The End Times President?
My last post, regarding the specifics of the Presidents religious beliefs received this comment from an anonymous Canadian reader:
(Note: I encourage anonymous posting for those wishing to avoid the registration page)
"Well, that may be true but I'm not sure how much we should focus on his religious beliefs. We know they exist and should have no place on the political platform. I'd be willing to bet he knows as little about religion as he does politics. Nevertheless, world wide, religion is often used to cover up agendas where substance is lacking. The Bush dynasty (Papa, daddy and George) is one of very dirty money and it is the politics of greed that fuels their cause. Right now religion is is the suit, but a business man will play whatever role provides the means."
It is a good question and one that deserves an answer. At any other time, I'm pretty sure I would have the same opinion and question. Having some knowledge of the role religion has historically played in American politics, one simply accepts that religion is always part of the political mix.
But, some of the specific tenets of this presidents beliefs, and the nature of the Presidents personal commitment to those beliefs, has brought religion into the White House, into government policy, and into the election in a way that is very new, and I believe very dangerous for America.
Jimmy Carter was, arguably, the most religious president of modern times. In a recent interview on NPR's Fresh Air, Carter spoke about the many hours he spent in prayer, every day he was in the White House. Carters family were strong supporters of the Southern Baptist Convention for generations. Yet there is not one example of Carter attempting to bring government policy in line with specific tenets and goals of the Southern Baptist Church. No example of Carter attempting to interject his Christian beliefs into the classroom, the courts, or the federal Government.
It is one thing when the character of the man making decisions is informed by his religious commitment. It is an entirely different matter when the decisions are informed by the strictures of one mans' religion.
A president is elected to further and protect the interests of it's citizens, not to further the goals of his religious sect or denomination. Our president is completely blind to this idea and is utterly contemptuous of iron clad constitutional restrictions regarding the relationship of Church and State.
The key concept, in the constitution, is separation. Church and State are a poisonous mix. The founders of the country recognized the dangers inherent in giving religion a place in the government. Today, the potential wreckers of that same country ignore the wisdom of the founders, to everyone's peril.
George is not an old line, mainstream Christian. He is a relatively recent convert to a Christian/political cult that was born in the early seventies. A little old style Christianity, a whole lot of contemporary 'end Times' theology, coated, flavored , and given purpose by rightwing political and social values, this new brand of American Christianity is very much a political animal and very little of the spiritual is in evidence.
Officially, President Bush is a member of the United Methodist Congregation, a mainstream tradition. But he is a Methodist, in name only. Bush does not attend a Methodist Church on Sundays nor has he mentioned the church in any public address. Although he mentions his religious beliefs with alarming regularity.
Mr. Bush' core beliefs have much more in common with the extreme ideology expressed by Jerry Falwell and his brand of extreme right-wing evangelicals than with the beliefs and positions of the United Methodists.
While George Bush is ever the politician and has been careful not to identify himself with any specific trend, his policies and public statements have moved him well outside mainstream Christianity which tends to be more liberal on issues from abortion to gay rights, than President Bush.
The organized Christian-Right certainly see Bush as one of their own. He is seen as 'their guy' in the White House. When the organizers of the Republican Convention chose to play down the religious side of their message, for fear of alienating the 'undecided' voters of America, very few evangelical members of the Christian-Right were concerned. Most seemed to understand the political gambit being played and expressed confidence that what ever was said at the convention, the man in the White House carried their banner.
The few dissenters were mostly from old line fundamentalists, who share many beliefs with, but do not share the political drive and savvy of the evangelicals.
I perceive two areas in which the presidents' particular religious beliefs become issues of public concern:
One. The contemporary evangelical-right sees itself with a worldly mission of spreading their brand of Jesus belief through every means possible. Every committed believer is expected to spread their gospel through every means and office available to them.
In his time in office, George Bush has conspicuously rewarded his Christian-Right supporters via his so called "faith initiatives' in which millions of dollars of social service and education funds are injected directly into church groups.
I have written about some of the details of the successful White House effort to stifle any legitimate voice advocating comprehensive sexual education. ( Those posts can be found in the August Archives) Real sex education has been removed from American schools in favor of ineffective morality based Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage programs.
Bush has systematically opened the doors of government to 'faith groups' while freezing out every voice for science based sex education and every organization committed to AIDS and HIV reduction thru dissemination of safer sex information.
The CDC is no longer interested in prevention. Abstinence is the official fairy tale excuse for a colossal public health failure of purely ideological origin.
That ideology is found in the evangelical belief that America, whether it likes it or not, is being prepared for a day of judgment by a particularly sectarian and warlike version of Jesus. Jesus the avenging, fag hating, Arab hating, War God come to smite all but his chosen few. Checking the bumper stickers, making a list.
Two. Evangelicals of most persuasions believe that the end of the human world is at hand. Most are not counting the days or taking buy-outs on their pension plans but there is general consensus that many of the preconditions for the return of Christ are met. The most important precondition will be achieved when Israel reclaims its' Old Testament boundaries and rebuilds the temple of Solomon, in Old Jerusalem.
The Christian Zionists have a very strong lobby in Washington and access to the White house. The Christian Zionist ideology has tremendous sway within contemporary evangelical Christianity. Put as simply as possible, the Christian Zionists believe that the support and defense of Israel, regardless of all other interests or concerns, is a necessary part of fulfilling the conditions for the mother of all wars and the appearance of Christ on earth.
Christian Zionism believes that a US foreign policy built around the protection and support of Israel is required by God if a nation is to be judged righteous.
I want to know, and I think the American people have a right to know what pre-drawn religious schematic is guiding the president and his like minded advisors and decision makers. I have to wonder why this president surrounds himself exclusively with men of similar religious purpose, to the exclusion of all other voices even within the Republican party.
I want to know what role his personal religious convictions play in the irrational, counter-productive Iraq war and the draining demoralizing occupation that has turned Iraq into a fertile terrorist breeding ground.
I have not forgotten corporate forces, the desire to 'own' the oil, or the billions to be made in 'rebuilding' the country. That's Cheney's department and Mr. Cheney is a very busy and powerful vice president.
If the Christian-Right were not useful to the National Heritage Foundation and other neo-conservative corporate interests, their money and influence would simply dry up. Many would be working real jobs again or back to hawking 'prayer cloths' and begging for faith offerings on late night local radio in Bugtussle Alabama. Most would still vote for Bush.
Our president appears to work for two masters; corporate wealth and power on one hand and the evangelist shaped God that has appointed and led him to the presidency of the United States.
I want to know what makes this cut out of a man tick. This shady shaky character with the hidden past, his terrible reign as a 'Bush' governor, .and his plans and motivations that are never completely on the table.
The aggressive haphazard way he has handled the war, grossly over extending our seriously undersupplied troops, indicates that he and his advisors are operating with an ideological map that does not reflect the actual terrain. History would indicate a catastrophe in the making.
The president keeps telling everyone to trust him. Yet he does not trust himself enough to say right out why he is so dead certain that standing firm on this disaster course, in an ever worsening situation, will lead to ultimate victory in this war on terror. Or is it war on Iraq, or Syria, perhaps Iran is next?
God may have told George but George ain't telling anyone except his ever tightening circle of trusted, like minded advisors.