George Bush, the Inaugural, and Dude-Ranch Christianity

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Forty
million dollars spent on inaugural festivities. Enough security
to reassure even the most paranoid Nervous Nellie. And behind it
all, a president who brays about his Christianity, hobnobs with
leaders of the Religious Right, and, most surprisingly, has captured
the hearts and dogged loyalty of that large portion of the American
electorate identifying itself as "Christian."

George
W. Bush is an obvious hypocrite. He regularly violates by both his
policies and his personal behavior the strictures of the Bible he
claims to believe. To cite one glaring instance, he swore before
Almighty God to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,"
then foisted the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security
on us. To cite a few more, he repeatedly insisted Iraq had WMD's,
violating the Ninth Commandment against bearing false witness; based
on spurious evidence, he embroiled the US in a war that, by classical
Christian definition, is shockingly unjust. Yet his supporters are
not dissuaded. They continue praising Bush for his "Christian
witness," his "traditional values." However, in the
inaugural blow-out just past, Bush may have flaunted his hypocrisy
so brazenly that American Christians will at long last repent of
their gullibility.

Christians
are assured throughout Scripture that their Heavenly Father will
protect them, that their lives are in His hands. Christians are
not to fret over their personal health and well-being: God determines
what befalls us. When He chooses – and only when He chooses – our earthly
life ends. No Christian, then, ever dies before his time, nor does
any accident or crisis befall him God has not allowed.

Bush
is having none of this. The God he professes is a puny little deity,
unable to protect him from curious glances (those participating
in the inaugural parade were forbidden from so much as looking at
the President), let alone assassins' bullets. Black Hawk helicopters,
sky marshals in every commercial flight near DC, barricades around
the White House, closed streets – these ludicrously overblown precautions,
and not the Almighty, are what protect the President. Far better
to place one's faith in bomb-sniffing dogs than in their Creator.

The
Bible also warns Christians against "worldliness," i.e.,
the love of money and power, luxurious living, obsession with material
prosperity. God will supply our needs, though not necessarily our
wants; "having food and raiment," St. Paul urges us, "let
us be therewith content." It is difficult to read any of the
66 books in the Bible without being reminded of the evils of worldliness.

And
again, Bush spurns the Scriptures. His lavish inaugural festivities
broke all records for expense and excess; Bush excused such vulgarity
by asserting that his partisans deserve to celebrate. He glories
in his electoral victory as much as any Babylonian or Assyrian tyrant
gloried in his military victory over the fragments of ancient Israel.
Either he is ignorant or he doesn't care that the Bible strongly
condemns such arrogance and pride.

Bush's
"Christianity" is politically expedient and therefore
easily explained, however despicable. With huge percentages of the
country professing itself Christian, it's a wonder more presidents
haven't trumpeted their faith as loudly as the current one. What
is harder to understand is the blind trust many American Christians
bestow on him. Why would schoolteachers and drugstore clerks, waitresses
and auto mechanics believe Bush to be a Christian when his actions
so plainly speak otherwise?

Perhaps
it is because Bush's version of Christianity is the dude-ranch variety.
Just as guests on a dude ranch are treated to the excitement and
rewards of riding the range without any of the danger confronting
real cowboys, so Bush subtracts all the disagreeable or downright
unpleasant stuff from Christianity. Biblical Christianity makes
for a difficult lifestyle; done right, it can make one unpopular
or even dead. Bush is not the first "Christian" to discover
that it's much easier to boast about one's Christianity than to
live it, and he is legitimizing this hypocrisy for millions of Americans.
He takes the rigorous righteousness to which Christ calls us, the
unerring devotion to truth, the respect and dignity Christians are
to accord all men, even Arabs and dissenters, and says, "Nah."
Bush's "Christianity" is exclusively words, not deeds.

And
therein lies his appeal to modern American Christians, most of whom
live very pampered lives, few of whom have ever faced persecution
for their faith. Indeed, their biggest spiritual challenge is sticking
with their diet or turning off the TV long enough to attend church.
They feel vaguely guilty – after all, aren't Christians supposed to
suffer for their faith? There's something about martyrs in the Bible,
isn't there? – but not guilty enough to relinquish the comfortable
life and the moral compromises, beginning with their worship of
the state. Now here is no less an authority than the president – the
PRESIDENT! Of the WHOLE UNITED STATES! – proving that
what you say matters far more than what you do. Stutter the right
words, and you can live as you please. Go ahead and say you believe
in God, but when it comes to bodily protection and security, why
trust a deity you can't see? It's been a long time since a president
died on the Secret Service's watch, but once they turn him over
to the Lord – well, look at Reagan. Besides, the Secret Service and
the FBI probably outgun God, anyway. And what's wrong with celebrating?
Christian humility has its place, sure, but not when you've just
whupped the Democrats. Only bad guys who aren't "with us"
begrudge a hard-working president a good time. Live it up! Enjoy
life: that's what the Good Lord put us here for. Give Him a "Howdy!"
in church on Sunday, and savor the dude-ranch the rest of the week.

Ride
'em, Cowboy.

January
24, 2005

Becky
Akers [send her mail] writes
fiction and non-fiction about the American Revolution.

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