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How good a Christian is the devout President George W Bush?
by Graeme J. Davidson,
27 May 2006

.What would Jesus do if he were president? Would he approve of keeping prisoners without trial? Or going to war while misleading the public over weapons of mass destruction? Or the horrific mess the war in Iraq has caused?

....President George W Bush is the most openly religious US president in modern history. “I believe that God wants me to be president'' he told friends the day he became Governor of Texas for a second term. But does that mean America’s Preacher-in-Chief is really God’s man in the Whitehouse?
....Friends say Bush was an aimless, hot-tempered youth who drank too much. That’s until, at 39, family friend Billy Graham asked him, “Are you right with God?” Bush later wrote, “It was the beginning of a new walk where I would recommit my heart to Jesus Christ”.
....The conversion stuck. Bush goes to church, reads the Bible and prays daily – especially for the nation and for help in defending its freedoms.
....Rightwing evangelicals helped the born-again Bush become Governor of Texas. His popularity soared through faith-based welfare programmes and a tough stance on crime. He virtually abolished parole for violent criminals and argued, “The death penalty saves lives”.
.... Jesus’s command to forgive those who do wrong and Bush’s own experience of Christian redemption didn’t stop him signing 152 death warrants. He allowed clemency only for bad legal process, never for repentance. Under Bush, Texas became the top state for executions.
....Since moving to the Whitehouse, Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” has brought tax cuts for the rich and made federal funds available for religious and community social welfare. He’s abolished federal assistance for abortions and appointed US Supreme Court judges likely to support conservative Christian principles such as pro-life laws and voluntary prayer in public schools.
....Bush’s values have appealed to regular churchgoers, who fear moral decline and the breakdown of family. They overwhelmingly backed his war on terror. And despite a barrage of opposition from church leaders, including those of his own United Methodist Church, polls showed the ordinary folk in the pews were Bush’s strongest supporters for going to war in Iraq.
....Jim Wallis of the Washington-based Sojourners community is the most vocal of Bush’s religious critics. He says the religious right under Bush has hijacked Christianity and reduced it to narrow ethical issues like abortion or gay marriage instead of the pressing concerns of poverty, justice and the environment.
....“There are more than 2000 verses in the Bible about poverty,” he says, adding that “God bless America”, is not in the Bible.
....Wallis asks how Jesus became pro-rich, pro-war and pro-America: “The religious right are more American nationalists than evangelical Christians.”
....Bush’s popularity is now at 34%. Former supporters are disillusioned with the way he’s handling Iraq, illegal immigrants, spying on Americans, rising gasoline prices, poverty and medical aid for the poor. Conservative Christians are also unhappy at the way he now rarely mentions his Saviour in public. Many were upset when Bush said he believed Christians and Muslims “worship the same God”. And Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights President William Donohue accused Bush of “dumbing down Christmas”. He removed “Merry Christmas” in favour of "Best Wishes for the Holiday Season" on Whitehouse cards last year.
....What would Jesus do if he were president? Would he approve of keeping prisoners without trial? Or going to war while misleading the public over weapons of mass destruction? Or the horrific mess the war in Iraq has caused? These are questions Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad asked in his recent letter to President Bush.
....“Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ … but at the same time have countries attacked, the lives, reputations and possessions of people destroyed …?” Ahmadinejad lists abuses at Guantanamo, secret prisons in Europe, support for Israel to the detriment of Palestinians, and policies that spread poverty. He asks if these actions are consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ. If George W Bush says yes, he gets an F for Religion. Maybe he just doesn’t hear God too well.
....President Bush and his Republican allies believe they’re fighting a global battle against the forces of sin and evil. That helped propel the New Zealand military into Afghanistan and Iraq. Conservative evangelicals also expect him to back Israel and to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And if economic sanctions are imposed against Iran, this could affect our $100 million a year export trade and oil imports from that country.
....Yet, contrary to its anti-nuclear demands on Iran, the Bush administration is keen for New Zealand to become pro-nuclear. But then, unlike America’s nemesis, Iran, we’re unlikely to be bombed into submission, as the pious Whitehouse crusaders haven’t yet designated us as part of the Axis of Evil.



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