But remember when you step / into your voting booth

vamping_it.jpgHow does that old saying go? Presidential politics makes for interesting one-night stands. In pursuit of a singular goal — getting more votes than the other guy — arguments are advanced during election season that would not be tolerated by the parties’ bases at any other time.

Witness President Bush advertising his pork-barrel tendencies to the wider electorate, and spinning his restrictive ruling on embryonic stem cell research as evidence that his administration is already cranking up the wattage to Dr. Frankenstein levels. Most on what we clumsily call the right (though not all) have come to accept this as part of the price of doing business with the Bush administration.

Similarly, most liberal Democrats are tolerant of Senator Kerry’s on-again, off-again warmongering; his softness on gun-control; and his rhetorical opposition to gay marriage. There’s an election to win, after all, and at least Kerry’s not Bush.

The amplified religiosity of this election has made things more interesting. Many observers have noted the diabolization of the president by his opponents. To quote, well, myself:

[S]ome protest signs show actual horns and fangs dripping with blood. In the Evil Bush version of history, he stole an election and then took food from babes with his tax cuts. He exploited the tragedy of September 11 to his immense political benefit and the country’s harm. Egged on by a neoconservative cabal, he fought a war for oil and Israel, and he threatens to further upset the global balance of power. Our commander-in-chief hates gays and minorities and wants to give industry free reign to pollute rivers and belch toxic gasses into the air. If he had his druthers, Bush would impose his own born again kind of Christianity, and perhaps his Southern drawl, on the rest of us.

If anything, things have gotten worse since I penned those lines, as the hostility has spilled over from demonizing Bush to demonizing his supporters. The most extreme manifestation of this is the fact that several Bush campaign headquarters have been attacked and vandalized. More mundanely, Richard Rushfield, stringing for Slate visited both Bush and Kerry strongholds in California. The trick is that he wore a pro-Bush shirt in Kerry country and an advertisement for Kerry in GOP territory.

Rushfield worried about a violent reaction from the Bushies, but he encountered “only shades of indifference — head shaking, ‘crazy idiot’ expressions from older, very wealthy, very white folks in Newport Beach; terse nods from the middle- to working-class citizens of Bakersfield.” In the Silverlake/Los Feliz and Brentwood areas of Los Angeles, he was called an asshole a few times and drew all kinds of comment and looks of undisguised hostility. One six-year-old girl stared at him “with a look so forlorn, I expect[ed] to learn that Dick Cheney just stole her crayons.”

The shrillest opposition to Bush in the press has come from the alternative weeklies. [Alternative to what? - ed. Beats me.] The Stranger‘s endorsement of Kerry began “George Bush is pure scum.” The illustration for Rick Perlstein’s story in the current Village Voice (pictured above) is of Bush as a vampire, sucking the blood out of Lady Liberty’s neck.

GetReligion has already covered one tack of the saner press’s overreaction to Bush’s faith. Go here for my take on last week’s New York Times Magazine Ron Suskind cover story or here for Terry Mattingly’s take on Jeff Sharlet’s “Bush the magic Christian” piece over at The Revealer.

But another line of criticism has emerged, which we might call the Geraldine Ferraro approach. Several left-of-center pundits and pundettes have charged that Bush is a bad Christian, if that. It started with criticism of Bush’s lack of regular church attendance and his unwillingness to fess up to mistakes he’s made and finally metastasized into Ayelish McGarvey’s article on the website of the American Prospect: “As God Is His Witness: Bush is no devout evangelical. In fact, he may not be a Christian at all.”

McGarvey’s arguments for this accusation:

1) The president is “neither born again nor evangelical” since he “did not have a single born-again experience.”

2) He “does not live or govern under the complete authority of the Bible — just the parts that work to his political advantage.”

3) His refusal to publicly admit to error is evidence that he doesn’t believe in sin.

4) He has money and is not a socialist.

5) He doesn’t try to aggressively proselytize.

6) He is not Jimmy Carter.

Therefore: Conservative Christian voters should reject Bush at the ballot box.

What’s the word here? Crassness? Irony? Opportunism? What McGarvey advocates, in the American Prospect, is nothing less than a religious test for public office.

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  • thecosmopolitan

    All Hat, No Cattle

    Readers who would make the mistake of taking Get Religion Jr.’s latest bit of opinionated froth seriously would do well to remind themselves that, just as with the Suskind piece in the NYTimes magazine, tmatt will no doubt be filing a piece in the next news cycle or two that will actually show evidence of thoughtful reflection and pertinent analysis.

    Until then, remember the teachings of Rabbi Obi Wan:

    “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

    You can go about your business. Move along.”

    Reassuringly,

    Cosmo

  • http://jeremiads.blogspot.com Jeremy Lott

    Cosmo,

    >Readers who would make the mistake of taking Get >Religion Jr.’s latest bit of opinionated froth >seriously…

    I know it was intended as an insult, but I like it. Also, my Star Wars may be rusty but, if I recall correctly, those WERE the droids that they were looking for. I’m reasonably sure GetReligion readers will be immune to your Jedi mind tricks.

    Best,

    Jeremy “GetReligion Jr.” Lott.

  • Roger Bennett

    I had turned off the computer for the night when it hit me: Ayelish McGarvey’s article in American Prospect is attempted tit-for-tat.

    There have been articles of late questioning Kerry’s Roman Catholic bona fides (premarital cohabitation with Teresa, married to Teresa in a civil ceremony, attends a parish that has bowdlerized the Creed – not to mention his notorious and unyielding support of abortion). I suspect that McGarvey was trying to demotivate some evangelical Bush voters as she (or is it “he”?) assumed was the effect, on Catholic voters, of such articles about Kerry.

  • http://www.doxos.com Huw Raphael

    Given how much both politicians as well as the media and voters have played the faith card as a diversion in this election cycle, it makes perfectly good political sense (in fact maybe the only political sense) to attack Bush and Kerry exactly there.

  • Ken

    Here’s my favorite anti-Bush screed so far, from the Guardian (surprised, aren’t you!):

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguide/columnists/story/0,,1333748,00.html

    On the debates:

    “I’m trying to work out why Bush is afforded any kind of credence or respect whatsoever in his native country. His performance is so transparently bizarre, so feeble and stumbling, it’s a miracle he wasn’t laughed off the stage.”

    Obviously, our writer has small regard for President Bush:

    “But at least (Kerry’s) not a lying, sniggering, drink-driving, selfish, reckless, ignorant, dangerous, backward, drooling, twitching, blinking, mouse-faced little cheat.’

    The final line:

    “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr – where are you now that we need you?”

    That’s right, a British “journalist” just advocated the assassination of the American president.

  • Ayelish McGarvey

    No, Jeremy-”it’s a religious test for RELIGION, not public office. I would encourage you read to the end of the piece, and perhaps quote from it accordingly. I really love this smart blog, so I was more than a bit disappointed with the churlishness of your post. I’ll do my best to respond a little more graciously.

    A little backstory: I am a Bible-believing evangelical from small town Illinois, and the daughter of a conservative pastor. Right now, I attend the same church as Michael Cromartie and Michael Gerson, though at other times I have shared a pew with John Ashcroft, among others. Sadly, I often find it necessary to flash my Christian creds; most conservative readers can’t fathom that I know the first thing about Scripture, Red America, etc.

    I wrote this piece as a final plea to my Republican grandparents in Mattoon, Illinois, to consider the facts about GWB’s faith–not the myth that the campaign pitches to people like them. Their names are Roy Gene and Margaret, and above all else they long to see a “good Christian man” occupy the Oval Office. For them, GWB was-”quite literally-”an answer to prayer. And they voted accordingly.

    But since Bush’s Christian faithfulness was part of a grand campaign strategy from the outset, it is crucial that believers hold him accountable to it. He says he’s a war president, so let’s see-”how has he handled the Iraq war? Should we have gone to war at all? Can he win the peace? All normal questions a smart voter might ask. Likewise, Bush very publicly declared his faith, and his preference for Jesus’ political (?) philosophy. Okay then, does he govern like a man with Christ’s teaching in mind at all times? Do his motivations, sensibilities, relationships (particularly with regard to his opponents) appear to be shaped by an intimate relationship with Jesus? These are not outlandish questions for Christians to ask themselves. And I am not “judging him before God,” as one person accused in an email to me. I’m simply comparing his words to his actions. Besides, what happened to Christian accountability? Who on earth-”literally-”is charged with holding GWB accountable to Christian teaching?

    (For those of you who think I’m splitting hairs, I urge you to read one of John Piper’s excellent sermons on Christian accountability. “Experience and scripture teach us that every believer needs regular exhortations, and challenges and wakening calls –[We] Americans (and humans) do not like people pressing in our soul-space–But that is not the Biblical approach,” he wrote.)

    Ultimately, we are Christians before we are Americans, Republicans, Democrats, Illinoisans, what have you. And I care infinitely more that my faith is represented honestly in the world than I do about John Kerry winning the presidency. (To the commenter who read my piece as a retributive tit-for-tat: Would that conservatives even read our magazine! Alas, I daren’t flatter myself in thinking that my opinion matters to anyone outside of my immediate family.)

    Jeremy, here are the article’s actual arguments that suggest Bush’s faith is more talk than walk:

    1. GWB prizes politics over piety. Can anyone name a single instance where he has, say, crossed party lines to uphold Biblical teaching? (Does the Bible really only favor the GOP?) His position on embryonic stem-cell research is an apt, if counter-intuitive, example of this. (I devote ample space in my article to this issue alone.) See also: Karla Faye Tucker; Bush’s refusal to fess up-”at this late date-”to errors and miscalculations about WMDs, the link between Sadaam and 9/11, etc.

    Please also see Ted Haggard’s comments to me about this last point. Haggard is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and a very nice guy, I should add. But his contentious remarks have been given ZERO attention by anyone except for Jeff Sharlet. Haggard essentially told me that, while he’s president, GWB is exempt from telling the truth. (Or compromising his political success in order to do the right thing.) That rankles me. Evidently everyone else in Christendom is fine with it.

    2. GWB has little regard for the 9th commandment, a crucial one for politicians. “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy brother.” Since 1994, Karl Rove and GWB have built a winning campaign strategy based on smearing the opponent with vile lies: Rumors that Ann Richards was a lesbian. That John McCain fathered a black child with a prostitute, when in fact he adopted a Bangladeshi orphan from one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages. That John Kerry served dishonorably in Vietnam. (I devote the final section of the piece to this. Somehow it didn’t make your list.) How on earth do you square this with Scripture? This isn’t exactly a nuanced point-”it’s the Ten Commandments, for Pete’s sake.

    3. GWB refuses to admit he has ever made a single mistake. The White House calls this steadfast resolve. But the Bible paints a different picture. Just how is this cocksureness at all consonant with a theology of atonement? Aren’t we obligated to truth in every circumstance, regardless of the consequences?

    By the way, the above quote about Bush neither being an evangelical or born-again was taken out of context. That paragraph is a condemnation of the press. Bush has explicitly never used either term to describe his faith, yet the press tosses those descriptions (along with the dreaded ‘fundamentalist’) around without ever attempting to define them. I would think that bloggers at GetReligion would be particularly sensitive to this vexing problem.

  • http://jeffthebaptist.blogspot.com Jeff the Baptist

    “Okay then, does he govern like a man with Christ’s teaching in mind at all times?”

    And how would one do that? Seriously. This is one of the big problems in any of these “Bush is not a christian” arguments. Jesus basically keep his nose out of politics and the running the state. His message was one teaching people their place before God and how to reach him. Sure the prophets and apostles touch on this topic a little, but everytime I see a piece like yours it comes out as “I don’t agree with this guys politics and neither would Jesus.” What ever happened to judge not lest yee?

    “GWB refuses to admit he has ever made a single mistake.”

    This is standard political rhetoric. You don’t see Kerry doing it either. For the record Bush does admit mistakes, just not mistakes while he was in political office. He has been very open about his drinking problem and brash youth how God helped him to overcome it. He admitted that Kerry’s service in Vietnam was more honorable than his own and requested the 527s stop their attacks. On the other hand politically, you don’t admit mistakes unless you are willing to give your opponent a talking point to trumpet across the country.

    In the end you’re right. Bush is not an evangelical. He was raised in a mainline denomination and he was saved in that context. Similarly he may or may not be born again depending on your interpretation of what that means. In the end Bush is probably a believing member of a mainline denomination, much like Reagan was before him.

  • Roger Bennett

    “I wrote this piece as a final plea to my Republican grandparents in Mattoon, Illinois, to consider the facts about GWB’s faith–not the myth that the campaign pitches to people like them.”

    It looks as if I was right that the author “was trying to demotivate some evangelical Bush voters” by an evangelical analog to the arguments that Kerry isn’t really a Catholic. I perhaps was wrong that the analogy to those arguments was conscious.

    “Would that conservatives even read our magazine! Alas, I daren’t flatter myself in thinking that my opinion matters to anyone outside of my immediate family.”

    Surely not! For immediate family, e-mail or snail mail would suffice. This was in cyberspace, where things can take off unexpectely. It caught Jeremy’s attention, for example, and it got at least one religious conservative to read at least one article in the magazine. But I don’t expect to read it regularly; Robert Reich has made it clear that I’m not his kind of guy.

    “No, Jeremy-”it’s a religious test for RELIGION, not public office.”

    It’s not exactly either one. It does not advocate a constitutional ban on non-evangelicals as President (a test for public office), but by the author’s own account, it seeks to change (two) votes, not just change minds about Bush’s religion.

  • http://theparish.typepad.com greg

    I enjoyed the angle that a few columnists took finally questioning Bush’s bona fides in relation to his profession of faith. Bush has realized that with a few words he can manipulate the Christian Right and never actually do anything remotely Christian. What are they going to do, vote for Kerry?

    I am weary of hearing that Jesus was not political: don’t kill, love your enemies, don’t lie, care for the poor, the hungry, the prisoner. Those are political statements. It is past time that evangelicals and fundamentalists started asking Bush the same question to which Kerry has alluded: how can I see your faith without your works?

  • http://www.jonswerens.com Jon S.

    Jeremy,

    “They’ll never lie, they just embellish the truth.”

    If only all of Christendom appreciated your references to the obscure Steve Taylor six-song EP “I Want To Be a Clone.”

    Jon

  • Kolya

    Good article, Ayelish! I’m very glad I actually read your piece after reading Jeremy Lott’s post. Your article was much better, thoughtful and fairminded than Mr. Lott’s comments would lead you to believe.

  • http://molly.douthett.net Molly

    Any possibility of comment regarding the “marginalization” of Pat Roberts after his confession on CNN? I’d be interested to hear what you all have to say about this…

  • harris

    Therefore: Conservative Christian voters should reject Bush at the ballot box.

    This, I think, misses the real thrust of McGarvey’s article and of Amy Sullivan’s on the President’s non-church attending habits: its that Evangelicals are not sufficiently critical. What they want — what we want — is not leader but some sort of political savior, an image not the reality. This is the political equivalent of a theology of glory instead of the cross.

    As the earlier part of Jeremy’s post reveals, this embrace of glory does not make the Gospel more winsome, but rather pushes people away. And while that seems ok pre-Nov. 2, on Nov. 3 we will find ourselves in danger that the pursuit of political righteousness has become a skandalon for our neighbors.

  • http://beingornothingness.blogs.com Stephen

    As a friend of Ayelish’s (and rest assured Ayelish is a she), I don’t take the bait that this is simply an attempt to get people not to vote for Bush. It seems to be a sincere attempt to raise the question of whether his faith is as sincere as he claims (or rather, is claimed about him). One could even say it seems to be raise the question of how “orthodox” his position is. Whether he is a politician first or a Christian first. The mere Christianity that I know Ayelish holds to, is a sort of litmus test.

    What has me scratching my head however, is whether we agree on these words (evangelical, fundamentalist, born-again). All three of which I would cliam for myself, but I’m a Roman Catholic who isn’t voting for Bush (and especially not Kerry). I don’t think we’re using these words the same way.

  • ken

    Is GWB a Christian? That is indeed a good question. How does one answer it except with reference to observable fact?

    Consider the question: “Is GWB a ‘war president’? He says he is. But even without his claim, I have enough evidence at hand to make that observation myself, without his having to admit to it.

    But is he a Christian? Again, he says he is. But other than his fervent claim what evidence is there that he is one? I see none. Really nothing this man has ever done would lead me to suspect he is a man of any faith let alone a follower of Christ.

    Can anyone point to any selfless, Christ like act, this man has done? Ever?

    I see plenty of evidence that he is the kind of man Jesus would want to save: He is, objectively, a pretty big sinner. He lies. He kills. He lies about his reasons for killing. He favors people Jesus condemmed, and condemms people Jesus favored. But I see no evidence he has listened to what Jesus taught about how men should act.

    He doesn’t even make the token effort of going to church on Sundays, preferring instead, the company of sycophants over real church members.

    He is not a Christian. He is mistaken when he says he is.

  • ken

    “Okay then, does he govern like a man with Christ’s teaching in mind at all times?”

    “And how would one do that? Seriously.”

    If you are seriously seeking an answer to that question look at the Presidency of Jimmy Carter.

  • ayelish

    Ken–you’re right. That phrase has brought me nothing but trouble. It was written at 3 am and should have been something like “Does he live and govern like a man whose decisions are filtered through the prism of a deep Christian faith?” That still might honk you off, but I think it’s a bit better…this is about motivations and sensibilities, as I say in the piece–not specific policies.

    Not simply what he does, but how he does it. (He wins campaigns, for example, but he spreads ugly lies to accomplish that. A point which none of my detractors seem to want to engage on.)

    Alas, I have to write about textile trade now. This his been fun. Ciao.

  • ayelish

    ugh. can’t help myself.

    All of the Jimmy Carter hating is really kind of interesting. Full disclosure, I interviewed the guy once, and I think he’s pretty neat. But I am also 25 and don’t know hardly anything about his presidency.

    People of all stripes have insinuated that he was a bad president precisely because he cared too much about integrity and accountability. That his sensitivity to justice is much more suited to a post-presidency, rather than the big leagues. But that says so much more about the American political pigsty than it does about Carter. Am I wrong on this? I mean, quite truthfully, by this standard Jesus would make a terrible president. He would be a divider–it’s my way or the highway–kind of guy. And he would have all of these crazy notions of fairness that would drive everybody nuts. (And can you just imagine all of the tax collectors and prostitutes he would appoint to his cabinet?)

    I’m being more than a bit flip, but you get the picture. Are politics and piety wholly incompatible? Have the Rick Santorums and Roy Moores of the world forever replaced the Bob Caseys and Paul Simons? Is this just survival of the meanest?

  • Ken

    I would like to point out that I am not the same Ken who has declared Pres. Bush a “pretty big sinner” and not at all a Christian. I posted the comment above from the Guardian which called for the president’s assassination.

    Declaring on the state of a man’s soul is seriously above my pay grade.

  • ken

    Ayelish,

    The people who say Carter was a lousy president either don’t remember his accomplishments or don’t know them. I am 53 so I remember.

    His biggest accomplishment was in returning integrity to the white house. He won the office on the heals of Nixon’s resignation and poor Jerry Ford did not have a chance as a result of the stigma attached to being Nixon’s VP.

    He did not have to run a decietful campaign to win the office. Perhaps this fact encouraged his belief that he could govern from his Christian perspective. That is exactly what he did.

    His second biggest accomplishment was getting Isreal and Egypt to sign a peace treaty. He used his office, informed by his faith, for peace.

    He lost to Reagan because of the Iranian hostage situation. America wanted the vengence Reagan promised the Ayatollahs for the humilation they brought by keeping our citizens hostage. America realized Carter would never violate his Christian principles and so turned against him. The rest, as they say, is history (as written, as always, by the victors).

  • ken53

    ken,

    sorry for the confusion, i did not realize you were here first with that name. i will go by ken53 and request all and sundry hold you harmless for any of my comments.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    I wish that we could break some of this commentary out onto Page 1 somehow, but there is no way to do that in our current format.

    I am venturing into some of this territory in my Scripps column this week, so I will not chime in with much at this point (thanks for the quick interview, Ayelish).

    But I want to note that we are now only days away from much of this argument being moot. No one in the GOP on the cultural right has a drop of star power and it is almost certain that the party will veer toward moral Libertarianism in the near future. At that point, the Christian Right is going to hit a wall. What will it do? Continue to pray at the GOP altar? What happens when the GOP left defects in the Supreme Court battles and W’s appointments are rather muddled and split on issues of life and family?

    Just asking. Oh, and I was somewhat amazed to see the dig at Santorum. What the world needs now is more Catholic Republicans who try to be consistent. It might — I stress might — be possible for a consistent Catholic to survive in the GOP right now than in the Democratic Party. Might. Might. But what happens under Rudy?

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Claiming that “Ford told New York to drop dead” was not a deceitful campaign?

  • Paul Barnes

    Yet, the Carter administration still supplied weapons to Indoneasia when they were commiting genocide in East Timor…

  • ayelish

    Like I said, I didn’t live through Carter’s presidency, and I know very, very little about the historical details.

    But again, this is not a referendum on Carter. I wrote a 3,500 word article on George Bush, with two minor references to Carter for comparison only. (We’re talking about 4 sentences here.) Both refs were accurate: Carter evangelized, and he delivered the “malaise speech” as a sort of atonement.

    But this is about George W. Bush, whose whole career as a successful politician has been based on a campaign strategy of smearing his opponents with ugly lies, and then cloaking himself in the smooth veneer of Christian redemption. (See Josh Green’s Atlantic well-reported article on Rove’s strategy. Insinuating a good (religious) man is a pedophile, when in fact he had a heart for foster children? Get real, folks.)

    Incidentally, I don’t know very much about John Kerry’s personal life, but I’m much more confident in his character now than I was a year ago. Because if all Karl Rove can come up with is the “Christmas in Cambodia” slam, then there’s nothing else there. We’d have seen it by now.

    As for Santorum, it wasn’t intended to be a major slam. But his methods are distinctly different from, say, a Bob Casey. He might be consistent, but I really wonder whether he believes that Roe v Wade will be overturned. Because quietly, many religious conservatives know that it won’t be. (Michael Cromartie of the EPPC told me that on the record in an interview once.) Now I actually think that this is deceitful, but that’s just me. Because if the agenda is truly to overturn Roe v Wade, then fine. But if it is to dramatically reduce the number of abortions, then we should be seeking out sex-ed strategies that actually work, not those that preach the “right” gospel about abstinence. (Having worked for two years in a think tank devoted to this issue, I’m not just blowing hot air.) And we should be pushing insurance companies to cover birth-control for women, and doing our best to see it distributed in high-risk communities. You see where I’m going here.

    I’m not Catholic, so I don’t really understand Santorum’s M.O. But I think the Bible makes very clear that we’re never going to bring about God’s kingdom in the voting booth. No amount of legislating can combat a culture havocked by moral depravity. That doesn’t mean that Christians raise the white flag, but that we get real about our actual sphere of influence.

    And that’s what bugs me most about Santorum. (BTW: I know little about his voting record, etc.: Where is he on the death penalty? Is he consistent there?)

  • ayelish

    i’m a jerk. disregard the carter stuff, i just now realized that i brought him up in that last post from yesterday.

    duh.

    the rest still stands in response to terry…

  • http://www.relapsedcatholic.com Kathy Shaidle

    Dear God!

    “All of the Jimmy Carter hating is really kind of interesting. Full disclosure, I interviewed the guy once, and I think he’s pretty neat. But I am also 25 and don’t know hardly anything about his presidency.”

    Tells me all I need to know. Won’t be reading the article.

  • http://beingornothingness.blogs.com Stephen

    Kathy, It’s a shame because I think Ayelish makes some good points.

    I think that they can be disputed. And in fact, I don’t know much about whether Bush is into the politics of character assasination or not, truth be told, I haven’t read that much on the topic. I’m surprised that it hasn’t been all over the New York times.

    Either way, I still get back to, what is for me, the more interesting question. We are using words like evangelical, fundamentalist, born-again, and even Christian without any agreement about the meaning of these words.

    I know that we live in a relativistic age, but we cannot have a genuine conversation when everyone is hearing these words and thinking very different things.

    Truth be told, Ayelish’s article reads (in my opinion) like a typical left leaning “Christian” perspective on Bush . . . i.e. Where are his works? This is interesting to me, because it’s the reformation all over again.

    I’m not really interested in judging the sincerity of Bush’s faith. Truth be told, I don’t expect my politicians to be saints, though I hope they are striving for it. What I am more interested in, and where my faith comes into play, is whether those in power (the party, the president, the politicians) will value and protect those things that my conscience, formed in my tradition, tells me are the issues of preeminent importance (unlike some people I don’t expect to agree 100% witht he person I vote for).

    In this election, it seems clear to me that the character of Bush has been demonstrated by his response to 9/11. Whether you agree with what this demonstrates is debatable, but his character and conviction has been displayed. I tend to look at this 100 times more than I some speculation about how sincere his faith is.

    Honestly, for me the issue that underlines all of this is the how we treat the weak and vulnerable in our OWN society. More even then how we treat the weak and vulnerable in other societies. Why? Because I know that if I treat my family badly this is more clearly an indicator of who I am than how I treat the stranger.

    If we are willing to murder our unborn and euthanize our elderly, the very people we should have an immediate concern for, how can we be expected to make any right decisions in a global sense. I think that if politicians are wrong about abortion, euthanasia, marriage, and the family, this is more dangerous to us than if they are wrong about terrorism, war, economics, or foreign relations.

    One thing I noticed is the almost non-chalant way in which we say “But I think the Bible makes very clear that we’re never going to bring about God’s kingdom in the voting booth. No amount of legislating can combat a culture havocked by moral depravity. That doesn’t mean that Christians raise the white flag, but that we get real about our actual sphere of influence.”

    This should have brought everyone pause! This seems to me an advocacy of sectarianism. What is the sphere of influence of a Christian? Well, it seems to me that this sphere is a big green and blue sphere called “Earth.”

    We have become shrinking violets in a world that now, as much as ever, needs teh reminder that Hope is in our midst. That the Church communicates today a FACT, that Christ is present, today just as he was 2,000 years ago. His presence endures in the Christian people.

  • ayelish

    Stephen, it was great to hear from you yesterday, and I look forward to reading your blog. I have a ton of comments in response, but I have to can them because, unfortunately, my other work calls. But I would encourage you to read these articles about Bush’s character assasination. (BTW: this was all over the NY Times in the form of the Swift Boats for Truth junk and back in 99 with John McCain.)

    These guys aren’t left-wing nuts…Ron Suskind is a major fan of John DiIulio, and Josh Green is a bright, moderate guy.

    http://www.ronsuskind.com/newsite/articles/archives/000032.html

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200411/green

  • ken53

    “…this is about George W. Bush, whose whole career as a successful politician has been based on a campaign strategy of smearing his opponents with ugly lies, and then cloaking himself in the smooth veneer of Christian redemption. (See Josh Green’s Atlantic well-reported article on Rove’s strategy. Insinuating a good (religious) man is a pedophile, when in fact he had a heart for foster children? Get real, folks.)”

    Ayelish, I think your hit the nail on the head. I am willing to draw a more straightforward conclusion than you are perhaps due to my experience over the years.

    Bush’s current campaign for re-election based as it is entirely on denegrating his opponent with falsehoods and halftruths, is a very good example of an activity that any of us would rightly classify as non christian behavior.

    Not wanting to judge a man entirely on his stumbles I’ll ask again: can anyone point to offsetting examples of Bush’s activity that are Christian in nature?

    How many just men did it take for God to spare a whole city? I ask for just a single instance of a selfless, Christ like action, Bush has taken? Ever? In his entire life?

    Has he ever used the gifts he was born into, the wealth, the connections, and the power, or the positions he has attained, first as Governor and now as President, as Christ directed?

    I really know of no evidence that Bush is a Christian beyond his claim that he is one. In a polititian that is just not good enough.

  • Branford

    Bush is a Christian since he has been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Is he a good Christian or a bad Christian–that is the real question. But, yes, he is a Christian and has been received into the body of Christ.

  • http://spleenville.com/ Andrea Harris

    Jebus Chrysler. Hey, Ayelish — all these things you say you don’t know about — Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the weird Catholic reasons behind Santorum’s “MO” — etc…. You can look them up. They aren’t state secrets! I’ve heard a good place to start researching anything is this place called the “internet.”

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Ayelish:

    Casey and Santorum would disagree on some methods.

    They would disagree on the degree to which government-driven solutions have helped the poor or not.

    What they would not disagree on is the carved-in-stone injunction to help the poor, to take that factor into account, to study the impact of policies on the poor. This Catholic side of his political equation makes Santorum a partner in some interesting talks in the Senate. Surely you have noticed that. Watch the ties between his work, his staff and that of, oh, Lieberman.

    And on the Roe issue… The post Roe era has had a major impact on both parties. Look at the terrible impact the loss of pro-life Democrats has had on that party in the U.S. House. And now, hang on and watch how the rise of the morally Libertarian wing of the new GOP affects the GOP.

    Oh for a politician brave enough to take a Lincolnian approach to this:

    http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/05/kerry_and_the_b.html

  • Paul Barnes

    Ken53

    I would have a hard time proving my own Christianity, let alone proving the works of Bush. What if Bush did all his good deads in secret?

  • ayelish

    Andrea, I have a job that involves, right now, writing about textiles and trade quotas. I’m brilliant on those subjects, trust me. And I know more than a bit about George W. Bush, his presidency, and the public remarks/writings concerning his Christianity.

    This is a blog, not a newspaper. I’m not reporting here, I’m asking questions. I think your condascending comments are a bit out of place–theyr’e much better suited for a “letter to the editor” at a newspaper. Have at it.

  • http://spleenville.com/ Andrea Harris

    Hm-kay.

    “I have a job that involves, right now, writing about textiles and trade quotas. I’m brilliant on those subjects, trust me.”

    I will take your word for it that you are “brilliant” about those subjects. Myself, I was taught that it wasn’t socially correct to claim brilliancy in any subject, but to leave the kudos and compliments to others should I deserve them, but then I was educated just before Self-Esteem Now! took over the culture.

    “And I know more than a bit about George W. Bush, his presidency, and the public remarks/writings concerning his Christianity.”

    Not from what you wrote you don’t.

    “This is a blog, not a newspaper. I’m not reporting here, I’m asking questions.”

    Actually, to be exact, this is a blog comment section. But as for “asking questions,” there comes a point where you have to stop asking others to do your research for you.

    By the way, it’s spelled “condescending.”

  • ayelish

    Thanks for the correction. And evidently the irony of my “brilliance” remark fell flat. I’m not brilliant–reporters aren’t PhDs in every single subject they write about. I know a little about a lot. If that troubles you, don’t read my stuff. Simple enough.

  • ken53

    “I would have a hard time proving my own Christianity, let alone proving the works of Bush. What if Bush did all his good deads in secret?”

    Point taken Paul.

    But no one is asking me to believe you are a Christian in order to sway my vote.

    If you had as high a profile as Bush does and I saw you lying, killing, lying about the reasons you are killing, doing favors for the wealthy and harm to the poor I might have reason to doubt your really being a Christian. Unless I saw other actions you took that were clearly Christlike I would be correct in saying you are not a Christian. Why would you publicly act like a nonbeliever but privately act like a christian?

  • http://spleenville.com/ Andrea Harris

    Ayelish: the road to hell is paved by and with people who knew “a little about a lot.” I know a little about wound care. Want to give me a medical degree? In other words, I hope that you don’t give that excuse to your professors. I do believe that the getting of a degree is predicated upon learning more than “a little” about the subjects you study. Then again, you may be a Journalism major, in which case none of the above need apply.

    Oh and–

    ken53: [blank stare]

  • Jim C.

    Ayelish wrote: “I mean, quite truthfully, by this standard Jesus would make a terrible president. He would be a divider–it’s my way or the highway–kind of guy.”

    Hmm, sounds exactly like Bush!

    Ayelish wrote: “(And can you just imagine all of the tax collectors and prostitutes he would appoint to his cabinet?)”

    The general opinion of the left in regards to Cheney seems to me to be analgous to the Biblical opinion of tax collectors! Again, sounds like Bush!

  • ken53

    Ayelish wrote “Haggard is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and a very nice guy, I should add. But his contentious remarks have been given ZERO attention by anyone except for Jeff Sharlet. Haggard essentially told me that, while he’s president, GWB is exempt from telling the truth.”

    Apparently a few Bush supporters around here feel they have recieved dispensation from the truth as well. Don’t pay them any attention Ayelish. Some people are just looking to argue so will twist, misrepresent and take your words out of context.

    Your article proves you are a good clear intellegent writer. You have been published in a venue and on a subject that has sparked widespread debate. But whenever you mix religion and politics on a blog you will recieve a certain amount of nastiness from people who disagree with you. Ignore it. Nobody does their best writing or clearest thinking in the comment section of a blog so you cannot even be sure of your critics points half the time.

    You have a good career ahead of you and I wish you the best.

  • wooderson

    The most helpful thing about this article was the discussion it generated between tmatt and Jeff Sharlett elsewhere on this site about the content of GWB’s belief (or lack thereof). The article itself lost me with the “GWB is no John Wesley” cheap shot. Well, mmm, yes.

    Then there’s this: “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.”

    With a single stroke of the pen, the writer has managed to unchristianize a goodly portion of the American evangelical community. You might have an excellent point about the state of Evangelical theology, Ms. McGarvey, but I wonder how much of that can be laid at the feet of GWB.

    Then: “And unlike Wesley, Bush has never compromised his political standing to challenge the conservative status quo — regardless of its Christian righteousness.” GWB is the presidential candidate for a conservative political party. Does it shock the writer that he works to advance conservative policies? Or perhaps it is the writer’s view that this “conservative status quo” is manifestly unChristian? Would the writer care to clarify?

    Ultimately, the article bogs down in its sheer moxie. Lines like this: “And the administration’s proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, while theologically dubious, certainly resonates among more traditionalist believers.” Just how accurate is that that confident, casual throw-away “theologically dubious”? What liberal status quo are you fearlessly challenging here, Ms. McGarvey?

    Or this: ” Never once has the president crossed party lines to uphold Christian principles such as aiding the poor or caring for the environment, for example.” What should we be looking for here? Great Society legislation?

    And finally, we slip down the rabbit hole of slippery political operatives and whisper campaigns. But note, after much hand-wringing about the state of GWB’s soul, how little is actually said about GWB himself. What the writer expects is a public denunciation from GWB of how politics is conducted. Without that, the man is clearly lost.

    Ms. McGarvey, it’s very simple, really: I don’t think GWB is perfect, I just think he’s preferable (and though you managed to slip by it with barely a comment and though Jeff Sharlett breezily dismisses it as shell game, the pro-life thing sorta, kinda matters in this election, too).

  • Kolya

    I’m with Ken53 on this one. Hang on, Ayelish! You wrote a very good and thought provoking article. Not that I agree with every single statement in it, but when does that happen with any writing? If I were in your shoes, I would not bother with this thread anymore–you have better things to do.

  • http://molly.douthett.net Molly

    I hope Ms. McGreevy DOES continue with this topic if not with this thread. And I hope that Terry will keep us linked to her articles in the future. Good work, both of you.

  • Paul Barnes

    Ken53,

    You would have to prove that Bush knew that Sadaam did not have WMD and that he willfully mislead the American people to prove that he lied to me. Saying Bush “lied” is premature and uncharitable. If you could somehow prove (say, through a memo written by Bush) that he knew previously that there were no WMD, than your claim has considerably more validity. I think that it is more likely that the intelligence was poor and that Bush was blind to the reasons (which were pretty strong) to not to go to war. In the end, I am not entirely confident that Iraq was the most prudent thing to do.

    Secondly, I have some difficulty with your statement that Bush is “doing favors for the wealthy and harm to the poor” within the context that it is a conscious decision. That is, Bush is willfully harming the poor to line his own pockets, along with the fellow wealthy. It is difficult to judge someone’s motivation from thier politics.

    In this election, I find both politicians to be fairly toxic towards my political ideals. I think that, if I were American, I would either abstain or vote for Nader. It is only if my single vote would swing the election towards either Bush or Kerry and someone held a gun to my head that I would vote Bush.

  • http://molly.douthett.net Molly

    Paul, you need someone to threaten you with physical violence to vote for Bush? I think you should sit this one out….

  • ken53

    Paul,

    There is an objective difference between knowing something to be true, believing something to be true, and thinking (or suspecting) something to be true.

    Perhaps you haven’t followed the entire story as closely as I have so are unaware that WMD were suspected to be in Iraq by intellegence agencies only because of the discrepencies between the original amounts Saddams Hussain claimed he had, claims made for propoganda purposes (to impress Iran) and the amounts confirmed destroyed by the UN weapons inspectors.

    There was no concrete knowledge of WMD in Iraq by any intelligence agency. It remained a suspicion and was reported as such up the chain of command. There was never any conclusive evidence of WMD. We know now, of course, that there could not be conclusive evidence because WMD did not indeed exist.

    Now when Bush decided to attack Iraq he needed a reason that would get the American people behind him. He couldn’t tell us that he ‘believed’ Iraq had weapons and to just trust him on this nor could he tell us that he ‘suspected’ they had WMD. Obviously neither of these reasons would be enough to get the support he needed.

    I do agree with Bush on this that we would not have supported him if he presented his case in either of those manners. I am sure you will agree that a nation cannot attack another nation on mere suspicion or or mere belief but must do so only on the basis of fact?

    When Bush made the claim that Iraq had WMD I was willing to accept it as true – until it started to be proven false. This happened when we had UN weapons inspectors inside Iraq with free access anywhere anytime given to them by Hussain.

    Remember Bush was making assertions Iraq had WMD. OK we now have inspectors to find them, tell them where they are. Everywhere the inspectors were told to go they found out that nothing was there.

    Bush knew his assertions were at best suspicions, at worst just belief, but kept telling us otherwise. Bush lied. He told us he knew.

    As far as motives go. Read this article. Bush was planning to go to war if he won the presidency in order to increase his politcal capital. Read that again: Bush was planning to go to war if he won the presidency in order to increase his political capital.

    http://www.gnn.tv/articles/article.php?id=761

    Money quote:

    “George W. Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were based in part on a notion dating back to the Reagan White House -“ ascribed in part to now-vice president Dick Cheney, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee under Reagan. “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.”"

  • Michael Lonie

    Some people ought to educate themselves about the uncertainties of intelligence gathering and analysis, as well as note that it was George Tenet who told a sceptical Gerorge Bush that Saddam having WMDs was a slam dunk. At least, that’s what Bob Woodward said. Liberals used to think he was a reliable reporter.

    As for the Iraq campaign, the terrorism that struck us on 9/11 has its roots in the dysfunctional political culture of the Arab world. To destroy the jihadis and their terorism that political culture must be reformed. Specialists in the Middle East have thought for eighty years that Iraq was the most promising candidate state to start such a reform. Thus Bush overthrew a bloodyhanded fascist tyrant in order to start the reform essential to winning the War on Terror. There were other reasons for taking out Saddam as well, but that is foremost. If you paid attention, you would even have heard Bush using it as a reason, though mainly after the successful campaign to overthrow Saddam in order to limit the alarm of the surrounding tyrannical governments over the campaign.

    We ought to have overthrown Saddam in 1991, but all the reasons given for not doing it in 2003 restrained Bush 41, multilateralism, stability, we’d have to stay there five years, yadda, yadda, yadda. If we had overthrown Saddam then we might have short circuited the growth of Al Qaeda, established a democracy in the Middle East, seen a democratic movement sweep the Ayatollahs out of power in Iran, enable real peace (not a sham on the part of the Arabs like Oslo) to be made between the Arabs and the Israelis, and have finished the job by now. Oh yes, and several hundred thousand Iraqis who are now dead would be alive.

    Leaving Saddam in power, to be succeeded by his psychotic spawn, would mean several hundred thousand more Iraqis dead over the next few years at the hands of Saddam’s fascist tyranny. It would also have meant a major, probably nuclear, war once Saddam got his WMD programs working again after the UN inspectors gave him a clean bill of health and his programs came to fruition. This is a man so reckless and greedy, after all, that he started two wars to steal other peoples’ oil before he got nukes. What would he have done once he had nukes? Where is the Christian compassion in allowing those things to happen, eh?


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