Let’s talk about the Man from Nazareth, whom George Bush II nominated as the philosopher who most influenced him during the ‘presidential campaign’ of 2000. I submit to you that this famous Nazarene has not caused so much trouble since the day he got brought up on charges in 32 A.D., and that includes the Crusades, which at least got people traveling again. If Jesus Christ were alive today, He would be appalled. His message–and the powerful men who claim to have been moved by it–has been perverted out of recognition in the name of wealth and power. If Bush admires anything about Christ, it is probably the excellent cover he provides to do Whatever You Damn Well Please in His Name. But mark my words: you won’t find a guy who is more the inverse of Jesus than George W. Bush.
In the interest of full disclosure, let it be noted that I am not a Christian, although I have learned many powerful lessons from the Bible. Nor am I an atheist: I worship a type of lichen that grows on oak trees. It seems safe enough–you start worshipping somebody’s description of God, crazy things happen. Stick with something like moss, you’ll never get messages from the creator to go liberate Palestine by the sword or burn all the Lutherans in the next village. With some kinds of lichen, you might get messages, but only if you ingest them in quantity; the kind I worship has no psychoactive properties and can be sprinkled on salads. If I were a Christian, though, I would be very embarrassed right now, and I would feel a compulsion to explain to everybody I run into that Bush meant some other man from Nazareth, possibly Mitch Fosselman over on D street who raised prize-winning cattle until he broke his hip and had to move into Jerusalem.
No chance: Bush indisputably means Jesus Christ is his role model, and this should be cause for concern. A guy who has presided over scores of state executions and laughed about it to the press should probably align himself with Pontius Pilate, not Jesus. At least Pontius wasn’t cracking wise all the time. Bush just couldn’t care less: if you’re guilty of malfe’ance, off to the chair with you. I wonder if he’d be so casual about slaying the naughty if we still favored crucifixion, not lethal injections. But he doesn’t have much of a sense of irony.
Executions aren’t the only disconnect. You can drive around with a “My Boss Is A Jewish Carpenter” sticker on your pickup, and that doesn’t mean you get Jesus’ message. Bush clearly has no problem with being a borrower or a lender, for example–he borrowed the White House and is lending it to everybody he owes a favor. He doesn’t turn the other cheek, unless it’s the cheek of his ass to the United Nations. He is currently dismantling the obstacles to throwing the first stone, and the stone in this case is a nuclear missile lobbed at one of those swarthy countries that are still pissed off about the Crusades. Don’t think Bush isn’t on a crusade, by the way–he may choose his words poorly, and he may have retracted that one, but he is on a crusade, all right.
Several members of his cabinet, such as John “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” Ashcroft, are genuine zealots, and they love the idea of a crusade. But we’re not talking about a metaphorical crusade; we’re talking about the real thing, with Percheron horses and banners flapping and big old two-handed swords, riding into Jerusalem over the bodies of the Palestinians (and the Jews if they don’t step aside when the time comes). Ashcroft is a standout: he really believes that the end time is near and the Book of Revelations is about to come true. For ignorant heathens, the Book of Revelations is the part of the Bible written by the apostle John after a mescaline jag, and among other prognostications explains how the world is going to end–as experts have determined, sometime in the fall of 1987. We’re talking plagues of locusts with human heads. If Bush is serious about Jesus, which is debatable, he certainly believes Revelations, too–and in light of that whole bit about the world nearing its end no matter what we do, Bush’s failure to invest in long-term strategies suddenly makes a chilling kind of sense. After all, why worry about the environment when it’s going to be consumed in unquenchable fire anyway? Put it like that, I’m no longer worried about how many miles per gallon I’m getting, either. Jesus didn’t talk about the environment, after all. And maybe that’s the problem: advice on righteous living from twenty centuries ago just doesn’t address the issues of today.
Jesus (and we’re not getting into whether He even existed, or whether His biographers might have exaggerated His deeds or misquoted His words in order to keep themselves interesting) did not have to worry about the environment. Back in His day pollution was what an unmarried guy did to the girls. Jesus did not have to worry about weapons of mass destruction–there were none, unless you count the incident wherein Samson “found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith” (Judges 15:15,16), which I think we can discount as hyperbole.
If anybody is going to slay 10,000 with the jawbone of an ass, it’s George Bush II.
The insidious thing people like Bush do is to take the Bible literally and fudge around the edges, where things hadn’t been invented at the time of the writing, rather than acknowledge that the entire work is full of metaphors from which lessons can be drawn (which, if you believe in the lessons, is the whole beauty of the thing). If there had been industrial pollution in Jesus’ time, you damn betcha He would have had something to say about it–and not “Now we can all walk on water, because it’s coagulated in the rivers!” If there were Tomahawk missiles, ‘smart bombs’, and ‘bunker busters’, Jesus would not have recommended their use–not on anybody, not even the Romans. If you don’t like where the spirit of His message leads, the trick is to take Him literally–Jesus never said anything about arsenic in drinking water, after all.
(I will now stop capitalizing He and His and Him and just get on with it.) Jesus wouldn’t know what to make of the world today. In his time, there were a couple million Jews, and the world population wasn’t even close to cracking a billion. His was a theocratic society based on herding, agriculture, and the usual trades, until certain natural resources were found there, at which time the Roman Empire arrived, needing to export these resources to fuel its endeavors. . . Does any of this sound familiar? But the Romans weren’t after petroleum. They wanted produce.
Things had gotten out of hand by the time Jesus was old enough to vote, and there was a certain amount of cosying up between the Pharisees, or local priests, and the Romans. The priests played a governing role similar to that of the Vichy government in France during World War Two–and with similar ill effects on the Jewish population. Jesus was a fundamentalist in some ways–he believed the Temples should be used for nothing but worship, at a time when they were centers of commerce that dealt in property, goods, and currency exchange, much like the Catholic Church of today. I have to lie down, the irony is suffocating me. . . No. Must go on. Must. . . make point.
Jesus despised all this truckle and like a good fundamentalist he rampaged around and tore down the system as much as he could. He would have been one of the people breaking Starbucks windows in Seattle during the WTO meeting. That’s where he stood, relative to the authorities–who regarded him as an anarchist, while he regarded himself as an old-time reformer. In this way, Jesus and Bush could not be more different: Bush would patently like to see the Church running the show again, and as Bush sees politics as an arm of commerce, we can therefore postulate that he would like to see the Church running the commercial realm as well as the state, which places him firmly in the camp of the Pharisees—who eventually handed Christ over to the Romans for torture and execution.
At the same time, when he wasn’t railing against the system, Jesus’ message was one of peace and love and forgiveness. Bush is a man of war and hate and brutal judgement–it’s hard to cast him in any other light. So even in the contradictions between Christ’s deeds and message, Bush manages to reveal the reverse tendency in every case–a fancy piece of footwork. Where Christ is stomping around deploring money changers’ booths in the temple, Bush is accepting donations from the Reverend Moon and abetting corporate usury; when Christ calms down and suggests that he among us who is without sin should cast the first stone, Bush says, “Git back, Jack!” and lobs a brick at the nearest teenager on death row.
There are many more diametric opposites between Bush and Jesus. The field is almost too rich; it’s hard to choose examples. The head spins and the ears ring. Jesus probably wouldn’t be thrilled to learn Bush’s family fortune was seeded with Nazi money, for one thing; for another, Bush doesn’t eat kosher. Christ accepted responsibility for the sins of all mankind and died to redeem us; Bush won’t even accept responsibility for missing an SEC filing deadline. But I think we can agree that Bush may have emulated Jesus Christ on at least one occasion, and I will graciously observe it here, lest anyone think I am incapable of seeing virtue in the man selected to be our President.
A while back, America got involved in a war in Vietnam. Certain persons who ran against Bush during the campaign season of 2000 had fought in that war–Al Gore and John McCain, to name a couple. They went over to Southeast Asia to kill Gooks. George W. Bush II was also eligible to fight in that war. But, perhaps heeding the message of the philosopher Jesus Christ, he realized war is bad and peace is good. So he joined the National Guard, in which service he would never have to kill anything larger than a jackrabbit on the runway. But even this warlike organization would displease Christ—or so Bush must have reasoned. Because he went AWOL for the last year of his tour of duty–and if that doesn’t make him a man of peace, I don’t know what does. Ben Tripp is a screenwriter. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org