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On the (Far) Right Hand of God

She’s a pleasant enough person. Likes animals. Seems to care about people. Does an excellent job as an administrative assistant for a state agency. But she also has an impervious religious belief. The day after George W. Bush was elected to his second term, she sent an e-mail to several persons where she worked:

“Christians have MUCH to be thankful to God for this day after our national election. Many conservative, pro-life, pro-traditional marriage men and women were elected to seats in both the House and Senate. Most important of all, it looks as though Christians in every state of our nation turned out in records [sic] numbers to support our God-fearing President!”

Mary Ann Kreitzer of Les Femmes, a national evangelical organization which defines itself as “The Women of Truth,” was even more sanctimonious. The Bush victory, said Kreitzer in a widely-distributed press release, was “a rejection of the extremism of the democratic party, [a rejection of] the party of gay activists, radical feminists, lesbians, the Hollywood elite, pornographers, death-peddlers, anti-Christian bigots, and apostate Catholics.”

In letters to the editor, on radio talk shows, and in corner bars, the conservative religious wing of America is ecstatic over the election, praising God and Bush in the same breath. Bush is the savior who will redeem the nation from the immorality of liberals, the Hollywood Left, and other pagans. In their world of divine absolute truth, even moderate and some conservative theologians will go to Hell for the sins of preaching tolerance for those who have other views of God and mankind, something not even Bush himself ever publicly stated.

For his entire term, President Bush emphasized his devout faith, showcasing it like a personal World Series of Heaven ring. In 1999, he told a Baptist convention he “heard the call,” and believed “God wants me to be President.” God may not have taken a side in the election, but he was anointed by a 5­4 vote of the Supreme Court. Slightly more than a week after his inauguration, President Bush created a White House Office for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, and directed five cabinet agencies to do the same; he was the first president to officially blur the “separation clause” of state and religion. A year later, the Texas Republican party, apparently with no objection from the President, in its platform declared, “the United States is a Christian nation.”

President Bush constantly speaks of his love of God, and when asked if he had consulted his father before invading Iraq, Bush the Younger said he had consulted a “higher father.” It played well in the Bible Belt. Sen. John F. Kerry, a devout and practicing Catholic, apparently was wasn’t “religious enough”; Sen. John Edwards, a Methodist, was too liberal; certainly, to American voters, they didn’t practice the “right” religion. And, apparently, neither did Bush’s opponents from 2000-Vice President Al Gore, a Baptist; and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an orthodox Jew.

The President’s campaign staff did a brilliant job of motivating the nation’s evangelical White conservatives to turn out in record numbers to vote for a person who heard the incessant thunder that “moral values” were more important than social justice. And so, a slim majority of voting Americans picked President Bush based upon what they believed were “moral values,” according to a post-election poll conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. “Moral values” edged both the fear of terrorism and the state of the economy, a surprising result since the focus of the campaign was primarily upon who would be a better commander-in-chief rather than a better president.

For most, “moral values” centered around two areas-abortion and gay rights. Bush opposed abortion; and he had innumerable times supported a proposed Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, an amendment that itself might be unconstitutional. In Ohio and Michigan, key states for both candidates, voters overwhelmingly reinforced bans not only against gay marriages, but also against rights of domestic partnerships. Nine other states also voted against gay marriages. Bush, a Methodist, like Edwards, also opposed his own church’s philosophy that gays should be allowed in the military, that the death penalty should be illegal, and that the war against Iraq should never have been launched. Kerry, a practicing Catholic, was pro-choice, and came from a state that had recently legalized gay marriage. That got the fundamental Catholic voters to unite with the conservative Christian Right, which usually doesn’t believe Catholics are “true Christians” anyway.

However, if Catholics agreed with the Pope that abortion is wrong, that marriage is only between a man and a woman, they certainly didn’t agree with him in condemning the immoral war in Iraq that killed or wounded more than 10,000 American, and, perhaps, 100,000 others, most of them civilians.

In their rush to judgment, most voters didn’t believe the President was immoral for accepting the views of corporate polluters over the views of environmentalists or that his policies would harm the nation’s wildlife. They didn’t think that “moral values” extended to the President’s decision to try to destroy a federal program to assist low income families get housing, or to helping the poor and marginalized, the underemployed and unemployed, and more than 45 million people who can’t afford health insurance. The President’s campaign staff managed to convince a nation, already gripped by fear, that an unjust war was moral, and that obscene war profits on no-bid contracts to the Vice-President’s former company was somehow spiritually in the national interest.

The Rev. Jim Wallis correctly pointed out that the Religious Right “fought to keep the focus on gay marriage and abortion and even said that good Christians and Jews could only vote for [President Bush].” Wallis, editor of Sojourners, official magazine of a national organization that integrates spiritual renewal with social justice, argued, that moderate and progressive Christians “insisted that poverty is also a religious issue, pointing to thousands of verses in the Bible on the poor.” He pointed out, “the environment-protection of God’s creation-is also one of our religious concerns.” The Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, agreed. “The agenda of the church must always respond faithfully to the Bible’s timeless mandate to minister to the poor, the marginalized and the outcast; and to be seekers and makers of peace,” said Edgar. About 59 million Americans disagreed.

“Long before there was a Jerry Falwell or a Pat Robertson or even a Tom DeLay, there was a Martin Luther King Jr., a Dorothy Day, and an Abraham Heschel,” said John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, at a “Faith and Progressive Policy” organizing forum. For King and millions of others, said Podesta, “justice and fairness in the community was inseparable from their faith in God.”

The Christian Right may say they support the Constitution, but they select which parts of which Amendments they want to accept. They may preach the Ten Commandments, but they don’t follow all of them. And, most of all, by deciding to vote for a President primarily on the basis that he showboats his faith, and that he opposes abortion and gay marriage, while neglecting, opposing, or shredding dozens of other social issues, they have also said they don’t truly understand the Bible.

A day after the election, with about 51 percent of the vote, President George W. Bush said he had “political capital” he intended to spend, that he had a “mandate” from the people. Perhaps this born-against-social-justice Christian and the people who are in rapture at his election might reflect upon Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Walter Brasch, professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, is an award-winning syndicated columnist and the author of 15 books, most of them about social issues, the First Amendment, and the media. His forthcoming book is America’s Unpatriotic Acts; The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Liberties (Peter Lang Publishing.) You may contact Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu or at www.walterbrasch.com

 

 

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Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an analysis of the history, economics, and politics of fracking, as well as its environmental and health effects.

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