Thoughts on Baldwin and Bushism
Baldwin's most recent column is a doozy. I wish I could write with such clarity.
Baldiwn dissects the tragedy of the Bush administration from Iraq to immigration, from massive new spending programs (No Child Left Behind, free Cialis for geezers, etc.) to his refusal to heed judicial or congressional oversight. Baldwin correctly concludes that "the Bush II regime is worse than those of Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and even Bill Clinton."
And yet the biggest problem created by the president has nothing to do with policy. Rather, his identification with, and support from, conservative evangelicals has done severe damage to the faith.
Baldwin says it succinctly: "The worst tragedy of the Bush presidency is the damage he has done to the image and influence of Christianity. It is no hyperbole to say that George W. Bush has done more to demean and mitigate the positive influence of genuine Christianity than any single person in American history."
Baldwin continues: "Because George W. Bush successfully portrayed himself as the ultimate Christian president, his life and policies are indelibly linked to the very definition of what it means to be a Christian in public office. The Religious Right also share in this perception, as they almost universally and totally gave their allegiance to Bush. Hence, as far as most Americans are concerned, George W. Bush is a Christian, and, therefore, his philosophies and ideas are assumed to be Christian as well."
Thus Christians are thrust into defending "pre-emptive" warfare, torture, amnesty for law breakers, the denial of constitutional rights to citizens, and centralized, unchecked executive authority.
Also virtually ignored by my brothers and sisters is Bush's syncretism. And by their silence, leaders of the Religious Right effectively endorse religious egalitarianism and remain silent in the face of idolatry.
Our ostensibly Christian president has bowed down before the "gods" of Shintoism, publicly celebrated Ramadan, and frequently equated Allah with the triune God. He has said that Christians and Muslims pray to the same God, and when asked if both groups go to heaven said, "Yes, they do. We have different routes of getting there."
In short, George Bush has supported and advanced syncretistic idolatry while professing faith in God through the mediating redemption provided by Jesus Christ.
"As a result," says Baldwin, "not only do non-Christians look askance at Christianity, many genuine Christians have had their entire philosophy regarding Biblical principles uprooted and redefined. Worse still, many Christians have, either wittingly or unwittingly, chosen to adopt Bush's brand of Christianity, and in so doing, have abandoned genuine Bible Christianity."
This tendency has been noted frequently by correspondents who have written to me over the last several years. One lady wrote to say she had "been struggling with this heresy within my own church...and I have finally gotten to the point of asking the Pastoral staff and Elders for an accounting, justification if you will, of HOW they can embrace this war as Just and Of God when it was created with Lies and Deception."
Another American expatriate living in Europe read one of my essays and wrote of his experience. "I slowly watched my country and its leadership descend into its own hell, justifying each step it took along the path. Wrong became right and defendable as we were a country at war. We weren't quite sure who the enemy was, but they were real and dangerous. And most disturbing of all for me personally was that American leaders were espousing a strange form of Christian morality as the basis of their actions. And as you have so clearly pointed out, legitimate Christian leaders were lock and step in line with the political leaders."
What is instructive to note is that social ethics, and the application of biblical principles and law, has apologetic and evangelical consequences. This same writer saw what was happening in the American evangelical church and wondered if the fruit being produced indicated that the tree itself was poisonous. "I found myself unquestionably in conflict with my American political leadership and even began to question my own faith. If so many Christian leaders who I had previously seen as godly men in the bad old morally corrupt Clinton days could support the policies of this administration, then where did that leave me and my evangelical faith."
Another correspondent wrote to describe how alone he felt in challenging the consensus of the new political religion spawned by the president and his evangelical allies.
"Man, it's lonely out here! For the longest time it felt like I was the only Christian who recognized the duplicity of this administration regarding the Iraq war and the troubling veil of deception which seems to infect the Evangelical community at large. I remain mystified at the total lack of discernment in the evangelical community. Duplicity is the calling-card of this administration...the 'fruit' is rotten and it's everywhere. Appointing Gays, continued abortion funding, illegal immigration and the bogus 911 event as a pre-text for war...pure evil. Any dissention from the popular point of view is usually met with 'you're a liberal, a communist, Marxist, leftist, conspiracy nut'..et al. And of course, there's the simplistic propaganda and sloganeering made famous by our own President, who uttered the remarkably historic quip, 'you're either for us, or against us'".
The problem for Christians is their near full embrace of neo-conservatism. A Christian understanding of human nature and original sin recognizes that all authority is ultimately derivative, limited and delegated by God. Furthermore, Christians are naturally suspicious of globalist attempts to reconstruct the Tower of Babel, and recognize that borders and nations are gifts of God.
A Christian worldview applied to politics thus endorses limited government bound by a written Constitution and respect for law. It believes in a foreign policy that rejects the messianic impulse. It will defend the right of peoples and nations to maintain some measure of ethnic and religious coherence and integrity.
Conversely, neo-conservatives endorse untrammeled executive power, and seek the debasement of legislative bodies and reject the "interference" of judicial bodies. They conflate Israeli and American interests, driven to create a Pax Americana at the point of a bayonet under the rubric of Democracy. They are aligned with business interests who preach the doctrine of homo economicus, who seek mass immigration as a means of keeping wages low and seek the integration of the American nation into a global marketplace as a means of its destruction.
Evangelical voters have become little more than an instrument wielded by the GOP establishment, a rent-a-mob that has destroyed the last remnants of bona fide conservatism and constitutionalism.
The association of President Bush with Christianity and the subsequent public rejection of Bushism likely means that authentic Christianity will have a diminished role in shaping public policy and will wield less influence in the public square.