19 December 2003

read this molly ivins essay on george w. bush's blindness to the havoc he has created. ivins is right on so many levels here. the anti-intellectualism, yes. the blatant and seemingly impenetrable class bias, yes.

but she gives short shrift to bush's most major shortcoming, religiosity. not that religiosity in itself is a shortcoming (this is me writing here, after all). it's just that bush's particular brand of christianity appears to have very little substance other than happy, self-satisfied feelings and the opportunity to smile beatifically outside some methodist church every once in a while.

i'm sure it wasn't always, but i think bush's disastrous spiritual life is now a substantial driver of his other biases, blindnesses, and cruelties. we all know he's "born again," whatever that means, and apparently that makes him nicer to his wife and less dependent on substances. unfortunately, it has also made him painfully, embarrassingly smug. i bet bush goes to a church a lot like the one i attended growing up: there's a liturgy, and some pretty music, and sermons that never direct or exhort. i bet the bushes hear about things like "simplifying" one's life, and are never told explicitly that simplification involves sacrifice and humility. i bet they are enjoined not to commit adultery, and warned about the evils and social ills of modern society, and never challenged to think about the effect of their own affluence on the problems of society.

i sat in the balcony at church last week, right next to ledlie at the high pulpit. he got a little teary when he was talking about the people who were maimed or injured or forced to live in poverty so that he could wear silk for preaching. sitting next to the slanty ceiling, i had a vision: me, ripping the gospel reading out of the lectionary and affixing it to bush's face.

the gospel (from luke, john the baptist is speaking) reads in pertinent part:

3:10 And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?"

3:11 In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone
who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise."

i know it's not nice to want to tape/staple the president's head, but it's also not nice to read the bible only for your own benefit. when i talk to people who are angry and distrustful at christianity in general, they have people like george w. bush in mind -- people who support the "defense of marriage," but undermine the poor, from whose labor, over generations, their own families have become wealthy.

note the important phrase people like before bush's name: it's not just the president, although given his power to destroy he is particularly guilty. i am worried about all of us who, at one time or another, have been religious in an easy, self-serving way, a way that allows us to ignore the wisdom of people who know better or to turn our eyes from the consequences of our actions.