

    The Powers That Be: Processes of Ruling Class Domination in America, G. William Domhoff, Vintage Books, 1978.

    When he gets that material down, then he will be ready for World System 201, with Antony C, Sutton. His books can be downloaded from the Web. Have Leithart start reading these:

    http://antonysutton.com/

    http://reformed-theology.org/html/books/wall_street/

    http://www.reformation.org/wall-st-hitler.html

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/238474.Antony_C_Sutton

    And Ken, instead of reading scholarly-sounding idiots devoid of factual support, perhaps you should read some of the above books first. Then when you encounter a book like Leithart’s, you can figure these things out for yourself!

    “None of us are above the admonitions in this book. Americanism has pervaded us to the point of being beyond recognition. Leithart does not call us to leave the U.S.”

    Leithart’s kind of critique of America is over a century overdue but he also creates as much fog as he dispels because he is not qualified to write on the subject-matter. He does not understand the nature of the System or the people who control it.

    “We cannot establish a haven elsewhere in the world as such an action is nothing more than repeating the error of our ancestors in coming to America.”

    Naive. The American colonies were a very good idea, but they were subverted.

    “Those who feel that the bankers control the world are naive to the ideologies that control the banking systems.”

    Sorry, you can’t dismiss reality by retreating into talk about “ideologies”. Anyone who has studied the banksters is well aware of the ideologically-based conspiracy underlying those in the shadows, and the Illuminism driving it. A few
    can even trace it all the way back to how the Devil interacts with his human middle management, but this is way beyond Leithart. All you are saying, Ken, is that you do not know the ideologies of the banksters (with any content to it). So go read and review Sutton’s book, America’s Secret Establishment. It will put you ahead of Leithart in understanding the social order around you.

  4. Worst for this book is failing to understand that man is inherently evil and self-oriented, and that any position of power will ultimately seek to further one’s own best interests. Allen fails to suggest that events, circumstances, economic cycles, wars, poverty and wealth follow certain paths and laws outside of any evil minded masterplots, and that in all aspects, whether in the big or the small picture, God is in control. So, people will think that they are in control, only if we remain blistfully unaware of them. Allen provides part of the picture, but not the big picture, of what’s going on out there. And for part of the picture, it is worth reading. The book is a little bit dated, written in 1972 when the USSR was still going strong.

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