The Gospel of Empire: Part One
The Gospel of Empire is a book that I have been working on for some time now.
And in both scope and depth, it is a beast.
The book is going to be broken up into two to three parts. It is meant to be read through, but, considering how much is going into this and the pressing need to get the information out there, releasing it in parts is the best path forward. The story here is a complicated one: on one part, it is a scathing indictment of missionaries as an agent of colonization. On the other, it is the story of the rise of religion in human societies. The stories intertwine because the conclusion we reach, over and over again, is both wretched and heart breaking: one of expansion, exploitation, and extraction.
We are a story telling animal.
Like any other animal, the way we interact with our world is driven by the ways we subsist and exist within it. Our bodies and minds were shaped in a wild world. One where we hunted and gathered. But we know that for some societies, that changed. We know all too well the toll it has taken. We live the spoiler of this story: a world thrown into climate instability, where droughts and floods compete for parched soils and poisoned waterways. This world where decimated soils and toxin filled air are fueled by drilled oils and harvested winds to continue a death march. One that we can't mentally or physically co-exist with. A world peppered with carrots, but driven by sticks.
We know things have gone wrong. We know isolation and fear. We know hierarchies and warfare. The gods of production, once born, require blood sacrifice. Ours and theirs. Individuals and whole ecosystems. It is about inputs and outputs, that stupid economy we hear so much about.
Reality is a horrible story.
It doesn't work for us. It doesn't fill the ranks or the factories. It isn't standing guard. It isn't keeping us going to work, going to war, and going to the frontlines.
So this isn't the story we tell. Religion is.
Gods can ask all the things of us that politicians can only allude to. They only need to call upon the divine to clamp down the fate of their systems with our own. Our stories are turned against us. Our need for community and place are turned against us. It starts out almost imperceptibly, arising with storehouses and gardens, but as societies and, ultimately, civilizations, rise, our stories become weapons for expanding empires.
Taken in minutiae, the patterns can become clearer. However, there is no greater confrontation of worlds than the frontiers of civilization. Places where the stories we are told become the primary means of clearing the path for extraction. First in justifying the expansion, then in the decimation that follows in that wake. There is no greater and plainer view of the impacts of civilization than conquest of missionaries.
Here, the hubris and outright disdain for any other story are laid bare. And they are nothing short of genocidal.
The story of missionaries is that we have attained the light of a distant god. We have been anointed in his blood to secure his kingdom, alongside developers and conquerors. That's always been the story. Missionaries consider themselves agents of salvage missions for an inevitable takeover. Already doomed to hell, there is no worse outcome. And no better outcome than salvation.
That has only ever meant one thing: decimation.
Coordinated attacks on subsistence and clearing the land. Outright warfare. Slave raids for working fields and factories, or taking women and children for the global sex trade. Removal from ancestral lands into crowded missions, replete with filth and disease. The execution of healers. Assault for using Native languages. Brutal retaliation for any maintained cultural perseverance.
There is no easy way to put it: colonialism is a vile display of outright hostility. And yet no one in the expanding empire is watching. We believe the stories we are told about social evolution. About growth and progress. Every few years a missionary gets rightfully killed by voluntarily isolated Indigenous societies and what registers as shock is the indifference to the prevalence of ongoing colonial expansion. This isn't history, this is an ongoing and ever-present aspect of civilization. One that echoes through our past and into our future.
If we are the story telling animal, then the narrative dictates what we can see. What we will see.
And that is absolutely a weapon that has been used to distract us from seeing the lives and communities and worlds that are being constantly targeted and slaughtered to make way for our broken dreams of an impossible tomorrow as we destroy the world in which we thrived as a species. A world that many who haven't forgotten still fight for. A world that many continue their struggles to maintain. A world that many never left.
A world that is under assault. Systemically, a world that maims and kills. A dumping ground for misogynist violence. A world rid of consequence for expansionists - be they missionaries or man camps of pipeline workers. The story repeats, and we continually ignore it.
That cannot happen. This is a story shouted a million times and slayed thousands of times. Buried in plain sight. It is my intent to help drag it into the light. To point to the continuities in power, the links between spiritual and ecological conquest that begin with domestication and continue today. My point is to draw the lines together with our lineage of primal anarchy, the past of outright resistance and its continued struggles, and to help find our place in a living world so that we may join that fight.
This is a story about missionaries. A story about religion and the stories we tell. A story meant to light old flames and new.
A story that is meant to destroy a narrative, exposing its machinery and mechanisms so that we can destroy those too.
Book One focuses on the role of oil in reigniting a post-World War II boom of fossil fuel and fossil fueled expansionism.
It is in that world that two of the largest missionary organizations - New Tribes Mission (now Ethnos 360) and Sylvan Institute of Linguistics/Wycliffe Bible Translators - took root. Driven by smaller planes and a new hunger for expansionist conquest, these home-brewed groups partnered with governments and corporations to reignite the global march of Christian conversion.
And the toll that they have taken is beyond the scope of what any of us can even possibly imagine. Complete decimation of entire cultures. Catastrophic death tolls, relocations, and untold traumas taking place before us now, just as it had been. This book emphasizes the nature of and practices of conquest aimed, intentionally, at the most egalitarian societies to have ever existed: immediate-return hunter-gatherers.
It is a story of genocide, planned and plotted. And one that doesn't end until we end it.
More info to come, but looking for ways to spread the word and to get some of this research out faster, farther and wider. So keep checking back and please help spread the word.