Book Review: American Theocracy. By Kevin Phillips. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2005. 462 pp. $26.95

By Michael D. Peabody, Esq.

In his bestselling book, American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips, a former conservative Republican strategist who in recent years has published books critical of the party, reviews the issues of America's ballooning national debt, the war in the Middle East, and the administration's lack of long-term planning. Drawing comparisons with ancient Rome and Calvin's restrictive Geneva, Phillips makes the case that current national policy has been influenced by radicalized Christians who believe that God has given them a mandate to seize control of all three branches of the Federal government and to steer political policy from a religious perspective.

Phillips describes the historical relationship between involvement in war and religious ambition to argue that the United States' entry into the war in Iraq is based on the same form of religious antipathy that has existed since Christian Europe engaged in a holy war with Islam during the Crusades. With the end of the Cold War, Phillips argues, American evangelicals have replaced communism with Islam as the new common enemy. With Christianity now aligning itself against Islam, popular preachers and writers of books such as the Left Behind series have captured the imaginations of Christians with end-time scenarios that focus on "a global tribulation of good versus evil, the falsity of the United Nations, the emergence of an antichrist from Europe, the complicity of the French, the building of the second Babylon in Iraq, and its emergence as the headquarters of the antichrist" (p. 253).

American fundamentalists, according to Phillips, have embraced the ongoing war against radical Islam in the Middle East as a fulfillment of religious mission and look to a transformed Baghdad as a center for spreading the gospels of Christ, democracy, and the free market to the rest of the Middle East. Described by evangelical leader John Brady as a "war for souls," the Iraq war is part of a larger end-time plan that Phillips relates "to preparation for the rapture, the tribulation, and Armageddon" (p. 260).

Because Phillips builds his case on a typically solid but periodically loose patchwork of anecdote and isolated facts, the reader should view the book as an invitation to further investigation. Readers should also be aware that Phillips writes with clear bias against the Bush administration, deserved or undeserved, that he has demonstrated in other books that do not focus on the issue of religion. Nevertheless, Phillips took on an ambitious task when he tackled religious fundamentalism, the politics of oil, and national and personal debt in a single volume, and he succeeds in demonstrating why we must pay attention.

 

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