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20 October 2004

Bush’s Christianity, redux

This piece, by Ayelish McGarvey, perfectly explains why Bush’s faith proves so frustrating.

This is a huge mistake, because when judged by
his deeds, an entirely different picture emerges: Bush does not
demonstrate a life of faith by his actions, and neither Methodists,
evangelicals, nor fundamentalists can rightly call him brother. In
fact, the available evidence raises serious questions about whether
Bush is really a Christian at all.

Ironically for a man who once
famously named Jesus as his favorite political philosopher during a
campaign debate, it is remarkably difficult to pinpoint a single
instance wherein Christian teaching has won out over partisan politics
in the Bush White House. Though Bush easily weaves Christian language
and themes into his political communication, empty religious jargon is
no substitute for a bedrock faith. Even little children in Sunday
school know that Jesus taught his disciples to live according to his
commandments, not simply to talk about them a lot. In Bush’s case,
faith without works is not just dead faith — it’s evangelical agitprop….

Judging him on his record, George W. Bush’s
spiritual transformation seems to have consisted of little more than
staying on the wagon, with Jesus as a sort of talismanic Alcoholics
Anonymous counselor. Bush came to his faith through a small group
program created by Community Bible Study, which de-emphasizes sin and
resembles a sort of Jesus-centered therapy session.

But sin is crucial to Christianity.
To be born again, a seeker must painfully acknowledge his or her innate
sinfulness, and then turn away from it completely….

From what I know, McGarvey professes an
evangelical Christian faith, so he’s quite adequately positioned to
make a criticism of the president on thiese grounds.  Furthermore,

Just who will boldly hold the president
accountable to Scripture? Sycophantic religious conservatives are
heavily invested in politics; they dare not rock the boat. Religious
liberals are cast aside as partisan. And as Amy Sullivan noted recently
in The New Republic, Bush does not regularly attend church —
he doesn’t even have a pastor or fellow congregants to keep him on the
straight and narrow.

I’e wondered about this for years.  Bill Clinton, the anti-moral
exemplar of the Republican Party, at least went to church pretty
regularly, if not every week, then three of four weeks.

I’ve heard the argument from a variety of people, including some of the
members of the Red Sox watching party I’m at, have noted that it’s hard
for the President to go to church every Sunday, with all the security
requirements and such.  But one could certainly have a pastor in
on a regular basis.  And with the Bush family’s vaunted ties to
Billy Graham, it shouldn’t be hard to have your pick.

On a more serious note, however, it’s a fairly serious thing that Bush
makes so much of his faith but does not attend a regular service. 
One of the key commitments of Christianity is that the believer does
not individually engage with God and the world; the community is a key
aspect of the Christian experience.  Even Protestant individualism
still acknowledges the key role for the corporate body of believers;
without the Church, “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” (a line of the
creed that even evangelicals sunscibe to, if not in the same fashion as
the Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Anglicans), without the corporate
engagement with God, the believer cannot grow to his or her fullest
measure in the faith.

We’ve heard quite a bit of late on Bush not being able to admit his
mistakes, about him not taking advice outside the small coterie of is
“war council”, about his stubbornness.  And what we know about
George Bush’s religious conviction, as evidenced by his unwillingness
to engage with his fellow believers (sic)* in the hard process of
relating to God, demonstrates this further.  Bush does not think
he has any need to engage with other believers because I don’t think he
understands that God is greater than the flexible leanings of his own
conscience.  He doesn’t understand that “conscience” can be wrong
and that the corporate body exists to ensure that conscience does not
go off too far in the wrong direction.

Which I guess shouldn’t be surprising.  From what we know about
Bush’s politics, it’s not surprising to see that the purportedly deeper
beliefs of his life betray an amazing hubris — the very opposite of
what all faiths teach that true faith consists of.  Humility, not
hubris, lies at the core of Christianity, which indicates that George
W. Bush lies quite far from the heart, soul, and core of the faith he
so vociferously claims.

* A common trope in my evangelical youth was to tell people about their
faith, “You are sincere in what you believe, but you’re sincerely
wrong.”  I think GWB is sincere about what he thinks he believes,
but I wonder if it’s orthodox Christian faith.

Posted in Rayleejun on 20 October 2004 at 11:25 am by Nate

Red Sox Religion

A mix of Calvinism and paganism.

Posted in OnTheWeb on 20 October 2004 at 11:07 am by Nate