Home / View Point / Guest Columns / Battle for Souls (Pt II): Bullet, Beef and Bible; a look behind the mask of the unholy triad

Battle for Souls (Pt II): Bullet, Beef and Bible; a look behind the mask of the unholy triad

In Part One, we touched briefly on my personal experience with American-born Evangelical Christian religions, their racist past and anti-tolerance messaging. We touched on how religion is historically used to erase and homogenise a culture for compliant assimilation into an empire and the impact it has on our multi-cultural nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

Part Two was supposed to end on a heartwarming note but two major things happened in the world which altered the course of my internal dialogue. The first was the murder of Marielle Franco, a feminist, a human rights activist and an advocate for the poor in the favelas of Brazil and indigenous peoples. She was executed by military police for her outspoken activism.

She had become a voice for the voiceless, one of her major battles being against the return of the new, American Evangelical-endorsed Cabinet to its old money, all-white, all male past by removing all black people, Indigenous People and women from having any major office, position or lobbying power in Brazil.

North America-Born Christian Sects Year
Southern Baptist Convention, 1845
Seventh-day Adventist Church, 1863
Latter-Day Saint movement/Mormonism, 1830
Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1870 (1931)
Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science), 1879
Pentecostalism 1906
Universal Church Of The Kingdom  of God 1977

Roman Catholicism in Latin America has given the world the most progressive pope in centuries. Pope Francis is himself a scientist who accepts evolution as valid and focuses heavily on social justice for the poor and protection of Indigenous Peoples, even advocating for tolerance for sexual minorities and atheists. He denounces the inhumanity of capitalism and the destruction of the environment.

However, in Brazil, just like in T&T, there has been a steady shift away from the RC Church. The country’s powerful oligarchy feels alienated by Pope Francis’ refusal to endorse their greed, pollution, inhumane corporate practices and the political corruption that enables it. But guess which religion lends itself more to their objectives? You’ve guessed it, American Evangelicalism.

In 1970, the number of Brazilians who were Catholics stood at 90 percent; today, it’s 50 percent, thanks to the wave of “neo-Pentecostalism” from the United States. According to The New York Times, over 2,800 missionaries from the US have come to Brazil. Can you say neo-colonisation!

One of the most popular American sects is the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God or “Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus” (IURD). It is a purveyor of “Prosperity Gospel” which demands monetary love offerings from poor folk, who are promised material success. Bishop Edir Macedo is the Brazilian Joel Osteen and is listed by Forbes as having a fortune estimated at $1.3b and his mega-church Solomon’s Temple was completed at the cost of $300m.

Now, nothing is wrong in and of itself with a new religion growing, except that these American Evangelical sects fleece poor people of their money and get heavily involved in politics, most notably, in supporting the abusive military police and agricultural oligarchs, earning the nickname the “Bullet, Beef, and Bible” caucus.

Photo: Former Brazil president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (left) and Bishop Edir Macedo. Lula was recently handed a 12-year conviction for corruption.

The cattle farming oligarchs oppress the Indigenous Peoples, whose rainforests they clear to raise beef. The military police oppress the poor in the favelas to keep them in their place and out of the spaces of white, upper-class Brazilians. The bible thumpers usually go after Indigenous and Afro-spirituality and culture as well as they oppose secularists and scientists regarding evidence-based public policy. They often use American Evangelical publications rejected in the USA for inaccuracy and harmful, unproven assertions. Marielle Franco was a piqan in their bambam.

The second event which changed my focus was the death of Reverend Billy Graham and retrospectives on his life’s work which brought into focus his refusal to stand firmly with the Civil Rights Movement in the USA.

Today many White Conservative Christians like Pat Robertson, who was against Rhodesia becoming a black-ruled Zimbabwe, love to drop the name Dr Martin Luther King Jr when it suits their agenda. However, their brand of Christianity was nothing like that of the Civil Rights Hero. Dr King was radically anti-capitalist, pro-worker, pro-poor, pro-racial and pro-social justice. King’s right-hand man, Baynard Rustin, was known to be gay and—up until her passing—his late wife, Coretta Scott was an avid supporter of women’s reproductive rights and the rights of LGBTQI people.

The Reverend Billy Graham might have called Dr King his “black friend” but he refused to appear on stage with Dr King after 1957—when a line was drawn in the sand and appearing with Dr King meant you endorsed his push for Civil Rights for Black Americans. Reverend Graham reluctantly agreed to allow black worshippers to attend his rallies but never made any statements to alienate his racist, white followers, many of whom, despite not being actively involved in atrocities, were silent and complicit, as this poet passionately conveys.

Photo: Late US civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Courtesy Mankindheroes)

Their Evangelical sects never exposed their racism. That exposure came from secular sources such as the media, which documented their inhumanity towards those who were supposed to be their precious, fellow Christian family. It came from academia, which studied their racism and provided intellectual framing of the issue. It came when the Democratic Party pulled the rug out from under Bible Belt Conservatives and sided with the Civil Rights Movement, leaving them feeling jilted, ashamed and politically homeless.

Guess who took them in? The same GOP that used to be the Progressive Party, the Party of Ike who decried military industrial complexes, the party of Teddy Roosevelt who checked the big corporations, the Civil Rights Party of Lincoln, the party Black Americans used to support for generations.

As part of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, it welcomed the racist, religious fundamentalist Segregationists against the warning cries of people like Conservative Republican Barry Goldwater, who, despite not being a paragon of racial virtue himself, at least knew the religious fundamentalism of white Evangelicals was dangerous for the constitutionally enshrined protection of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Separation of Church and State and evidence-based public policies.

In the late 70’s, History had begun to paint White Conservative Christians as the villains of the 20th Century and their new GOP relied on political strategists to re-brand them. They needed a cause to rally around!

They could not use the human rights of the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War and Earth Love Movements of the hippies or anything remotely anti-capitalist to regain the moral high ground. So, they invented a new Triple G Morality that policed Gestation, Genitalia Use and Gender Roles.

Photo: US evangelical preacher Franklin Graham.
(Copyright Billy Graham.org)

This was something the White Christian Conservatives were already good at, having had, for years oppressively guarded the “purity” of white women against black, Latino and Native American men and keeping her firmly under the thumb of her white, male guardians. They even got Conservative Roman Catholics—whom they secretly despised—to join their voting base, using the slogan “We are the Sexual Purity Party.”

Sexual matters became the only subject of moral outrage by the now rebranded White Christian Conservatives. Their focus on sex as the most important moral issue meant that racism, lying, enabling of fraud and exploitation by bankers, illegal wars, polluting the environment, impoverishing the working poor, preying on the sick and suffering for profit, needlessly depriving citizens of their freedom and support for the war and guns lobby were no longer considered seriously immoral.

They effectively changed the conversation on morality so that their politicians could engage in all of these and still be considered “morally upright” just as long as they put up a front of “family values.”

In 2018, the GOP base of White Conservative Christians no longer needs to hide their overt racism, gun worship, Social Darwinism. They’ve also long dropped their “family values” front just as Bristol Palin dropped her panties for premarital sex while preaching Abstinence Only.

White Christian Conservatives now openly support political candidates who are adulterous and/or sex offenders just as long as (s)he vows to stop the “browning” of America, make racial segregation legally possible through defunding public schools and legalizing religious exceptions for discrimination against citizens. They voted for child molesters like Roy Moore. Known adulterers and sexual assaulters like Donald Trump are now their new messiahs, in whom they trust to enable their Dominionist goals.

Photo: United States president Donald Trump (left) greets supporters at a rally during his election campaign.
(Copyright Business Insider)

Make no mistake, none of this means the current Democratic Party are saints. They are also the bitch of the Corporations and work mainly for their corporate overlords, as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have demonstrated on numerous occasions.

However, their base is markedly different when it comes to racial inclusion and religious and cultural diversity.  Their base is progressive when it comes to getting money out of politics, workers’ rights, helping the poor, improving public education, protecting the separation of Church and State, respecting scientific literacy and evidence-based solutions, protecting the planet and universal human rights of all citizens. Behind them is a Progressive Christian Movement, walking in the footsteps of Dr King and focusing fixedly on the cause of the “least of these,” according to the Gospels.

They are the Christians behind the Moral March, they are Roman Catholic Nuns On The Bus, they are the Quakers who have been progressive since their active involvement in the abolition of slavery. They are the Episcopalians, who joined the Civil Rights Movement, going so far as to even die in the struggle right alongside their black brother protesters. They can be found in social media groups such as Liberals Like Christ, The Christian Left and their ministry, Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented, pushing back against biblical legalism and political meddling by hypocritical, prosperity gospel theocrats.

They support the universal human rights of all, even if they are non-Christian and they stand with Muslims who are victims of hate crimes. They believe that justice is what love looks like in public and practical application.

Reverend Billy Graham’s passive-aggressive retort to Dr King’s now famous “I Have a Dream” Speech was, “Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand-in-hand with little black children.”

Photo: Famous American evangelist Bill Graham (seated, centre) celebrates his 95th birthday with his son, Franklin Graham, as well as then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, and Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch.

This is no different from what I was raised to believe inside an American Evangelical sect. No need to get up, stand up, stand up for your rights! Just send thoughts and prayers and proselytize for converts. No need for scientific research into the real reasons for problems and evidence-based solutions. No. Just send thoughts and prayers and proselytise for converts.

Allow the rich to get richer. Allow the social injustice to continue. Allow the oligarchy free rein. Allow the planet to be destroyed. Don’t upset the status quo! Wait for Jesus to come and make everything better, one day, soon, soon, we promise.

Yes, we promised 2000 years ago; wait a little longer. Wait another 100 years while doing nothing but sending thoughts and prayers and proselytising for converts.

If individual believers want to wait for a Saviour to solve everything, they are welcome to do so. But I must point out that while they are being passive and sending prayers for every horrific headline, their leadership within American Evangelical faiths are being very aggressive.

They are exporting misogynistic, imperialist preachers and missionaries, especially to mineral-rich countries in the Global South. They are actively forming Bullet, Beef and Bible caucuses wherever there is corrupt/inept leadership and oligarchies. They are trying to stamp out labour movements, women’s movements, Black and Indigenous People’s movements and movements for religious tolerance. They are trying to get scientific evidence out of public policy-making.

Franco’s assassination by the Bullet, Beef and Bible caucus in neighbouring Brazil brings into sharp focus why we here in Trinidad and Tobago need to wet our own roofs.

Photo: Marielle Franco, a feminist and human rights activist, was murdered on 14 March, 2018.

Be wary of the Unholy Triad of Religious Fundamentalism, Big Business and Right-Wing Fascist Leadership (the Police/Military being their arm).

Never forget which people got the bible and piety and which people got the land and the wealth the first time around, when Christianity came to the Global South from a white man’s empire.

Editor’s note: Click HERE to read Part I of The Battle for Souls.

About Jessica Joseph

Jessica Joseph
Jessica Joseph is currently the Creative Director of Accela Marketing St Lucia/Canada. She is a multiple ADDY Award Winning Trinidadian national, Pop Cultural Anthropologist and Humans Rights Activist. She blogs on Huffington Post and alieninthecaribbean.blogspot.com.

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7 comments

  1. “The country’s powerful oligarchy feels alienated by Pope Francis’ refusal to endorse their greed, pollution, inhumane corporate practices and the political corruption that enables it.” Gee, why on earth would he not want to endorse that? 😀

  2. A very thought provoking article by Ms. Joseph. If I am to paraphrase her thesis statement that runs as a common thread throughout her two pieces it will be that : White Male dominated Christian Evangelical Sects serve as a main instrument of Neo-Colonialism and has fostered the separation of ourselves as the ‘flock’ from our indigenous identity.
    While I do agree that religion has historically been shown to be a tool used by the colonial masters in their domination of the colonized, I do believe that the writer has made some very sweeping generalizations.

    One of these egregious assertions is that these Caribbean based Evangelical sects slavishly remit monies to their metropolitan bosses in the form of tithes. The Seventh Day Adventist Caribbean Convention and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies, two organizations that cover two of the faiths implicated in the articles are autonomous and would have established financial independence from their forerunners years ago. This autonomy does not cover Pentecostal or SDA churches who may be either independent, renegade or both.

    Another wild missive that seems to be communicated is that the Caribbean leadership in many of these churches are mainly ‘clones’ of the white American male, in a seemingly pathological psychological sense. Where is the robust evidence to argue this as opposed to the use of an emotive image of Pastor Cuffie and Evangelist Benny Hinn?

    Ms. Joseph disparages the Christian Evangelical community for their overwhelming docility and passivity when it comes to confronting the evil and malevolent social issues of the day. It would be hypocritical of me to say that the ‘Evangelical’ sect had not previously pushed the ‘Jesus will deal with it, just pray and read the Bible ‘ in years gone by. There is a growing tide, however, where the ‘Evangelical’ community are becoming more socially aware and responsive to socio/econo/political issues.
    It would be rather disingenuous for the SDAs of the Southern Caribbean to be running a University that promotes tertiary level learning of various Academic disciplines and preparing persons for the helms of leadership in the wider society and at the same time telling their graduates to remain passive. Don’t you think so?

    • Jessica Joseph

      Thank you for your substantial and thoughtful response Mr. Alexander. Would I be correct in deducing that since your response was largely specific to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, that you are primarily concerned with my inclusion of this sect in my list of the more well-known American-born Christian sects? If so, please be assured the mention was not an indication that everything in the article would apply, in whole, to the Seventh Day Adventist Church in particular, or any of the sects listed for that matter. I listed the sects so that readers can understand when and where these religious denominations originated.

      So for example, the funneling of finances would apply to sects such as the Mormons and JWs. The prioritization of dispensationalist, American Evangelical Dominionistic theology over everything, including people’s Universal Human Rights, would apply more to other sects. The lack of will to stand up for protecting the environment, fighting corruption and predatory capitalism, promoting gender equality and fighting for the Universal Human Rights of others, may apply to even more sects with few exceptions. I am quite aware that American Evangelicalism is anything but passive. It is very active socially and politically, but usually not for those issues. If the graduates from your University can effectively tackle these issues in Trinidad and Tobago, then great. As the evidence clearly shows these are the issues on which hinge people’s health, peace, and prosperity.

      I do not choose the photos for my articles Mr. Alexander, therefore the photo of Pastor Cuffie and Evangelist Benny Hinn was not my choice, nor was it meant to be the smoking gun for anything. The editorial team at Wired868 as well as any regular reader of the Trinidad Express can recall Cuffie’s paid sermons and it is no secret he falls politically on the same side as folks like Sarah Palin. I imagine this influenced their choice of picture.

      I don’t know if someone at Wired868 has posted the video yet, I will have to check, but one such media arm for the Religious Right in the USA just released a video condemning the return of indigenous land to black South Africans. It’s like Pat Robertson and Rhodesia all over again! It would be inaccurate to say that the days of religion playing a role in neo-colonialism have long past. It still does play a major role in blessing and enabling certain economic, political or social systems. Israel’s atrocities have religious backing. Was I more versed in and personally acquainted with Islam as I am with Christianity, I would have also written a similar article on the impact of its fundamentalism and imperialism as well. I will leave that to an ex or freethinking Muslim to do.

      Should people be concerned about whether those who believe in a particular religious ideology will side with protecting justice and equality of their Trinbagonian brothers and sisters (no matter their creed or race) or with their religious ideology to the detriment of the former? Yes. Only because we have so few examples of the opposite.

      • Earl Best

        In a comic strip, Mr Alexander would now be depicted with his tail between his legs and over his head a huge word balloon in the middle of which there is a tiny “Oh!”

  3. Same goes on in many African countries. These American evangelists are the new colonialists of the souls.

  4. Praise God they are heading towards the truth.

  5. “Ms Franco, who often wore a bright hairband around her afro, was the only black woman among Rio’s 51 councillors, even though half of Brazil’s population are black or mixed race…”
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-43484449