ERRATA: I have first written this post with the idea that the Lotz quote was about Kathrina, but it was in fact about 9/11. I apologize for any inconvenience. Stop sending me emails about how atheists are stupid and you hate me just because I made a mistake. My article still applies in its entirety.
This is the first of my “Pieces of Propaganda” series, where I examine propaganda from any source and analyze it. To start, I chose an easy one. This is a quote from Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, interviewed on “The Early Show” on CBS on September 13th, 2001. This quote has been circulated in chain letters by Christians eager to validate each other’s beliefs.
CLAYSON: I’ve heard people say, those who are religious, those who are not, if God is good, how could God less (sic) [hurricane Kathrina] happen? To that, you say?
LOTZ: I say God is also angry when he sees something like this. I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection. We need to turn to God first of all and say, God, we’re sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life. We put our trust in you. We have our trust in God on our coins, we need to practice it.
Ann Graham is the leader of AnGeL Ministries, which is solely dedicated to her preaching work. So not only was she raised by exploiters, but she is an exploiter herself. Therefore we may presume that she spreads her extremist brand of Christianity on television in order to promote herself, her legitimacy, and the legitimacy of the belief system that sustains her fortune. If television pundits ignored religious insanity, as they should, the legitimacy of religion would be much reduced.
The Early Show is a “morning news” program. An insane preacher like Ann Graham will be featured on such shows because of the myth of “equal time” and the belief that religious leaders have something meaningful to say about reality.
Here Ann Graham is using a favourite tactic of extremist Christians, which is to pin the blame for natural disasters on individual desires. Of course our individual desires are portrayed as childish rebellion (shaking one’s fist), and submission to “God”‘s will as wisdom. “God” is portrayed positively, as a “gentleman”- instead of the hateful warmonger portrayed in the Bible- and “Americans” are portrayed as juvenile haters who have taken “God” out of schools, government, business and marketplace, even though such a thing has not actually happened. And all of this with the nice bonuses of talking about how “Americans” act, and using the “In God We Trust” stamped on American artificial coinage (public currency), which are nice references to the mutually-reinforcing fantasies of the state and religion.
The memetic method at work here is an extreme form of victimhood, although somewhat indirectly. Victimhood consists of portraying oneself as being a victim, which implies moral superiority, instead of a bully. This tactic is especially used by bullies, and Neo-Nazis who deny the Holocaust are an excellent example of this. Christians also use victimhood heavily, claiming to be persecuted even in “countries” (such as the United States) where their religion occupies all spheres of life. Victimhood provides three main benefits: more member activity, stimulation of the “us vs them” complex, and a feeling of moral superiority.
Here, Graham uses victimhood is a slightly roundabout way, not directly claiming persecution, but claiming that widespread rejection of “God” (and by implication Christianity, since within her worldview the existence of “God” is only compatible with Christianity) is to be blamed. Of course, such rejection is a fantasy, but if you can get hookwinded by her extremist brand of Christianity, you can’t possibly have much regard for honesty in the first place.
This form of victimhood guides some of her premises in this extract. I already mentioned the “angry rebellious children” vs “gentleman God” dichotomy (while it is interesting to note that “God” also gets angry). There is also the idea of the consequence of this rebellion- that “God” removes “his hand of blessing and protection”, which presumably caused the hurricane. Finally, the idea that the only possible solution is to grovel back to “God” in total submission and ask it to reinforce religio-political exploitation, which of course in practice means that religious propagandists like Graham should have more power.
This is, in essence, the attitude of a self-appointed victim lashing out at her presumed bullies. Of course, Graham is not part of her own construct “the Americans”- she is part of the exploiter class, and thus cannot be blamed for anything. Like politicians who represent “the people”, she desires to be seen as a mouthpiece and nothing more, with no moral responsibility whatsoever.
The small extract also presents two interesting contradictions. It is claimed that “God”, this all-powerful puppet in the sky, gets angry when it sees events like hurricane Kathrina. Anger is an emotion, which means it depends on a material brain. Does “God” have a material brain? And why does it get angry at its own creation? Did it not know that its weather system would create hurricanes? Is “God” stupider than your average meteorologist?
Of course, if people like Graham actually tried to conceive of an infinite non-material being instead of the frustrated, ill-tempered magician they actually imagine (a necessary limitation in order to justify natural evils), their religious belief would be severely hampered, if not shattered. It is necessary for extremists like her to maintain the “Bruce Almighty” version of theology in order to have a role to play in the religious fantasy.
Also, one wonders how all the other hurricanes in history have happened while “God”‘s “hand of blessing and protection” was still present. Once again, not a very powerful “god” now it is?
This kind of propaganda is supposed to make us feel guilty for either rejecting “God”, or failing to support “God” in public life. Like all forms of victimhood, it strengthens the “us vs them” mentality. We are supposed to reject individual values further and demand intellectual submission- from teachers (start teaching more Creationism), political leaders (pass more laws favouring Christianity) and business leaders (stop selling sin).
In times of trouble, people turn to their mental or spiritual bedrock for guidance. For millions of people, this brand of extremism is their bedrock. This particular interview is extremely popular, which proves that it is still an effective form of propaganda for collectivism. It serves to reinforce Christian beliefs and boost the victimhood complex of Christianity. It also contributes to the visibility of Christianity in the media, an important element of legitimacy. And it also openly serves the interests of a particular faction of the state, and state power in general.
I think this will probably be the longest propaganda analysis on this blog, as Graham’s quote is packed with premises and full of meaning. I expect to mostly review sparser material which forms a gestalt of propaganda, rather than packed texts like this. Nevertheless, I hope this analysis was entertaining.