In 1493, God’s official head honcho on Earth, released a Papal decree, which was called The Doctrine of Discovery. This was the green light from the Pope that stealing, killing, and enslaving non-Christians was okey dokey. That explorers and settlers could do whatever they thought necessary to conquer and colonise the new world. Christopher Colombus had just discovered the Americas the year before and was wanting the OK from on high. Importantly this was prior to the split between Protestants and Catholics. This was the undisputed stamp of approval from the highest authority in the European realm.
“The 1493 Papal decree aimed to justify Christian European explorers’ claims on land and waterways they allegedly discovered, and promote Christian domination and superiority, and has been applied in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas. If an explorer proclaims to have discovered the land in the name of a Christian European monarch, plants a flag in its soil, and reports his “discovery” to the European rulers and returns to occupy it, the land is now his, even if someone else was there first. Should the original occupants insist on claiming that the land is theirs, the “discoverer” can label the occupants’ way of being on the land inadequate according to European standards. This ideology supported the dehumanization of those living on the land and their dispossession, murder, and forced assimilation. The Doctrine fueled white supremacy insofar as white European settlers claimed they were instruments of divine design and possessed cultural superiority.”
Racism’s Religious Doctrine
“Nearly 500 years after papal decrees were used to rationalize Europe’s colonial conquests, the Vatican repudiated those decrees on Thursday, saying the “Doctrine of Discovery” that was used to justify snuffing out Indigenous people’s culture and livelihoods is not part of the Catholic faith.”
The Church’s Appalling Record
I do not know any other organisation or entity, which has done so many God awful things and still carries on unashamedly. Hundreds of thousands of children have been sexually abused by paedophile priests, brothers, educators, and ministers of religion around the globe. Still, the Church goes on in its many forms. Millions of illegitimate babies have been stolen, given away and sold by representatives of churches around the world. Still, it is business as usual for the Church. God knows how many women have been sexually abused, secretly married, and treated disrespectfully by Catholic priests and their kind across the globe. No matter, the Church keeps on pretending it is a moral arbiter internationally. This is the insane world we live in.
The death toll from the Doctrine of Discovery would be in the billions!
Religion & Racism
The irrationality of religious belief, of faith, is the equal of the irrationality of racism and white supremacy. The two are bosom buddies in fact. You cannot separate these twisted branches, as they are both from the same tree. The Ku Klux Klan was first and foremost a religious organisation. These hooded creeps saw themselves as Knights of a holy order, like crusaders. They despised blacks, Asians, Mexicans, Jews, and Catholics – as they were a Protestant brotherhood. White, Anglo Saxon men who hid their faces like the cowards they truly were. These foul folk lynched and burnt blacks all over America. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford funded a movie industry which celebrated the Klan early in the 20C. America saw itself as a superpower for white Protestants for much of its history. It began by killing Indians and stealing their land and resources. It worked the land by enslaving Africans imported for the purpose. It built its economy on the back of this massive industrialised slavery. It was not just the south involved in this, as the banks everywhere bought and sold bonds based on slavery.
Slavery funded the technology essential to the industrial revolution in Europe and North America. Nobody talks about this these days, as it has been conveniently forgotten.
“As slave labor camps spread throughout the South, production surged. By 1831, the country was delivering nearly half the world’s raw cotton crop, with 350 million pounds picked that year. Just four years later, it harvested 500 million pounds. Southern white elites grew rich, as did their counterparts in the North, who erected textile mills to form, in the words of the Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner, an “unhallowed alliance between the lords of the lash and the lords of the loom.” The large-scale cultivation of cotton hastened the invention of the factory, an institution that propelled the Industrial Revolution and changed the course of history. In 1810, there were 87,000 cotton spindles in America. Fifty years later, there were five million. Slavery, wrote one of its defenders in De Bow’s Review, a widely read agricultural magazine, was the “nursing mother of the prosperity of the North.” Cotton planters, millers and consumers were fashioning a new economy, one that was global in scope and required the movement of capital, labor and products across long distances. In other words, they were fashioning a capitalist economy. “The beating heart of this new system,” Beckert writes, “was slavery.” “
Slavery & Racism
Does anyone really think that you can invade, murder, steal, and enslave for centuries and then when you stop everything will be hunky dory? America fought a Civil War over this issue and it still took another seven decades for peonage slavery in the south to cease in 1942. This stuff is not in the distant past. The exploitation continues to this day via the GOP and its gerrymanders disenfranchising African Americans. The Republican Party has hung onto power in the southern states via political trickery and chicanery.
Trump supporters believe that they are entitled to rule America via this Doctrine of Discovery.
White Christian Nationalists
Many of these white Christian nationalists believe they are more American than anybody else. Schools in the south were not desegregated racially until the 1970s and 1980s. They may have lost the Civil War militarily but many observers think that they have ended up with the better bargain ever since. The electoral college system still rewards them despite the fact they have less Americans living in their red states. Trump has never received more votes in the Presidential race than his opponent. Yet he won the 2016 election. The GOP has clung onto power via this unfair voting system in many instances. Trump, like many white Americans, does not like to lose. He and they will do whatever it takes to win or retain power. The rule of law is not something they abide by unless they are holding the whip handle.
Guns & Racists
There are way too many guns in America. Many of the gun manufacturers are based in the south. Big business controls Congress and thus the nation is hamstrung over gun deaths. There is a massacre of children just about every week in the US. Big business has bought the Congressmen and women and the Senate. White Christian nationalists support the existing lax gun laws. Indeed, many of them are armed to the teeth themselves. A majority of ordinary Americans support much more stringent gun laws but nothing ever changes on this score. Guns and racism and religious intolerance toward Jews are a real problem in America. The Doctrine of Discovery sits in the bottom drawer of white Christian nationalists.
In his books The End of White Christian America and White Too Long, Robert P Jones has steadily built the argument that this movement is animated by shifting demographics. He points out that in 2008, when Barack Obama, the first Black president, was elected, 54% of Americans identified as white and Christian. By the end of Obama’s second term, that share had fallen to 47%. Today it is 42%.
“It’s just a continued slide,” says Jones, 55, sitting at his desk at the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), where he is founder and president, in downtown Washington. “Most importantly, moving from majority to decisively non-majority white and Christian has set off a kind of ‘freak out’ moment among many white Christians.”
In The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future, effectively the third book in an unofficial trilogy, Jones traces the roots of Trumpism back more than 500 years.
Robert Sudha Hamilton is the author of Money Matters: Navigating Credit, Debt, and Financial Freedom.