Cluster Bombs for Jesus: The Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit 

The demonization of Jesus by the Pharisees (in Matthew 12:23-29) will ultimately result in his crucifixion. This, combined with Jesus’ teaching, exposes their blind hatred, their taking good for evil and evil for good. He exposes the murderous scapegoating mechanism, which is the true heart of their religion. They have confused God and the devil, such that they would destroy God incarnate in order to save their nation, religion, and themselves. Killing God to save the nation (Israel, in this instance), is the satanic strategy and law of the universe which Christ exposes. The Creator submits himself to the law of his creatures, submitting himself to murder – their salvation system. The strategy is evident in the nuclear strategy (mutually assured destruction), entailing the destruction of the world (in nuclear winter) in order to win a nuclear war, pointing to the law of blind hatred, demonization, and scapegoating always at work in war. Every war is the result of “ultimate injustice,” a desperate “necessity” in which there are no options and all out destruction is the only alternative. The enemy has the power to destroy the nation. They have nuclear plans, weapons of mass destruction, and the devil himself is on their side. The demonized other is beyond the pale – with negotiation or forgiveness unimaginable. The positing of satan – the demonized other – is the satan, which makes forgiveness or empathy or balance impossible.

In the eyes of the Pharisees, Jesus is an evil enemy devoid of the good. His movement must be destroyed. He is the devil, Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Stalin, Mussolini, and Putin, or the equivalent of every demonized devil, who must be obliterated. However, the charge against Jesus is not yet the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The age of the Spirit is ushered in by the Messiah, inclusive of His rejection and death, exposing once and for all the blind hatred that would kill him and for which he pronounced forgiveness on the cross.

Demonizing Jesus, calling the good evil, and glorifying evil as good, allows no room for the work of life-giving power of the Holy Spirit or forgiveness, but this is not the blasphemy to which Jesus refers. The attack on the Son of Man is not itself the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, as demonizing Jesus, calling the good evil and evil good, is not a peculiar problem of Pharisees or Romans. Demonization is the universal human problem giving rise to violence and war. This is the law and organizing principle of the world which killed Jesus, and this is the mechanism Jesus exposes.

The mechanism of blind hatred, of scapegoating, and sacralizing murder, are forever exposed by the work of Christ, which ushers in the age of the Spirit. The age of the Spirit, or the age of forgiveness, are made possible by the work of Christ. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is demonization and scapegoating in spite of Christ’s work. The forgiveness of God is contingent (as outlined in the Lord’s Prayer) upon forgiveness (may I be forgiven as I forgive), most especially of the enemy or the unforgiveable other. Demonization of the enemy, in the age of the Spirit, is the unforgivable sin as it cancels the possibility of forgiveness. The unforgiveable sin, in other words, is projecting the impossibility of forgiveness upon the demonized other.

In church history, the demonization of Jesus is soon reversed, so that the very motive that killed Jesus is turned on the Jews during the crusades. The contagion of violence that killed Jesus, in the ultimate rejection of the Gospel, is taken up in the name of Jesus. Could it be that among the first to commit the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit were those Christians who trampled on the cross of Christ by demonizing and murdering Jews in the name of Jesus? Rather than obeying the gospel command (the forgiveness of the enemy demonstrated and instituted by Christ), Christians, in their antisemitism, cancelled the very heart of the gospel. They are among those who go on “sinning willfully.”

As the writer of Hebrews indicates, it is one thing to set aside the Law of Moses but “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” The next verse indicates clearly, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Heb 10:28–30). The unwillingness to suffer, the seeking of vengeance (not allowing for God’s vengeance), the demonization of the other, all in the name of Jesus, tramples upon the cross and the Spirit of grace it provides.

This is frightening at a personal level, as it is easy to demonize the enemy, but it is also frightening at a corporate level, as the contagion of demonization sweeps over people and there seems to be no resisting it. The gospel is the singular point of resistance, the singular place where we should be able to stand back from the hysteria of scapegoating and recognize that all-out violence, that which killed the savior, is the blasphemy from which he would save.

The problem or impossibility of Christian nationalism, is that nations work according to the logic of the scapegoat while Christianity is the exposure of the scapegoating mechanism. The nation state depends upon demonization, while Christianity is premised upon its defeat. The lie of demonization, apart from its exposure by Christ, never sinks in. The projection of evil necessary for war, is the lie which is only incrementally exposed, apart from Christ.

It is obvious that the various military fiascoes of the United States, in Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine are built on a hollow demonization. Evil must be destroyed no matter the cost, or at least this is the narrative which justifies yet one more war. To protect human rights and establish international order there is no end to the human rights violations and chaos required. The justifications are lies, but few seem to notice. Germany had no nuclear weapon, the Japanese were set to surrender before the nuclear holocaust unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the communist domino effect was a hoax, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Noriega was an American puppet, etc. etc. etc.  The past justifications now stand exposed, and the lying prognoses of easy victory are set aside as the next demon arises. The hoax is forgotten, and pure evil is projected on the next enemy. As Chris Hedges argues, “The U.S. public has been conned, once again, into pouring billions into another endless war. They lied about Afghanistan. They lied about Iraq. And they are lying about Ukraine.”[1]

Yes, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a war crime, but have we forgotten it was provoked by NATO expansion and by the United States backing of the 2014 “Maidan” coup? Could it be, as Hedges argues, that the war in Ukraine is a proxy war serving U.S. interests? “It enriches the weapons manufacturers, weakens the Russian military and isolates Russia from Europe. What happens to Ukraine is irrelevant.” Hedges concludes, “The war will only be solved through negotiations that allow ethnic Russians in Ukraine to have autonomy and Moscow’s protection, as well as Ukrainian neutrality, which means the country cannot join NATO. The longer these negotiations are delayed the more Ukrainians will suffer and die. Their cities and infrastructure will continue to be pounded into rubble.[2]

Indeed, negotiation is the only possible outcome, short of Ukrainian absorption by Russia, yet the United States may reap benefits in resisting the inevitable. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell admitted as much: “First, equipping our friends on the front lines to defend themselves is a far cheaper way — in both dollars and American lives — to degrade Russia’s ability to threaten the United States.” Hedges makes the case that the Ukrainian war is not without vested U.S. financial interests, as “most of the money that’s been appropriated for Ukraine security assistance doesn’t actually go to Ukraine. It gets invested in American defense manufacturing. It funds new weapons and munitions for the U.S. armed forces to replace the older material we have provided to Ukraine. Let me be clear: this assistance means more jobs for American workers and newer weapons for American servicemembers.”[3]

In the Clint Eastwood movie Unforgiven, the old gunslinger is familiar with the sort of demonization that has had to occur to give rise to murderous impulses, but he needs the money. He recognizes the humanity of his victims, and his own cold-blooded willingness to kill is made obvious. Forgiveness is neither given nor a possibility in this black and white world, yet the entire edifice is exposed as a lie, in this most unwestern of westerns.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has taken on the aura of a white hatted good guy, but is his banning of eleven opposition parties justified, or is his allowing of fascists and right-wing militias to flourish truly serving democracy? Is it even possible to question his saintliness or to question the goodness of Ukraine? Hedges raises the questions,

Why did the Ukrainian parliament revoke the official use of minority languages, including Russian, three days after the 2014 coup? How do we rationalize the eight years of warfare against ethnic Russians in the Donbass region before the Russian invasion in Feb. 2022? How do we explain the killing of over 14,200 people and the 1.5 million people who were displaced, before Russia’s invasion took place last year? How do we deal with the anti-Russian purges and arrests of supposed “fifth columnists” sweeping through Ukraine, given that 30 percent of Ukraine’s inhabitants are Russian speakers? How do we respond to the neo-Nazi groups supported by Zelenskyy’s government that harass and attack the LGBT community, the Roma population, anti-fascist protests and threaten city council members, media outlets, artists and foreign students? How can we countenance the decision by the U.S and its Western allies to block negotiations with Russia to end the war, despite Kyiv and Moscow apparently being on the verge of negotiating a peace treaty?[4]

What becomes obvious, is the bad guys may not be as demonic or the good guys as saintly as there black and white hats indicate. Apart from the necessities imposed by scapegoating, the necessary divisions of one kingdom against another as the logic of this world, the need for enemies might be exposed for what it is. War requires demonization; thus demonization and scapegoating are required for nation building. Where an enemy is lacking one must be created.

If Russia did not want to be the enemy, Russia would be forced to become the enemy. The pimps of war recruited former Soviet republics into NATO by painting Russia as a threat. Countries that joined NATO, which now include Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, reconfigured their militaries, often through tens of millions in western loans, to become compatible with NATO military hardware. This made the weapons manufacturers billions in profits.[5]  

On Friday, the Biden administration announced it would start delivering cluster bombs to Ukraine. Declared weapons of mass destruction and outlawed by 123 nations – including all of America’s allies – cluster bombs are the short-term equivalent of all out warfare, in which blind destruction of the enemy boomerangs back to kill noncombatants. The bomblets are notorious for producing duds, or the equivalent of small, unexploded grenades which can lie around for years or decades before someone – very often a child, spots the brightly colored objects and sets them off. [6] The weapons pose a severe and lingering risk to noncombatants, having killed or injured an estimated 56,000 to 86,000 civilians since World War II. The Nazi developed weapon, was heavily deployed by the United States in Vietnam, where in an eight-year period the Air Force dropped some 350 million bomblets, which accounted for some 75-90% of American casualties (early in the war) at the hands of the Viet Cong, as recovered duds provided their primary source for explosive devices.[7]

One might suspect, with Hedges, that it is the cabal at the center of the military-industrial-complex that keeps the U.S. engaged in endless conflicts. He claims it is the “pimps of war who orchestrate these military fiascos” and that they “migrate from administration to administration.”[8] While there may indeed by these Dr. Strangeloves, plotting continual war and potentially if not inevitably set to ignite the war which will end civilization, I presume there is a more sinister force at work, a force so powerful as to be the guiding logic organizing human civilization.

The grand tragedy is that this force uncovered and defeated by Christ is thought to be in the service of the good. Cluster bombs, weapons of mass destruction, and ultimately nuclear weapons, may be called for so as to defeat the enemy. It may be that only through final war and world destruction that the battle can be won. This is the lie being posed. Apart from the Gospel, the lie of scapegoating, demonization, violence, and war, are the only alternative. The necessity of violence is only countered in Christ who has defeated and exposed the lie from the Father of Lies.  

[1] Chris Hedges, “They Lied About Afghanistan. They Lied About Iraq. And They Are Lying About Ukraine,” <> July 2, 2023

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] The Editorial Board, “The Flawed Moral Logic of Sending Cluster Munitions to Ukraine,” The New York Times (July 10, 2023)

[7] John Ismay, “America’s Dark History of Killing Its Own Troops With Cluster Munitions,” New York Times (Dec., 4, 2019).

[8] Hedges, Ibid.

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Author: Paul Axton

Paul V. Axton spent 30 years in higher education teaching theology, philosophy, and Bible. Paul’s Ph.D. work and book bring together biblical and psychoanalytic understandings of peace and the blog, podcast, and PBI are shaped by this emphasis.

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