Notes on the Atrocities
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Tuesday, February 11, 2003  

Preacher George and the Holy Wars

“This country is blessed with virtually millions of good-hearted volunteers who work daily miracles in the lives of their fellow citizens. And today I ask our religious broadcasters, those who reach into every corner of America, to rally the armies of compassion so that we can change America one heart, one soul at a time.”

That was Preacher George yesterday, mustering the troops. It was a speech the White House innocuously labeled “President Bush Discussess Faith-Based Initiative in Tennessee,” delivered at the ecumenical-sounding National Religious Broadcasters convention. It was neither an innocuous speech nor an ecumnenical group: you had to look no further than the “Advancing Christian Communications” backdrop behind Preacher George to understand the audience.

If the State of the Union address introduced the Preacher to the world, this speech clarified his intention. It was less a political speech than it was an assurance that religion had finally been institutionalized as politics. Think I’m going too far here? Listen:

“The American people have deep and diverse religious beliefs, truly one of the great strengths of our country. And the faith of our citizens is seeing us through some demanding times. We're being challenged. We're meeting those challenges because of our faith.”

The country is able to meet its challenges how? Through its constitutional democracy and laws? No. “We’re meeting those challenges because of our faith.” The President appears to be a deeply religious man, and he does not see a distinction between the goodness of religious belief and the goodness of a strong government. It’s a theme he repeated throughout the speech. More:

“Government, of course, must be involved and will be involved. We just reformed our welfare in America and we've helped a lot of people. Yet, even as we work to improve the welfare laws, we know that welfare policy will not solve the deepest problems of the spirit.”

“I welcome faith. I welcome faith to help solve the nation's deepest problems.”

After the last sentence, Bush paused to tip his hat to the constitution: “I understand there's a -- that government must not and will not endorse a religious creed, or directly fund religious worship. That's obviously not a role of government, and that's not what we're talking about here.”

But he apparently does not understand this, because a few paragraphs later, he said:

“I continue to work with members of Congress of both political parties to enact faith-based legislation to encourage more charitable giving, so we're more likely able to rally the armies of compassion.”

And a little later:

“As well, I am concerned about those who are addicted to drugs, who fight for their very lives and survival against addiction. I believe that we can take a approach that focuses on the addict, give that person a voucher to be redeemed at any program that he or she chooses. Especially those programs that have got the capacity to change heart and, therefore, change habit.”

What he’s saying here is that it’s not really effective for government to meet the needs of citizens. “Compassion” in this case is more than simple material aid: it’s the Christian compassion that can “change heart and, therefore, change habit.” So even while his new budget cuts programs to the poor, he wishes to transfer these to “faith-based” providers. Why? Because the President isn’t paying lip service to his faith: he believes the only way to affect change is through religious ministration.

But that’s not all. Oh my, no. If this speech characterized Preacher George as a compassionate benefactor, it also showed his vengeful side as well.

“As I said in my State of the Union, liberty is not America's gift to the world. Liberty is God's gift to every human being in the world. America has great challenges; challenges at home and challenges abroad. We're called to extend the promise of this country into the lives of every citizen who lives here. We're called to defend our nation and to lead the world to peace, and we will meet both challenges with courage and with confidence.”

George W. Bush, the leader of the US, calls upon himself to defend the nation and lead the world to peace. He does not believe liberty is the US’s gift—it is God’s gift. America is just the enforcer of this truth. For the President, this is the mission statement. Thus, the real reason we have the pre-emption doctrine is revealed:

“If war is forced upon us -- and I say "forced upon us," because use of the military is not my first choice. I hug the mothers and the widows of those who may have lost their life in the name of peace and freedom. I take my responsibilities incredibly seriously about the commitment of troops. . . . We will try in every way we can to spare innocent life. The people of Iraq are not our enemies.”

Onward Christian soldier. Let them know of your compassion. Let them see the bright, violent light of your goodness. Clear away the evil, restore the purity:

“America views the Iraqi people as human beings who have suffered long enough under this tyrant. And the Iraqi people can be certain of this: the United States is committed to helping them build a better future. If conflict occurs, we'll bring Iraq food and medicine and supplies and, most importantly, freedom.”

This was an alarming speech. We’re not going to hear much about it because, for one, most Americans are Christian. Those who aren’t (particularly those in the media) will dismiss it as rhetoric. But it’s far from rhetoric: it’s a worldview that dictates who receives beneficence, and who receives wrath. We’re about to go to war not because war is justified but because the President of the United States regards Saddam Hussein as evil.

posted by Jeff | 12:47 PM |
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