President Bush's religious language

by badwillie 4 Replies latest social current

  • badwillie

    I read this in Today's Philadelphia Inquirer, and I completely agree with it. Anyone else care to read and comment please.

    Posted on Tue, Feb. 11, 2003
    Jane Eisner | President Bush's religious language may be heartfelt - but what if it's also exclusionary?
    How to speak of the spirit to all of us
    By Jane Eisner

    So here's what I did this weekend: The neighborhood Kabbalat Shabbat was in our home; the davenning was wonderful. There was a fine Havurah service the next day at shul, capped by an interesting d'var Torah on the shape of the mishkan and its relationship to the historicity of the Exodus. There was a shiva minyan down the street for a neighbor whose mother died.

    I don't usually speak like this in mixed company.

    In public, before non-Jews or even Jews who are not especially observant, I'd say that the prayers and singing at our Friday night service were wonderful. And the talk on the Torah the next day was interesting. And we gathered for prayers at the home of someone observing the seven days of mourning. Or I might not say anything at all.

    The haphazard mixture of Hebrew and English (with a smattering of Yiddish) thrown into the everyday lexicon of my private religious life does not easily translate into my secular public life. That's understandable - we all shape our speech to our audience and intuit what to say and how to say it before those who may not share our religion, race, culture or language.

    It's a balancing act, performed every day by the Hispanic who leaves Spanish at home or the African American who judges when it's safe to use the cadence of the street. Misjudge the boundaries of generally acceptable speech, and you risk alienating and excluding your listener.

    Consider, on the other hand, President George W. Bush. With his persistent use of the language of prayer and his insistence on speaking from a particular brand of Christianity, he risks not only alienating Americans who don't believe in God. He also risks excluding anyone of faith who doesn't happen to share his theological approach to history.

    He has forgotten that he's talking to mixed company.

    I appreciate and respect the fact that he is a man of deep religious conviction. He doesn't wear his faith on his sleeve; it's his entire wardrobe, clothing his worldview in a fabric that seems sturdy enough to give him the strength and confidence to manage crises of global magnitude. That likely reassures Americans who want to believe the nation is led by someone with an explicit, consistent set of faith-driven values.

    But it's his faith, not mine or necessarily yours. No American is obliged to adopt it. Last I looked, the United States of America was not declared a Methodist nation, or even a Christian one (even though everything closes on Christmas and Easter).

    Lately, the President has often sounded as if his worldview is normative when, in fact, it is not.

    For example, although Bush obviously believes in a life after death on this Earth, how can he know that all the grieving families of the Columbia astronauts - Christians, Jews and Hindus - share that belief? Yet at the recent memorial service, he told them, "In God's own time, we can pray that the day of your reunion will come."

    Another example: Bush obviously believes in a God who intervenes directly in history, who guides, strengthens and, yes, sides with those who stand for liberty and justice in a cosmic struggle between good and evil. Many of us who witnessed the massacres and the miracles of the 20th century have great difficulty with that argument. It is a serious issue on which good people of faith can disagree.

    To the President, though, there seems to be no room for disagreement. In the State of the Union address last month, he told Americans preparing for war with Iraq to "place our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history."

    And at last week's National Prayer Breakfast, he told a group of religious leaders: "Events aren't moved by blind change and chance. Behind all of life and all of history, there's a dedication and purpose, set by the hand of a just and faithful God." While that was truly preaching to the choir, Bush speaks this way no matter the audience. That's the problem.

    I don't question the President's right to such beliefs. I question whether he has a right to frame the foreign policy of this nation in such terms. True, there are political advantages: Now that he has clothed foreign policy in biblical language, which of our brave politicians will choose to pick a fight with the Almighty?

    Michael Gerson, White House policy advisor and chief speechwriter, defended Bush's ecumenism in a recent interview, noting that the President refrains from mentioning the words Jesus or Christ and adheres to a "principled pluralism that respects the important role of faith, but does not favor any sectarian creed."

    I appreciate the thought. But Gerson must not be reading his own speeches very closely. Laced throughout the language that Gerson writes are sectarian creeds, approaches and answers that are not even shared by all Methodists, never mind all voters. (A prominent Methodist bishop is in a TV ad preaching that a war with Iraq "violates God's law and the teachings of Jesus Christ.")

    Bush's religious language seems genuine enough, a natural outgrowth of the well-publicized conversion that brought him away from alcohol and toward a sober, public service-oriented evangelical Christianity.

    But, with the zeal of a convert, he seems to have decided that all people of faith believe in the same kind of God, the same definition of history, the same trust in grace and Providence. He needs to find a language that includes, not excludes; that unifies, not divides. He needs to remember that, indeed, this is a nation of mixed company.

    Contact columnist Jane Eisner at 215-854-4530 or [email protected].

    Edited by - badwillie on 11 February 2003 20:44:43

  • Xander

    Remember, this is the man whose father stated that atheists shouldn't be considered American citizens.

    I guess it runs in the family.

  • teejay

    He has forgotten that he's talking to mixed company.

    And he doesn't care. He sees himself as "good/right" and everyone disagreeing with him is "evil/wrong." That, to me, makes him a tad dangerous.

  • Ravyn

    IMO Bush is insane. And I want to add(on your thread rather than mine becoz for some reason this wont post on my thread) that until someone walks in my shoes--in fundyland Tennessee--as a day-catholic, yankee, witch-they can not tell me what to be afraid of or not to be afraid of. And it is my opinion that CA does not count since speaking from persoanl experience(I LIVED IN sO cAL for 9 yrs)they dont have a friggin CLUE what is happening in the rest of the US.

    So there!


  • Utopian_Raindrops

    BRAVO Ravyn and a {{{{{hugz}}}} of sympathy, empathy, neighborly love and concern!

    You are in Christian Coalition territory honey and there no non-fundy is safe!

    You can be a Christian and not safe since the Christian Coalitionists believe in Divine Province and their role in Gods War of Armageddon.

    They are just as radical as Muslims who will commit grisly, grewsome suicide missions in the name of Allah.

    I visited my cousin in West Virginia who informed me that all who do not believe in Jesus past as well as present will burn in HELL and she is so happy for it!

    These people even believe those never hearing of Christianity will burn, burn, burn and if they can help GOD put these people there they will do so with praise and thanksgiving!

    What happened to Love Your Neighbor As Yourself? These people obviously read only scriptures that speak to their hearts and egos rather then scriptures that teach and up build.

    When 1 st I read in one of your posts where you lived Ravyn my heart jumped and I felt for you immensely! What a fearful place to live. When we visited the south I remember even seeing Christian Coalition Bill Boards announcing their Political Christian Rallies.

    I know you are a pagan Ravyn but still I will pray the PEACE of Our Creator and His Son be With you through all these troubled times in mans history.

    I know from your past posts you have love in your heart and that is what all peoples should strive to have.

    Draw close to The One Who Made Us and you will find safety there.

    Gotta Luvz You Sugar,


    Edited by - Utopian_raindrops on 13 February 2003 16:56:22

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