According to the First Amendment, it is a problem when a public servant, speaking of the whole of the American people says something like,
“To worship our lord and celebrate our nation at the same place is not only our right, it is our duty.”
The First Amendment says it is our right. By forbidding the establishment of religion, it absolutely contradicts the idea that it could ever be our duty.
Yet this is precisely what Trump’s pick for CIA director, the Tea Party’s Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), is claiming. Pompeo’s confirmation hearings began yesterday.
Pompeo has a right to speak for himself, of course, to believe that it is his duty to worship his god. He most definitely does not have the right to impose that belief on others, and Article VI Section 3 of the Constitution forbidding religious tests forbids him from placing that demand on his fellow members of Congress as well.
There are other problems. According to Pompeo, politics is “a never-ending struggle … until the rapture.” As director of the CIA, there are obvious dangers to looking forward to “the rapture” (which isn’t even in the Bible) as an end-game.
This is the magical moment for many evangelicals when they get magically beamed up while the rest of us die writhing in a fiery hell of our heathenry and apostasy. You know, because we didn’t do our “duty” to somebody else’s god.
That a fake belief about a book that isn’t even mentioned in the Constitution should supersede the Constitution is troubling, to say the least. It’s nice to know Pompeo says he will defy Trump and won’t waterboard. Trump, after all, called for going even “tougher than waterboarding.” But waterboarding, awful as it is, remains a symptom of a broader problem.
It is also nice to know Pompeo thinks Russia is behind the hacking Donald Trump denies, saying “It is pretty clear what happened here.” But it’s also pretty clear that Pompeo has some very troubling ideas that have nothing to do with cybersecurity and Putin’s Russia.
There is, on the one hand, the culture war battlefield of America, where Pompeo said at 2011’s Values Voter Summit, “You cannot use our military to promote social ideals that do not reflect the values of our nation,” calling on Republicans to “ride to the sounds of the guns and send us more troops.”
It is a cry that would make Martin Luther proud; he believed in just war (holy war in this context) too. But a belief in just war by Lutherans and Catholics alike tore Central Europe apart in the Thirty Years War, leading to the deaths of at least 8 million people.
There is also a volatile, war-torn Middle East full of Muslims. As Slate‘s Michelle Goldberg warns in speaking of Pompeo’s “apocalyptic religiosity and Manichaean worldview,”
“It’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that America’s CIA will shortly be run by a man who appears to view American foreign policy as a vehicle for holy war.”
Trump booster and conspiracy theorist Wayne Allen Root said of Pompeo’s hatred of Muslims,
“They say [Pompeo’s] problem is he’s been negative toward Muslims and Islamic radicals—my God, that makes America great again! We finally have an administration that can use the word Islam and terrorism in the same sentence, and we’re naming people to important positions who have problems with radical Islam instead of people in important positions who are Muslims!”
Sadly, with the focus on Russia and hacking and torture, nobody is pausing to ask Mike Pompeo about his extreme religious views, or his embrace of Augustine’s “just war.” In this context, it would be wise to remember St. Augustine’s words in his City of God:
“They who have waged war in obedience to the divine command, or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.'”
Proving once again, true believers can rationalize away anything, including the commands of their own scriptures.
Pompeo has never been slow to invent facts or to assign collective guilt for actions that never took place outside his own imagination. In this, he seems perfectly suited to a Trump administration that lives on lies.
It is alarming, however, that Trump is surrounding himself with precisely the wrong sorts of people, people who will not only acquiesce in but feed his own worst impulses. Mike Pompeo will be a man who believes in holy war, serving a man the Religious Right has anointed as messiah.
Ask yourself, “what could possibly go wrong?” You shouldn’t have to think long to find an answer.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.