God, Religion, and Presidential Politics

Never mind what we’re told about avoiding religion and politics at the dinner table; we’ve been getting plenty of both from the press these past few weeks, often in the same article.

Ron Suskind’s (very long) article in the October 17 New York Times Magazine dissects Bush’s religiosity:

The disdainful smirks and grimaces that many viewers were surprised to see in the first presidential debate are familiar expressions to those in the administration or in Congress who have simply asked the president to explain his positions. Since 9/11, those requests have grown scarce; Bush’s intolerance of doubters has, if anything, increased, and few dare to question him now. A writ of infallibility — a premise beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in many ways, moved mountains — is not just for public consumption: it has guided the inner life of the White House. As Whitman told me on the day in May 2003 that she announced her resignation as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency: “In meetings, I’d ask if there were any facts to support our case. And for that, I was accused of disloyalty!”
[Read Without a Doubt]

An article in The Revealer, “Our Magical President,” analyzes the Suskind article and concludes that Bush is more closely aligned with New Age religions than he is with fundamentalist Christianity (Thanks to Bill Harris for pointing me to this one):

Believing, it seems, is more important to the President than the substance of his belief. Jesus Christ’s particular teachings — well, those are good, too. But what really matters is that if you believe you can do something, you can.

What Suskind misses, and what Bush’s more orthodox Christian supporters seem to dodge, is that this is not Christian doctrine by any definition. It is, in fact, a key element of the broad, heterodox movement known as New Age religion.
[Read Our Magical President]

Tom Beaudoin, a Christian theologian writing in the Washington Post, wishes Bush and Kerry would stop talking about their faith:

I think the Democratic presidential nominee, as well as the Republican, ought to keep religious talk out of the campaign. Voters for whom religious faith makes a difference can have good reason to distrust candidates’ talk about their faith. When candidates talk thus they diminish the dignity of faith itself by reducing it to a pious confession of conviction, humility or concern, a mere uttering of earnest words. A thick respect for the mystery of God, for the inability of God to be domesticated to one program or party — a respect that should be proper to the Christian faith of our presidential candidates — cannot be honored by such faith-talk in an election season.
[Read Talk that Diminishes Faith]

In a New York Times editorial that focuses mostly on the issue of abortion, Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput writes:

Democracy depends on people of conviction expressing their views, confidently and without embarrassment. This give-and-take is an American tradition, and religious believers play a vital role in it. We don’t serve our country — in fact we weaken it intellectually — if we downplay our principles or fail to speak forcefully out of some misguided sense of good manners.
[Read Faith and Patriotism]

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