George Bush as “born-again maniac”

bushjesus.jpgOn the problem of writers using evangelical as a synonym for fundamentalist, here are two paragraphs from the irrepressible Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan is writing about the tendency to treat Bush as the village idiot, but his humorous points are no less valuable:

So then you have the third, milder anti-Bush position: he’s simply in way over his head. He’s a moron, a Texas buffoon, illiterate, simplistic, and dangerous. Worse, he’s some kind of born-again maniac whose main tool of policy prescription is getting down on his knees and thinking of Billy Graham. At some level, this caricature is so comforting, so easy to digest, so superficially true in some respects that it feels churlish to disabuse people of it. Brits like their Americans this way. It makes for great comedy sketches, even better jokes, and soothes the nagging worry that a country run by a certifiable idiot is still “somehow “the most vibrant, diverse and prosperous on the planet. After all, in the new century, it cannot be of that much comfort to Europeans that the one country that was decimated by a terrorist attack at the heart of its commercial capital has already leapt ahead economically of everyone else. If France’s third quarter growth rate was 7.2 percent, it might make more sense. But, no. It’s the country run by a moron, devastated two years ago by the worst act of war on its soil in history, and governed by know-nothing policies, that is doing so well. So, er . . . let’s make fun of the damage Bush does to the English language and compare him to Hitler. That will make us feel better. . . .

The small matter of religious faith also clearly rattles British and European secular opinion. That’s understandable, given the very different nature of American and European culture. But in this sense, Bush is not a dramatic exception to the American rule. He is comfortable speaking about personal faith in ways most Americans find unremarkable but most Europeans find odd. But in terms of foreign policy, there is no evidence of this drastically affecting his judgment. He is never given credit for the many times he has emphatically defended Islam as a religion of peace and human dignity; no acknowledgment given to the fact that his main outreach in the 2000 campaign was to Muslim-Americans, not Jewish-Americans, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats; and similar secularist sentiments were never as routinely expressed about the last born-again president, Jimmy Carter. The only precedent for this kind of contempt is Ronald Reagan. And from the vantage point of history, it’s Reagan who now looks good compared to his sophisticated European critics.

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  • Kendall Harmon

    Make sure in regard to this post to recall the following editorial from Le Monde:

    God and America

    “IF GOD is for us, who will be against us?” This cry of faith among the Christians that the German soldiers of the First World War displayed on their belt buckles, the committed American troops in Iraq could presume applies similarly in their regard. The example comes from top.

    President George W. Bush is a born again Christian; he was “born again” with faith after a youth filled with depravities. He is not satisfied to finish his speeches, as have all American Presidents, by the famous words “God bless America”. He makes an effort to insert many references to God in his remarks and it is required that all the meetings of the cabinet start with a prayer prepared by each cabinet member in turn. Just late this week Congress has instituted “one day of humility, prayer and fasting for the people of the United States” so that people may “seek counsel from God (…) vis-a-vis the challenges which the nation must face”. This decision has only one precedent in the history of the United States: in 1863, after two years of civil war, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed “one day of fasting, prayer and contrition”, at the request of the Senate.

    This strange step shocks Europeans, who have another design of secularity, even if all do not share French rigorism in the matter. It is enough to recall that the convention led by ValÃ(c)ry Giscard d’Estaing was not able to come to an agreement whether or not to mention not the religious inheritance of Europe in the future Constitution. Yet for the Americans, who declare their population to consist of 80% believers, this does not call into question the separation of Church and State, since no religion in particular is mentioned.

    Beyond the principle involved, this nearly ubiqitous invocation of God runs the risk of transforming, before the eyes of hundreds of millions of Muslims, the conflict between the Anglo-American coalition and those in Iraq into a new crusade, a clash of civilizations and religions, with devastating consequences well beyond the region. The moment the decision on the day of prayer was taken in the United States, an Iraqi Imam, a kalachnikov in his arms, called on Allah to rescue them by chasing the infidels from the Arab earth. The danger was recognized by religious dignitaries, including by the American Churches, among them the denomination to which the Bush family belongs. They do not recognize themselves in the “fundamentalism” of the President who they compare with a foreign ideology as opposed to the God of the Bible.

    In spite of his disease, John Paul II has redoubled his activity to denounce the war: “It is increasingly urgent to proclaim in a strong and decisive voice that peace is the only way to build a just and more interdependent humanity”, he declared, before exhorting the young people to whom he was speaking to continue their demonstrations. This Polish Pope says for us to leave God apart from the mistakes of men and women. It is to be feared that his voice unfortunately does not carry to the White House.

  • Ken

    As a Texan, I spent considerable time in 1999 and early 2000 pontificating to anyone willing to listen that GWB was as decent governor of Texas (a mostly symbolic office with little power), but would fade when exposed to the national scene. He didn’t have the charisma, experience, and, yes, smarts to make it in the media glare of presidential politics.

    When I am wrong…