David Ray Griffin’s The Christian Gospel for Americans: A Systematic Theology

A Review  

There are very few writers who have done more to try to open the public’s mind to the evil nature of the American empire than David Ray Griffin.  His series of books on the false flag attacks of September 11, 2001 will endure for a long time, and they will one day, when it is safe to do so, be recognized as seminal texts exposing the traitorous conspiracy of elements within the Unites States’ government to launch the endless so-called war on terror.  That many now know, and many more will, that those so-called “terrorist” attacks were carried out by terrorists in the highest reach of the U.S. government will be due to his extraordinary work.

What many do not know is that David Ray Griffin is a Christian theologian with impeccable credentials and a scholarly oeuvre of dozens of theological books. And that long before his conscience led him to devote himself to exposing the U.S. government’s lies about the September 11 attacks, he was committed to proclaiming the radical Christian gospel of a living Christ, who was executed by the Roman state for opposing its grotesque and violent empire.

The Christian Gospel for Americans is his crowning achievement, a rare marriage of spiritual contemplation and social analysis that brings to life Jesus and the Hebrew prophets for contemporary Americans.  It is an accessible systematic theology of freedom and creativity that will inspire hope in all caring souls to resist the demonic American Empire. It is an intellectual tour de force, a kaleidoscopic “constructive postmodern” example of process theology at its finest, drawing on the work of Alfred North Whitehead, John Cobb, and Henri Bergson, among others.  Rarely does such a book come along to roil the waters of religious and social complacency.

Times change.  Once in the United States of America, theologians were fêted as important social critics and considered worth heeding.  Two of the most famous in the mid-to-late twentieth century were Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich.  Both appeared on the cover of Henry Luce’s Time Magazine, and Barack Obama was later fond of referring to Niebuhr to justify his violent policies to extend the American empire.  Obama knew his audience, for Niebuhr was noted for a neo-orthodox theological perspective that encouraged “political realism,” popular among the elites who had created and extended the American empire.  He was a friend of the rich and famous ruling establishment.  His critiques of immoral government practices were always offered within the parameters of official acceptance, conservative and liberal.  He was the establishment’s theologian, lionized by the empire-touting Time magazine as the theologian who really understood politics and how God figured into the necessary realism of American foreign policy.

To his great credit, David Ray Griffin is a brave theologian who will never appear on the cover of Time magazine, for his message is more in keeping with the Biblical prophets who warned the people that their government’s behavior is an abomination in the eyes of God, and if they do not dissent and reject such policies, they will be rejecting the God they say they worship.  In true prophetic style, he connects the dots to say: look at what you are doing, slaughtering innocents everywhere as you worship your golden calf. When the Hebrew prophets “indict Israel or Judah,” he writes, “the indictments are not directed against the people in general, but against the elites who were responsible for creating and maintaining the structures of domination and exploitation.’”

The American elites surely do not wish to publicize a man who says such things; better to ignore him or have their mouthpieces call him a “conspiracy nut,” which of course they have.

Griffin’s book is rooted in the basic fact that “Christian theology is necessarily at once theological and political” since Jesus was a radical rebel leader who opposed the demonic power of the Roman Empire and was executed for that reason.  This is so fundamental, yet it has been papered over, especially since the age of Constantine in the fourth century.  Griffin says:

For one thing, the complete opposition of Jesus and his followers to the imperialism of their day has been largely hidden to readers of the gospels.  The main reason for this hiddenness is that the authors of the gospels, seeking to present the message of Jesus so as to serve the needs of the Christian movement 40 or more years after the death of Jesus, sought to make it appear that Jesus’ message was directed against, and evoked opposition from, ‘the Jews,’ rather than the Roman Empire and those who collaborated with it….This failure of later Christians to understand the beginnings of their religion has contributed to what is arguably the most fateful reversal in history: Christianity, in origin probably the most explicitly anti-imperial religious movement ever, has since the fourth century provided the religious foundation for the growth of empires even more extensive than Rome’s….He [Jesus] was crucified by the Roman Empire – not by ‘the Jews’ – because he was perceived as a threat by Roman authorities.  Given the nature of Jesus’ life and his death, American Christians today should be anti-imperialistic, rather than basking in the pleasures of Empire, as did the Roman populace two thousand years ago – ignoring the terror and poverty brought to other provinces by Roman rule.

This is the foundation upon which Griffin builds his gospel for Americans.

His theological method is liberal, while his content is conservative.  This means that to establish truth by appealing to authority is rejected as a method.  It is only evidence and reason that he relies on to establish the truth of various doctrines.  Therefore science and modern scholarship are important and must always be considered.  To claim something is true because of a deposit of divine revelation that you can read in the Bible is an old way of doing theology and Griffin rejects that method.  In fact, his understanding of revelation is an ongoing process, insight as part of the creative and spontaneous freedom of living in openness to God’s spirit.

His theology is conservative in content because it rests upon certain primary doctrines of the Christian gospel (good news) “such as God’s creation of the world, God as actively present in it, and divinely-given life after death.”

For those unfamiliar with modern theological thinking that is not bound by a particular church’s teachings and respects science, Griffin’s method might at first seem unusual.  As one trained in theology and philosophy, I can assure you it is not.  His process of reasoning accords with the best scholarship in those disciplines, but one has to take the time to enter into its postmodern worldview that positions many of the conundrums of traditional religious thinking within a new framework, one that Griffin calls postmodern naturalism where “divine influence must be understood as part of the normal cause-effect relations, not an exception to them.”

Griffin takes on many of the great issues that have perplexed inquiring minds: the problem of evil, creation, truth, human freedom, God’s so-called omnipotence, miracles, life after death, out-of-body experiences, etc. Whether you end up agreeing with all his reasoning or not, you will be challenged to assess your thinking.  I find his systematic theological analyses to be brilliant and always intriguing.

But the point of his systematic theology is to bring us to his analysis of the demonic nature of the American Empire and the need for Christians and people of all faiths to resist it.  In my opinion, his argument for the demonic as a real power in the world, and that the United States is in its grip, is true.  He says:

Can we look at the past century of our world without thinking that the human race must be under the influence of such a power?  The twentieth century was by far the bloodiest century in history, with unprecedented slaughter and genocide, and yet we have taken no steps to overcome the war-system of settling disputes.  Americans created nuclear weapons and then, when we learned how deadly they are, built thousands more, until we had the world wired to be destroyed many times over.  After we learned that a relatively modest exchange of nuclear weapons could initiate a “nuclear winter,” leading to the death of human civilization and other higher forms of life, we still did not abolish them.

He gives the historical background to the American belief in its divine mission, the idea of Manifest Destiny, and the city on the hill nonsense about America being God’s country whose mission was to spread democracy around the world.  He quotes George W. Bush saying, in his state-of-the-union address two months before laying waste to Iraq based on lies, “The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world; it is God’s gift to humanity.”

Melville couldn’t have said it better through the mouth of mad Ahab.  Mad Ahab, mad Bill Clinton, mad George, mad Lyndon Johnson, the list goes on and on.  Madmen all, God’s men in their minds, or perhaps just lying madmen playing with our minds, God be damned.

Griffin lays it all out – Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Vietnam 1954-73, Indonesia 1965, etc.  – all the blood, the massacres, the evil empire doing its nonstop handiwork across the world.

He does, however, omit a crucial element of the demonic at work here in the U.S., as if something is blocking him from recognizing it, some shadow blocking his sight.  It is a strange omission.  It is as if his vision is focused outward on all the evil the American government inflicts on the world, but here in his own house, he cannot see the demonic at work.

He nowhere mentions the American government’s assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and RFK, all martyrs to the unspeakable truth that this country is in the grip of evil killers who will stop at nothing to silence the voices of genuine peacemakers who have opposed the American Empire. Their deaths opened the door to hell on earth for millions of others around the world.

He correctly catalogues the long list of U. S. atrocities, false flag attacks, coup d’états, immoral and endless wars; gives dates; draws a damning picture of a country in the grip of demonic forces intent on savagely killing innocents wherever it can find them.  He shows conclusively that the United States is the Roman Empire updated and outfitted to kill millions with sophisticated weapons and to spread its imperialistic power with evil intent.

He makes an open and shut case that if one wishes to follow the Christian Gospel, one must act in opposition to this evil empire.  But he forgets that the crucifixion is also a domestic affair, and the homegrown rebels must be eliminated first.

Even the wisest of men, such as the David Ray Griffin, have their Achilles heels.

But despite that omission, or maybe because of it since it shows us how flawed we all are, The Christian Gospel for Americans is a brilliant clarion call to action.

Read it.  It will rock your world.  It is gospel.

14 thoughts on “David Ray Griffin’s The Christian Gospel for Americans: A Systematic Theology”

  1. Actually, there doesn’t need to be such a mutually exclusive view of Jesus being killed by “the Jews” (that is, the Jerusalem based establishment) and “the Romans”. The case is well made that these two groups are the Beast (Rome) and the False Prophet (Jerusalem establishment) in the Apocalypse. And whether to the Jewish establishment (who set upon the new sect with a vengeance — witness Saul of Tarsus, for example) or to the Romans (whose persecution had seriously begun by at least the 60’s), the true treason was the claim that neither was Caesar Lord, nor was the Jerusalem establishment serving the (true) Lord, but Jesus was Lord.

    Certainly a revolutionary concept. Not designed to bring down the empire by active rebellion, but certainly by a growing non-compliance with all things not consistent with the confession that Jesus is Lord.

  2. God Always Was

    A Catechism teacher told us when I was about 7 or 8 or 9 years old, during class, prior to the 10:15 a.m. Mass., — said that.

    To a secular mind, that comes as close to any definition I’ve come across to describe or define that, as well as the concept of forever, infinity. . . and by extension, what are the cosmos above and beyond us. . . .

    Reified Christianity, not the only broth creating and perpetuating reified Christians in USA.

    Thus there is a Christian Tradition, of which Griffin shows us, and yet how much of the actual tradition came to be, if any thing, of what in the vernacular, today, is labeled: Christian Tradition?

    That is, is the tradition, now, based — any of it — on its actual foundation; or the reified Christianity?

    The late American scholar and sociologist Barrington Moore, Jr., in his final treatise, titled: Moral Purity and Persecution in History, laid out a theoretical construct in 2000.

    In other words, what he ascribe to a Judaic tradition, more precisely: Hebrew tradition — enforcing Monotheism [that as I understand].

    He wrote that “the invention of monotheism by ancient Hebrew religious authorities was a cruel, world-shaking event. It has to be cruel in the general sense that any group identity is liable to be formed in hostile
    competition with other groups. It was world-shaking in the sense that Christianity, despite the astonishing and dramatic tolerance of Jesus towards fallen women, took over ancient Hebrew vindictive intolerance,
    amplified it, and institutionalized it. In the 18th century, as we shall see, vindictive and persecuting intolerance became secularized. . . .We shall see how gentle people can become bloodthirsty and how mass anger can, with religious sanction, kill large numbers of people–without resort to gas ovens and other technological attainments of the 20th century. . . .”


  3. Thanks for the review – I did not know much about Griffin’s background. Such self-evident omissions as Ed lists – the murders – which in the affair of Martin in particular is particularly telling as that murder is solved and decided by a jury – such omissions seem to be a dog that doesn’t bark… Of course Martin was murdered by the State – they all were

    My Quaker “inner light” flashes red when the dog does not bark… it’s an indication of a hidden agenda and a degree of dishonesty. But of course that’s nice to know…

    The dog that did bark, and bark about the seminal event (which is not 911) is known to few.
    That was the coup of 1963. Read Garrison’s Interview: “Some Unauthorized Comments on the State of the Union” (May 27, 1969) @ kennedysandking dot com. Read through the text of Garrison and ask “When did the coup-junta disband.” Then everything that follows, the Liberty cover-up, all the murders, all comes into an appalling focus.

    I’d like to pose that question to Brother David…at the least the Garrison interview ought to be folded in between the pages of a copy of Griffin’s “Gospel” – as the omission tells me he’s not honest. Dishonesty cannot make a sound basis for a Gospel, can it?

    911 was merely denouement. To say otherwise, even by omission, is to fail in understanding the ways of Power. And of course we are obliged to Speak Truth to Power, are we not?

    The reality may also be found in Marat Sade, a play (Weiss)… I like especially this line: “It is the height of stupidity to claim that men who for a thousand years have had the power to berate us, to fleece us and to oppress us with impunity, will now agree, with good grace, to be our equals.” After the American University speech “they”, it’s obvious, chose to make it two thousands years.

    1. In re the deceptions, one may wish to get a copy (online free pdf) of ARTICLE National Security and Double Government by Michael J. Glennon. CATO also has him in a brief video. The pdf is about 114 pages… It would inform why the History is missing certain events, why the canon is false.

  4. From the article; ““Christian theology is necessarily at once theological and political” since Jesus was a radical rebel leader who opposed the demonic power of the Roman Empire and was executed for that reason.”

    Yehoshua opposed to the evil of the corrupt Religion of Judaism. Making the radical claim that one did not need a ‘Priest’ in order to commune with the Creator. That one did not have to ‘pay’ the priests for the atonement of sin. He was a threat to the very fabric of Jewish Society. It was the Religious Jewish leaders who brought Yehoshua before the Romans demanding they execute him. Pontius Pilate literally washed his hands of Yehoshua’s execution.

    But don’t take my word for it, read the 4 Gospels of the New Testament, I have many times. I wonder if David Ray Griffin has ever read them?

    Matt 27:22-26 (KJV)

    ” Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.

    And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.

    When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

    Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

    Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. ”

    Note: I have used for many years an online tool to study the Bible called ‘BlueLetterBible’, http://www.blueletterbible.org. Excellent tool, especially for access to numerous versions and in particular to dive down into the Greek and Hebrew sources.

    1. This is the kind of narrow, literalist, supercessionist thinking that allowed anti-Semitism to creep into the heart of much of institutional Christianity. Well over a century of modern NT scholarship, beginning with Schweitzer, has shown that Jesus was deeply rooted in his Jewish religion and stood firmly, as Griffin maintains, in its prophetic tradition. As for Barabbas, are you aware that some early versions of Matthew refer to Barabbas as “Jesus Barabbas?” This led Biblical scholar Hyam Maccoby to persuasively suggest that the Jewish crowd at Jesus’ trial was likely calling for the release of Jesus Bar-Abba (Son of Abba), reflecting the unusually intimate name for God that Jesus was known to favor. For me, that’s a most intriguing thought, which better explains the brutally demoralizing message that Pilate sent back to that Jewish crowd…and to all of us who would resist or protest imperial power.

      1. For the record I no longer identify as a Christian. In large part because of a deeper study and understanding of history. Religion is a tool of control, I would argue the oldest organized system of control. It does not exist to feed the spirit but to control it. It is from Religion that government sprang in order for the few to better manage the many. And if you study history you will find religion and government intertwined.

        What is tragic is that Yehoshua’s message of freedom from Religion was turned into a Religion called Christianity. By none other than the Emperor’s of Rome. Yehoshua’s message of how to live is clearly stated in the 4 Gospels. Though I no longer identify as Christian, I live my life closer to what is in the Gospels now than ever in my 51 years.

        As for the Jews. Their record of behavior over time speaks for itself. For those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

  5. “Scholarship” has been exalted to the detriment of faith in God’s word – the Authorized KJV. “The words of the LORD are pure words…” – not “were pure”. People better off reading it for themselves.

    1. Les, Thanks for your comment and the link. Readers should go and read it and see what they think. Pax, Ed

    2. Having read your link (Dr. Olson’s explanation of why he rejects process theology) on the same day I finished re-reading Griffin’s “Systematic Theology,” let me respectfully invite you to go ahead and read Griffin’s book. It addresses many, though not all, of Olson’s criticisms, aligns process theology more closely with core Christian teachings, and provides ample food for theological thought directly bearing on social, political, and economic issues. I, like Olson, prefer Moltmann’s self-limiting God to the rejection of creation ex nihilo, but either position winds up in the same place–with a God who is not a puppeteer but rather experiences creation (especially the suffering of its creatures, the fall of the sparrow) and influences what can be influenced toward the good, the true, and the beautiful. Metaphysics aside, may it be so.

      1. I’m glad for such an exchange of views. I agree with Newton re Moltmann. I too prefer his position re creation. And I think David Griffin does address many of Olson’s criticisms, and does it well. Lastly, Newton is right: both end up in the same position with a God who is not a puppeteer, which is the important point. Pax, Ed

  6. Though no longer a believer myself my moral conscience is deeply shaped from the time of my youth by the christian message you describe in Griffin’s work, along with a conglomeration of Taoism, existentialism and commonly held Indigenous perspectives about the world and our place in it. Only a few days ago my wife Annie and I spent time with someone I had just met and we engaged in some very deep conversations about the nature of American empire. Although he had no background whatsoever in these issues, he was very open to me sharing information without reacting with knee-jerk defensiveness and acknowledged that he has simply spent his life “thinking we’re the good guys” when it comes to America’s place in the world. The fact that he is a christian makes this book seem like – forgive me – a god send. I truly think this might be the perfect gift for someone who identifies as christian yet has little to no information or understanding of America’s role in the world given the effectiveness of our mass propaganda systems. I’ve read much of what Griffin’s has written on 9/11 and I think the world of him, viewing him as a courageous voice for truth and peace. Thanks Ed.

    1. Thanks, Gary. Griffin’s theology is actually consonant with existentialism and Taoism in many ways. It is not what most readers would probably think theology is, a simple defense of a particular religion. Pax, Ed

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