Keeping the Faith

1“Thank you, and may God bless America.”

2The words and their resultant applause still rang in George W. Bush’s ears. It had been a good speech — a complimentary mix of firebrand rhetoric and heartfelt assurances. 3There were times during the State of the Union, in fact, that he felt less a leader than prophet saying such things.

4Criticism had come to him to test him that day, though. Anti-Americans asked, “Is it lawful for a President to wage war for any and every reason?”

5“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the poll booth the Voter ˜made him a mandate’? I say for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his military, and they will become just flesh. 6So they are no longer — what I have separated, do not bring together.”

7“Why then,” they asked, “did the Founding Fathers command that a Congress give the declaration of war? Why did they ensure freedoms you erode?”

8Bush replied, “Jefferson permitted it because his loyalties were firm. But it is not this way now. 9I tell you that anyone who believes we are not at risk for terror, or casts doubt on their leaders shameful actions commits treason.”

10And this quieted the critics.

11So it was the following day that the President left the comforts of the White House and went into the region of the Washington Hilton & Towers on the other side of the Beltway. 12Large crowds followed him, and he met with them there for the National Prayer Breakfast, and he healed them there.

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“For half a century now, the National Prayer Breakfast has been a symbol of the vital place of faith in the life of our nation,” Bush said on February 3rd to the annual banquet’s congregation. “You’ve reminded generations of leaders of a purpose and a power greater than their own. In times of calm, and in times of crisis, you’ve called us to prayer.”

It’s interesting to listen President Bush devote a speech to his faith, particularly when it contradicts his policies. I don’t question that Bush believes in his particular brand of Christianity. I do question, however, his commitment to behaving as Jesus himself would.

Bush has launched pre-emptive war against his neighbors. He has imperiled the world through unilateral aggression toward Middle East nations and left the poor of his nation holding the bill. As he prepares to gut Social Security, one of the few social programs that keeps the lower and middle classes together, he continues to lead with fear, lies, and intimidation. That kind of governing doesn’t gel with someone who supposedly believes the United States should be open to God’s priorities.

It seems redundant to say so, but Jesus sheltered, loved and defended the poor while condemning the arrogant Pharisees who manipulated God’s laws for their own benefit. He preached peace, tolerance and love and demanded forgiveness and acceptance in the face of wrongdoing.

A believer of Christ adheres to these principles and applies them as the basis of governance if their government is theocratic. The United States, however, is not. It is a nation beholden to its constituents, not God.

Do I personally have a problem with using Christ’s teachings as a moral base in our society? Absolutely not — I think if we all cared a little more about one another and a lot less about forcing people how to think or behave we’d all be better off. Would I support a President who supported these guidelines? Definitely — because such philosophies transcend religion.

There’s no reason to ascribe “be excellent to each other” to just Jesus. It’s an ideology as at home in a Bill and Ted movie as it is in the pages of the Bible. Be kind, tolerant and treat others as you want to be treated. Seems so simple… and it doesn’t require preferential treatment for Christians, either.

Bush said that “the practice of tolerance is a command of faith. When our country was attacked, Americans did not respond with bigotry. People from other countries and cultures have been treated with respect.”

Say what now? Either the president is a liar or completely deluded if he thinks his actions have actually promoted peace, tolerance, and respect around the world. Americans as a whole have been bombarded with anti-Islam hatred for more than three years and the culture of the Middle East is routinely denigrated. Through a steady stream of indoctrination there are more uninformed bigots roaming the streets than ever, and the problem is growing worse.

“It is always, and everywhere, wrong to target and kill the innocent,” he continued. “It is always, and everywhere, wrong to be cruel and hateful, to enslave and oppress.” So why endorse all those things in Iraq? Fallujah was practically obliterated because its inhabitants opposed American occupation. And thanks to military stop-loss orders in effect, our own troops are unable to leave if they want. Guess what? That’s enslavement.

I could probably continue picking apart Bush’s dialogue with the faithful, but the theme would be the same: do as you say. Bush pays lip service to God by preaching the same beliefs I value in all humanity only to dismiss those words when he orders another round of troops to battle. He is not a godly man by his own definition. He is a fraud. He is a Pharisee. “Once we have recognized God’s image in ourselves, we must recognize it in every human being,” Bush said. If that’s so, Mr. President, I should probably ignore my own belief that I am a creature of God, for you are the very antithesis of His image.

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16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

18“Which ones?” the man inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,’ and ˜love your neighbor as yourself.'”

20“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

24“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Matthew 19:16-24 (NIV)