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Getting Evangelicalism All Wrong
April 10, 2004 9:48 AM   Subscribe

How the left's fear of a right-wing Christian conspiracy gets George W. Bush -- and today's evangelical Christians -- all wrong. Alan Jacobs (more from him here and here) suggests that the idea that President Bush's evangelical Christianity has an impact on his politics is really a misunderstanding of Bush, fundamentalists, and evangelicals.
posted by marcusb (20 comments total)

 
Everyone does certainly get GW's religion all wrong. It's presented as a given here that he's a man of deep faith, when he's certainly a man of little conviction who is pandering to a crowd of superstitious types for votes.

If you say that you've got Jesus on your side but act against His teachings, there's a certain brand of American idiot who will always vote for you. The actual time that he found Jesus is between him and the invisible superhero in the sky, but it's a fair bet that it was shortly after he decided to enter politics.

(see "Reagan, Ronald" for a blueprint of how to live as an agnostic, then enter politics, find God, and then have Him endorse you.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:03 AM on April 10, 2004


what Mayor Curley said. This was telling, I thought: President Bush, like most evangelicals (and most Americans), is intellectually mongrel. The likelihood that his thinking and his policies are shaped by a single, coherent, radical ideology is virtually nil.

He panders when he thinks it'll help him get votes or support--witness all the recent bs coming out of his mouth as we entered the election year.
posted by amberglow at 10:08 AM on April 10, 2004


Mayor Curley, neither you nor Amberglow personally know the president. Me neither. So I think it is wrong to assume that any one of us truly knows what form his faith takes. I know plenty of politicians who cynically use faith as a tool to get elected but I truly don't get that vibe off Bush, but I can't prove it.

This was a good parsing out of Christian opinions except it left out the Charismatics. In some ways we resemble the fundies, in others the evangelicals...but not even we all agree on end times theology.
posted by konolia at 10:19 AM on April 10, 2004


The author of this piece is shooting ducks in a barrel -- most people don't subscribe to the fully-formed, almost conspiracy-theory-esque portraits of Dubya's spirituality that he discredits here (and which he does convincingly). Most people just think he's trying to legitimize the common tenets of all Christian faiths as part of the political process. And we're pissed off because he doesn't have the right to do it. I don't think he believes God whispers in his ear to personally bring about the Second Coming, but I do think he thinks we'd all be better off if we'd all just shut up and accept Christianity -- it doesn't seem to matter what kind, as long as Jesus is on top and the Bible's in every home -- as a state religion. And I couldn't disagree more.
posted by logovisual at 10:22 AM on April 10, 2004


So I think it is wrong to assume that any one of us truly knows what form his faith takes.

We know him by his words and actions, konolia. If he's lying or telling the truth when he says things, and if he acts in opposition to those words, then we know.
posted by amberglow at 10:29 AM on April 10, 2004


This post is very good news! It absolves the entire Christian right of being an excuse for the silliness opf Bush and makes him solely responsible for his actions, thought, etc (with hypnotic suggestions from Rove)...and imagine: no connection between hisidea of faith-based help for those in need and the Christian idea of helping the poor(by giving tax breaks to the Not Poor)...Ok. He is not religiousbased in his thinking. Hail Caesar: we who are about to starve, become unemployed, lose homes, have no medical help, pay premium costs for drugs sold for 1/3 as much in Canada--Salute Thee.
posted by Postroad at 11:10 AM on April 10, 2004


this article is helpfully nuanced. good reading. i hope it helps those who are less familiar with the conservative Christian landscape to understand it. we are not one 'Religious Right' bloc.

Postroad: your comment seems tangential. some of the Christian right may be culpable, Bush is certainly responsible for his own decisions, and the faith-based charity issue is not addressed in the article. you can bring it in, but Jacobs didn't try to deny it or even address it.
posted by Sean Meade at 11:43 AM on April 10, 2004


Bush cares no more about Jesus than he does about Texas. It's just a means to an end.

I foolishly wonder how his approval rating would be different if you didn't count people who read Left Behind.
posted by ulotrichous at 11:47 AM on April 10, 2004


So I think it is wrong to assume that any one of us truly knows what form his faith takes.

From my childhood spent in the Southern Baptist churches: "They will know we are Christians by our love." I'm not feeling the love.
posted by whatever at 11:52 AM on April 10, 2004


Im more worried about him insulting a foreign diplomat.
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:06 PM on April 10, 2004


Im more worried about him insulting a foreign diplomat.

"You are all a bunch of bastards! I hate you, personally! Bye! ... Did I do well?"
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:10 PM on April 10, 2004


This is a good link -- I've never thought that there's much in the way of distinctively evangelical policy or practice in the Bush administration. He's a Methodist himself, and it's hard to point to any of his senior officials as followers of any of the more hard-core denominations (or non-denominational strains of practice).

I don't think anyone on the Christian Right supports Bush as a result of his policies in the Middle East; indeed, I've heard this question from those precincts several times: why are we fighting to liberate Muslims from dictators in Afghanistan and Iraq, when we could be fighting to liberate oppressed Christians?

Christian Right support for Bush is animated entirely by the absolute revulsion they have for the Democratic social agenda. They're realistic about the likelihood that Bush will actually make progress on that front (on abortion he's done little, and on school choice he's done nothing, and on gay marriage he's not likely to accomplish more), but at least they think he won't actually cheer as all they hold dear is brought down.
posted by MattD at 12:31 PM on April 10, 2004


i want a tshirt that says "I'll cheer as all you hold dear is brought down." that would be awesome.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:35 PM on April 10, 2004


Whether GWB is legitimate with his faith or not is not my issue. I have a severe problem with him showboating his faith around, and in using prayer and the Bible in his political speeches and his political agenda. I am also terribly saddened by the Iraq situation. I don't understand how so many "Christians", if they can call themselves such, think that Jesus would have wanted us to go to war.
posted by banished at 12:37 PM on April 10, 2004


gods plan appears to be working in mysterious ways in iraq ... thats for sure.
posted by specialk420 at 1:46 PM on April 10, 2004


"By their fruits ye shall know them", eh?
posted by namespan at 3:05 PM on April 10, 2004


i don't necessarily support war in Iraq.

however, there are reasons why Christians might choose to support such a war. these reasons are largely the same ones other thinking people who support the war would cite.

(not to say that every Christian has considered their faith relative to foreign policy.)

being a Christian does not necessitate simplistic pacifism any more than any other view that is opposed to violence.

(however, i think more Christians should think seriously about Jesus' words and the history of the church (especially pre-Constantine) relative to how they think about war.)
posted by Sean Meade at 5:17 PM on April 10, 2004


stuff like this is maybe why people have the ideas they do about Bush and religion. Astounding.
posted by amberglow at 9:05 PM on April 10, 2004


From my childhood spent in the Southern Baptist churches: "They will know we are Christians by our love." I'm not feeling the love.

I don't get that from GWB either, but I get it from so few Christians these days...certainly few "loud" Christians.

I get the impression GWB's faith is not a major influence on his life or his policies. From what I've seen (as a foreigner) he doesn't flaunt his faith that much except in specific circumstances (like when speaking to Christian groups) - nor does it influence policies except in specific circumstances like abortion. Certainly he doesn't have a deep understanding of the teaching of Jesus and the values of the early church, but I doubt many modern conservatives do or they'd conclude Jesus was a communist.

The worrying aspect, to me, is not that GWB's faith and Christian image is that strong, but rather that a large group of fundamentalist Christians believe it to be strong inspite of the evidence. They believe he is a president representing the Christian cause, and so deserves their support. Convincing them otherwise is a difficult task...but so's convincing fundamentalists of the seriousness of Jesus's suggestions that "He who is without sin throw the first stone"..."Turn the other cheek"..."Judge not, that ye be not judged."...ad nauseum.
posted by Jimbob at 10:38 PM on April 10, 2004


it's hard to point to any of his senior officials as followers of any of the more hard-core denominations (or non-denominational strains of practice).


Ahem, ever heard of "Crisco" Johnny Ashcroft?

There's more. Think.
posted by nofundy at 9:46 AM on April 11, 2004


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