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 Bush, Religion, and War 

April 22, 2003

The hawks got their war, but it came at a heavy cost to America’s image and reputation in the world. As they tell it, France, Germany, and Russia were the petulant spoilers who tried to ruin the party. But this ignores the war’s huge unpopularity nearly everywhere, not so much with governments (which can be bullied and bribed) as with ordinary people. It also ignores the real spoiler: Pope John Paul II, who, in his measured words, made his own opposition to the war very clear.

Robert L. Bartley of the Wall Street Journal couples the Pope with “the voices of liberal Protestantism, which once again finds itself out of step with the pews.” He adds, “The Pope has the same problem, of course.” And he quotes polls to prove it: “62 per cent of both Catholics and mainline Protestants backed the war.”

Bartley forgets to mention one little fact: these are polls of American Catholics, a small fraction of the world’s vast Catholic population. So the Pope is only “out of step” with American pews.

“As for the Iraq war,” Bartley concludes, “what do the Pope and liberal theologians make of the cheering crowds in Baghdad and Saddam’s torture chambers? The president’s success has confounded his critics.... Somehow it’s better, I suspect, for a president to talk to God than to talk to pollsters.”

The non sequiturs are running almost too fast to keep up with here. How is the Pope’s moral opposition “confounded” by the war’s success? Did he suggest that the war would be justified if the United States won? Since when is “success” the Christian standard of righteousness?

Note too the implication that the Pope — of all men on earth! — should be attentive to opinion polls, while a president should disregard them (even though they favor him — in the United States, anyway). And now the war is justified by cheering crowds and torture chambers? What about 9/11, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and all the other urgent reasons we were still being given only a few weeks ago?

[Breaker quote: Just what does the president believe?]Ah, success! Americans are rather notorious for measuring all things by the “bitch goddess, success.” If you win, it must mean you deserved to win. America loves success stories, from Reader’s Digest to Business Week to Vanity Fair. You too can be a success! That’s the American gospel.

The Four Gospels tell a different story. They weren’t taking polls yet on the first Good Friday, but if they had, Jesus Christ would have been rated a pretty abject failure. He died a miserable criminal’s death, covered with the mob’s spit, and his followers had scattered in fear. It didn’t look like the beginning of the greatest success story in human history.

Unlike the modern CEO, Christ didn’t surround himself with successful men. He chose poor fishermen and despised tax collectors, and he kept company with rather flagrant sinners. The Sermon on the Mount doesn’t read like a modern motivational speech to a roomful of ambitious executives. It wouldn’t do as a think piece in Bartley’s paper.

Ever since, Christians have been taught to be wary of worldly success — indeed, to sympathize with the poor and to glorify the martyr. Bartley implies that President Bush talks to God rather than pollsters, but whom has he surrounded himself with? Big businessmen and, if not tax collectors, men who are eager to spend our taxes, especially on war.

It’s one thing to defend the president on political grounds. It’s another to offer him as a model of the Christian virtues. Only God can judge his heart, but the appearances suggest a man of worldly aptitudes rather than supernatural virtues. When a Christian is praised for “success” in the Wall Street Journal, it may be time for him to take a good look at himself. It’s possible he’s succeeding with the wrong crowd.

Bush is the most famously religious president since Jimmy Carter; yet we know little of his specific religious views, especially as they bear on his foreign policy. As Bartley mentions, about 40 per cent of Americans believe that these are the last days before Christ’s return. Does Bush share this belief, and has it shaped his views on war in the Middle East?

These aren’t nosy questions. Bush’s theology, like the Pope’s, may affect the fate of millions.

Joseph Sobran

Joe Sobran's Biography.


When honest people who hold strong opinions come together, it is natural that they state their opinions, and that those opinions occasionally clash. The articles that you see on this website represent the opinion of the writers, and are not the official opinion of this party. To see the official party position on any question, the reader is referred to the Party Platform.

Permission to reprint/republish granted, as long as you include the name of our site, the author,and our URL. All CP Texas reports, and all editorials are property of The Constitution Party of Texas 2002 (unless otherwise noted).

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