Sunday, May 02, 2004

I Left One Out

There was a good review of the theological implications of The Jesus Factor posted on Except For These Chains.  I missed it before, because it does not contain the string, "Jesus Factor".  It is worth reading, though, so I decided to post an update. (The title of the post appears to be a reference to a U2 song.)

The Heaven You Keep, You Stole

I just watched Frontline's program on Bush's religion, and I found myself quite disappointed. Not only did they manage to completely conflate evangelicalism with the religious right, but went even farther to associate George W. Bush as a representation of all evangelicals. The problem was that they needed to discuss evangelicals, the religious right, and George W. Bush as three separate topics that are interrelated, but instead decided to tell it all as one story. Their representatives of evangelicals were all far-right activists, with the brief exception of Jim Wallis, whom they made sure to qualify as a "liberal evangelical" in order to distinguish him from "normal evangelicals." They even went so far as to identify Pat Robertson, despised by most evangelicals, as the primary evangelical leader.

[...] As a politician, it should be pondered how he reconciles his faith with his rampant use of deception, his war on the poor, and his statement on Bill O'Reilly's show that if Jesus was against the death penalty then he disagrees with him on that. Bush's willingness to accept these contradictions could possibly be explained through Luther's idea of the necessary tension between the kingdom of law and the kingdom of love, which would allow Bush as a Christian to be ius et pecator, justified and sinful at once. However, this seems unlikely as Bush is not a Lutheran but a Methodist, and this is in direct contradiction to the Arminian roots of his theological tradition.

Perhaps more puzzling are Bush's personal contradictions, including Bush's seeming lack of knowledge with scripture and his repeated misunderstanding of it, as well as his questionable personal life, particularly the bizarre instance at the Republican National Convention in 1988 in which Bush bragged to reporters about his and his father's sexual exploits.

[...] My suspicion is that, whatever Bush personally believes, his constant switching between opposing eschatologies demonstrates that the most fundamental theology behind his policies is the doctrine of the bottom-line, and we'd do better to examine how a much more influential group, big business, influences Bush's policy than do evangelicals.

I wish the author, Nathan J. Lilje, had included a reference to document the allegation about "the bizarre instance at the Republican National Convention in 1988 in which Bush bragged to reporters about his and his father's sexual exploits".  What is important about Mr. Lilje's article, though, is not the reference to sexual exploits.  Rather, he points out that Mr. Bush's statements about religion seem, at least to someone knowledgeable about theology, to be shallow.