Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling”(Psalms 2:10,11 NIV).
Yet when I reflect on the speeches and conduct of President Bush, fear and trembling are probably the last things I find in them.
I have little doubt that President Bush considers himself a Christian. He probably prays nightly and attends Church regularly. However, I question whether his faith is beneficial to his conduct of the presidency. I fear that it may actually be detrimental.
Much good fruit can come from Christianity grounding a leader’s political vision. Moral clarity and courage, hope in the midst of darkness and a sense of providence come immediately to mind.
But I think its most important contribution to politics is the overwhelming sense of humility brought about by a genuine understanding of human frailty and our need for grace and mercy. A true Christian leader realizes that while called to work for justice and peace, he or she must not identify attempts at justice as Justice itself.
They must not confuse the country’s interests with those of God, as if salvation and his country’s prosperity go hand in glove. Most importantly, they must realize that due to sin, humans are most likely to do wrong when acting out of good intentions.
The medieval inquisitors, the supporters of apartheid, the leaders of the French Revolution all believed rather strongly that they were doing the right thing. Nothing is more terrifying than a fallible man wielding tremendous power, except for a fallible man wielding tremendous power who believes that God is on his side.
I fear that George W. Bush is such a man. I fear that instead of being humbled by his faith and spurned to greater acts of grace and love, President Bush draws on Christianity for confidence and self-righteousness. For him, God is the ultimate yes-man.
My evidence in this lies in President Bush’s own actions and thoughts. The original name for the operation against Afghanistan was Infinite Justice, a rather blatant deification of America’s abilities.
Our barbarous treatment of terrorist suspects and prisoners of war has been continuously justified by the argument that America’s just cause far outweighs our own constitutional heritage and universal human rights (to say nothing of Christian duty to neighbor).
The rhetoric of the war on terrorism paints us as defenders of Freedom itself, saying nothing of our sordid involvement in most of the third world since World War II.
The administration has also never questioned the justness of its war against Iraq, despite its initial justification for it being almost completely refuted.
Lastly, western-style democracy is acquiring dangerously messianic overtones, as if its spread and defense justifies almost any action.As much as it pains me to write it, I would rather have a non-believer with a social conscience as president than a believer who is assured that God is on his side.
President Bush would do well to study the humility of his party’s first president, who, in his second inaugural address, said nations must conduct their affairs “with malice toward none, with charity toward all,” standing firm in what they believe to be right, while ever humbly asking God for more light to better see what is right.
For “the Almighty has His own purposes” which, while “righteous and true”, are never the same as those of any nation.