Book Review: Barbara Victor (2005) "The Last Crusade"
Richard Bartholomew printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Oct 27, 2007 at 05:01:38 AM EST
Barbara Victor
The Last Crusade: Religion and the Politics of Misdirection
London: Constable, 2005
This review refers to the UK paperback edition.

An evangelical advisor to George W Bush who believes that to kill by dying has been "programmed into the DNA of all Arab people since the beginning of time" (242). An ex-associate of the Promise Keepers who claims he saw "homosexual advances" by other members (177). A well-known Charismatic Christian leader who urges adult men to get circumcised because "God wants to touch man's creative parts" (178). Just three of the more remarkable anecdotes that appear in Barbara Victor's The Last Crusade. Victor, a CBS journalist, overviews the political significance of the US Christian right, concentrating on the current administration and on Christian Zionist organisations. Much of the ground is familiar, and there are some unfortunate errors in places, but the book contains important interview material and draws attention to some significant players.

The book is divided into three sections: a historical discussion of "The Birth of Evangelical Christianity"; "The Evangelicals and Israel"; and a short round-up of assorted material entitled "The Jesus Factor". Poor structure means that at least one chapter in the first part ("To Walk Where Jesus Walked") would have been better placed in the second.

This second section, which is the most substantial, introduces a number Christian Zionist strategists and lobbyists, such as Annette Lantos, husband of Tom Lantos (and, incidentally, cousin of Zsa Zsa Gabor). Annette is a Jewish convert to Christianity who believes God has spoken to her directly, while Tom is an atheist, but the two of them work closely with CIPAC, the Christians' Israel Public Action Campaign. Annette believes that God has made Palestinians into terrorists so that the "Road Map" will not work (228).

Victor also meets Esther Levens, who heads the National Unity Coalition for Israel. The NUC is apparently financed by Bridges for Peace and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ), and Victor goes along to one meeting whereSam Brownback is the guest speaker. Among those in attendance, Victor notes (206) retired Brigadier General James M Hutchens, who is a former US army chaplain and president of Christians for Israel, and the ubiquitous Frank Gaffney. Gaffney tells Victor that

Those who are fervent in their support of Israel are now welcome in the Bush White House...What you're seeing today is that the policy of the United States government is being influenced by a group of people on the outside who are influencing those on the inside, when it comes to the American position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (206-7).

On another occasion, Levens tells Victor that she supports "transfer" - the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank (or rather, from "Judea and Samaria") - but she acknowledges that "We have to put it in such a way that it doesn't offend people" (230). Gary Bauer agrees with her that "we have to present it in a way that is not incendiary". Richard Hellman, who heads CIPAC, explains that transfer could be organised over several years, and that
Senator Inhoff, Brownback, [Mark] Pence, Todd Tiart, and also Tom Lantos are in our corner, as are Tom DeLay and Dick Armey when he was in Congress, as well as the famous runner Jim Ryan...(212)

There is also an encounter with George and Cheryl Morrison, who run the Faith Bible Church of Denver. This church has a particular link with the Israeli settlement of Ariel, and church members go on tour there - for which purpose they don Israeli army uniforms. The Morrisons claim that a famous Evangelical singer is a member of their congregation, and that this person is close to Bush and has warned him not to push the Road Map or to criticise the Separation Wall (219-222).

Christian Zionism is also evident at Clear Channel; Herb Zweibon of Americans for a Safe Israel boasts that a Christian minister who sits on the board of the company gave him a special deal for billboard advertising in order to oppose concessions to the Palestinians (225). According to Bush aide Doug Wead:

Ninety per cent, in fact, of all Americans believe in a personal God, and that's a very high number. So I wouldn't put any bets on any Middle East peace accord just now (260).

However, while these quotes are undoubtedly very valuable, Victor's conclusions are not always clear-cut. For example, she claims that Bush's infamous use of the word "crusade" was inspired by Ed McAteer's description of Muhammad as a "terrorist"; but she doesn't satisfactorily show how the two speeches were connected (38); it's troubling to see the author go so blithely beyond the evidence.

A number of factual errors in the book also seriously undermine its value. Perhaps the most egregious appears on page 62, where Victor gives a historical overview of Abraham Vereide's secretive organisation "The Family" and tells us that John F Kennedy was among those who decided on the course of the organisation following Vereide's death. Vereide died in 1969. We're also told (265) that 14 April 1996 was "shortly before" the Rabin-Arafat handshake, when in fact Rabin had been assassinated the previous November (the handshake was actually 13 September 1993). Another howler makes William Jennings Bryan a Republican, and William McKinley by implication a Democrat (57). Even Bill Clinton's most famous utterance is unnecessarily and perplexingly botched, becoming "I have never had intercourse with that woman" (139).

Victor is also unsure of her ground when giving us the wider evangelical context, and it is significant that her endnotes contain no references to scholars of American evangelical history such as Randall Balmer, George Marsden, or Mark Noll. She tells us that Mike Evans and Ed McAteer established the National Prayer Breakfast in 1953 (59) - but Evans was born in 1947! She's confused the famous Eisenhower-era event with Evans's National Prayer Breakfast in Honor of Israel. She also calls Evans "a leader in the 'Mission-to-the-Jews' movement", without explaining what that means. Mel Gibson is supposedly an adherent of the neo-Pentecostal Vineyard grouping of churches (176), which is particularly weird given that his Catholic traditionalism is common knowledge. The Southern Baptist Convention is described as "the largest group of Charismatic Christians in America" (237), when Charismatic Southern Baptists are in fact somewhat marginal.

The book is also only a partial account. Christian Zionism is an important factor in Evangelical foreign policy concerns, but it is not the whole story. To their credit, Evangelicals have also taken on internationalist concerns such as human trafficking, Darfur, and (more controversially within the movement) the environment. Allen Hertzke's 2004 Freeing God's Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights comes to mind as a corrective (as well as being by far a more substantial work).

There are also a few places where a stronger editorial hand might have avoided some literary embarrassments. Victor visited a Baptist congregation which "literally glowed" (9), and when the USS St Louis sank during World War II, Ed McAteer was "one of the sole survivors" (31).

The Last Crusade gives the distinct impression of being a journalistic potboiler knocked off in a hurry, which is a great shame, as it could have been a significant contribution. I found it contained a lot of useful information, but I kept wondering about the accuracy of the material I was reading.

(Cross-posted to my blog)


WWW Talk To Action

Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (374 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (198 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (111 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (101 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (113 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (144 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (126 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (118 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (250 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (64 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (161 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (176 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (70 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (80 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (218 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (253 comments)
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (107 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (211 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (165 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (163 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (169 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (167 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (130 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (330 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (148 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (90 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (214 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.