FAITH ABUSE: WHEN GOD BECOMES A CAMPAIGN PLOY

by Arianna Huffington
03-Nov-04
published by internet/ column

This is my last column before Election Day. With less than a week to go, I
plan on doing everything in my power to defeat George W. Bush (need a ride to
the polls?). Then I'm going to get down on my knees and pray to a higher power.


As someone for whom faith is incredibly important, and who regularly prays
for all the people and things that matter to me, I'm hopeful that God is as
appalled as I am with the way His name is constantly being taken in vain on the
Bush campaign trail, and with how the president is abusing his faith to justify
to himself and to the world his disastrous policies.


Lord knows there's a very long list of things to be angry with Bush about,
but this one has moved to the top of my personal hit parade because, as Catholic
theologians teach us, "The corruption of the best is the worst." And George
W. is truly corrupting faith and dragging it into the political gutter. In two
fundamental ways:


First, he's using it as a spiritual inoculation against uncertainty and
complexity.


Ron Suskind's
recent piece in the New York Times Magazine painted a chilling portrait
of a presidency in which thoughtful analysis and moral questioning have been
replaced by "God-given" certainty, and where facts and open debate have become
an anathema.


Suskind reveals a president who uses his faith to numb himself against
reality. It anesthetizes him in the same way a stiff drink used to, and allows him
to drown out the voices of doubt. Yet great thinkers throughout history have
extolled the virtues of doubt. As Paul Tillich put it: "Doubt isn't the opposite
of faith; it is an element of faith."


But not in the Bush White House, where doubters are treated as traitors, and
inconvenient facts are the work of the Devil because facts can lead to
questioning, and questioning undermines faith. And that would be blasphemy in an
Oval Office where unbending resolve has become a holy sacrament. No wonder Bush
is unwilling to admit to even a single mistake.


The second way the president is corrupting his faith is by using it as a marke
ting tool designed to garner support among the over 60 million Americans who
identify themselves as evangelical particularly the 4 million born-again
voters who stayed home in 2000.


Nowhere is this blending of church and campaign more evident than in "George
W. Bush: Faith in the White House," a DVD being distributed to tens of
thousands of America's churches.


Although not officially the work of the Bush-Cheney campaign, it obviously
has its approval, and indeed was screened at a party for Christian conservatives
hosted by the campaign at the GOP convention in New York.


In the documentary, President Bush is presented as a man with "the moral
clarity of an old-fashioned biblical prophet" and is shown sharing a beatific
split screen with the Son of God himself.


So, in 2004, Jesus is not only the president's favorite philosopher he's his
surrogate running mate. I'm surprised we haven't seen any "Bush-Christ 2004"
bumper stickers yet. It would make for a heck of an October surprise.


All this pious posturing is also being used as a cudgel with which to attack
John Kerry, portraying him as a sorry second in the faith sweepstakes.


Forget that Kerry carries a Bible and a rosary with him on the campaign
trail, used to be an altar boy, and has said, "My faith affects everything that I
do." The Bushies have made it seem as if they are running against Joe Pagan.
Just check out the "Kerry: Wrong for Catholics"
HREF="http://www.georgewbush.com/Catholics/Comparison.aspx?area=1">page on the official Bush-Cheney
campaign Web site.


What's next? Attack ads from Altar Boys for Truth claiming Kerry never
actually swallowed the body of Christ during communion?


What the president calls faith is actually nothing of the sort. It is
fanaticism, pure and simple. The defining trait of the fanatic is an utter refusal to
allow anything as piddling as evidence to get in the way of an unshakable
belief.


This zealot's mindset is what allows President Bush to take in the death and
destruction in Iraq and see them as "freedom on the march." And it's also what
allows Abu Zarqawi and his followers to coldly put a bullet in the back of
the head of four-dozen unarmed Iraqi Army recruits because they are "apostates."


"Either you're with us or you're against us" plainly cuts both ways.


"This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about al-Qaida and the Islamic
fundamentalist enemy," explained Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy advisor to
Reagan and Bush 41. "He understands them because he's just like them."


I pray that every American of real faith keeps this in mind when stepping
into the voting booth on Election Day.

 

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