In men whom men condemn as ill
I find so much of goodness still,
In men whom men pronounce divine
I find so much of sin and blot,
I do not dare to draw a line
Between the two, where God has not.
Joaquin Miller, Byron
Although this is not how He sees Himself, He has once again become a divisive force in this campaign. I refer, of course, to God-the one on the Right.
The Republican party sent out campaign literature in Arkansas and West Virginia in September with a picture of the Bible with an X drawn through it and the word “banned” inscribed on the cover and a gay marriage proposal with the words “allowed” inscribed. The message was that if John Kerry became president the Bible would be banned and gay marriage would be legalized to the mailer’s, if not God’s, displeasure.
Commenting on the mailing, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said: “We have the First Amendment in this country which should protect churches, but there is no question that this is where some people want to go, that reading from the Bible could be hate speech.” That is not to say, however, that he thinks Democrats would ban the entire Bible. He said that suggestion was “probably stretching it a bit far.”
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the highest ranking Roman Catholic prelate in Colorado. has advised the faithful that a vote for John Kerry is a sin that must be confessed before receiving communion. . The web site “Catholic Answers” says it is a sin to vote for anyone who, among other things, supports abortion. It is all right to support the death penalty.
The genesis of the religious fervor is easy to find. George Bush and others attribute his tenure in the White House to their God and not to the United States Supreme Court that chose him. Mr. Land describes how he and some other conservative religious leaders met in the governor’s mansion on the day Mr. Bush was sworn into office for his second term as governor of Texas. At that meeting Mr. Bush said: “I believe that God wants me to be president.” Given the fact that he had not even begun his second term as governor some might perceive that comment to be a touch presumptuous. God might have been interested in seeing how Mr. Bush performed during his second term before suggesting he move up.
Another event that has brought God into the political season is the release of a report about General Jerry Boykin. General Boykin is an evangelical Christian, a General in the United States Army and the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Much of his time has been devoted to giving speeches extolling the virtues of his God and putting down that of others. He has told audiences, among other things that Christians worship “a real God” and non-Christians revere “an idol.” He has described Mr. Bush’s battle in Iraq as a battle against Satan who “wants to destroy us as a Christian army.” He has said that Islamic terrorists would only be defeated if “we come at them in the name of Jesus.” Commenting on the capture of Somali warlord, Osman Ato, he told one audience that: “Well, you know what, I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.” Following Mr. Ato’s capture the general went into his cell and said: “Mr. Ato, you underestimated our God.” He correctly told one audience that “[T]he majority of Americans did not vote for him [Bush].” Ignoring the role of the United States Supreme Court he went on to say, less correctly that: “He’s in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this.”
After his comments created a furor he asked the Pentagon’s inspector general to investigate his conduct. The investigation found that dressed in his military uniform the general made speeches at 23 religious organized events in which he discussed the war against terror using the sort of language described above. Following the release of the report the General appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes and explained that he was there because he wanted people to know that he was not the bigot his words suggested. Asked on 60 Minutes whether he believed Allah to be a lesser God than the Christian God he responded saying: “I am a Christian. That speaks for itself.”
Given his speeches, the Republican mailing and the archbishop’s comments one would have to agree that being the kind of Christian they have shown themselves to be does indeed speak for itself. That’s too bad. It gives Christianity a bad name.
CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a Boulder, Colorado lawyer. His column appears weekly in the Daily Camera. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org