Monday, October 16, 2006

Faith-Based Kerfuffle

It took me a little while to warm to your (former!) friend David Kuo on 60 Minutes last night, Bush. Maybe there's some less noble stuff at work here: I invariably recoil inside when the author of a new book (in this case, Kuo's Tempting Faith) gets such generous air time to advertize his product, whilst little-old-me labors on in obscurity! I judged this guy to be not only goofy but inexcusably naive, and his ratting on former White House colleagues--even though it suits my own agenda on these issues--seemed self-serving. But I did warm to him in the course of the interview, and came to believe in the sincerity of his Christian convictions and his concern for the poor. At least the Christianity he was talking about was consistent with the Christianity with which I myself grew up.

Unlike Kuo, I never trusted you "faith-based initiative", Bush. I was dismayed by the intrusion of religion in our national policy, and I was frankly repulsed by the Bible-waving hypocrisy and the sanctimony of the louder variety of evangelical preachers. Kuo, clearly a devout evangelical himself, embraced your faith-based promise as a dream come true. In an article I dug up on a site called Beliefnet (a new one on me), he claims that he was "seduced" by your $6.8 billion promise to support faith-based organizations: "when [Bush] became the president," he writes,

there was every reason to believe he'd be not only pro-life and pro-family, as conservatives tended to be, but also pro-poor, which was daringly radical. After all, there were specific promises he intended to keep.

Sadly, four years later these promises remain unfulfilled in spirit and in fact. In June 2001, the promised tax incentives for charitable giving were stripped at the last minute from the $1.6 trillion tax cut legislation to make room for the estate-tax repeal that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy. The Compassion Capital Fund has received a cumulative total of $100 million during the past four years. And new programs including those for children of prisoners, at-risk youth, and prisoners reentering society have received a little more than $500 million over four years--or approximately $6.3 billion less than the promised $6.8 billion."

Well, my initial impulse, frankly, is more fool him, for having believed you in the first place. His disillusionment was compounded, I gather from everything I have read and heard about the book (see also Keith Olberman's comments on Countdown) by the callous, contemptuous disregard for evangelical beliefs and evangelical leaders that he claims to be rife in your White House. While defending your good self ("I have deep respect, appreciation, and affection for the president," he writes. "No one who knows him even a tiny bit doubts the sincerity and compassion of his heart") he is harsh on those who failed your high ideals.

If he was naive about politicians, political promises, and political realities, he was still more naive, I think, about the leaders of the evangelical movement itself. A comment on Beliefnet by a writer who identifies him- or herself only as "jbhtx713" has it right:

Kuo doesn't connect the dots in his book on the reasons why Evangelicals are so easily duped. First, megachurches are big businesses led by tax-exempt millionaires. These businesses need culture wars with a clearly defined enemy to keep the pews and checking accounts full. Fallwell, Robertson, Hagee, Jim Baker, James Kennedy, Ralph Reed, etc. have all amassed personal fortunes in divisive and un-Jesus like behavior. Secondly, most "born-agains" are people of shallow faith who would rather be entertained than think. They flatter themselves into thinking they found Jesus instead of the truth- Jesus was always there and doesn't need their validation. It's the ultimate form of idolatry. Thirdly, anyone who thinks the Bible fell from heaven in English will believe any nonsense. It's a sign of our society's weakness that so many people need a church that reflects their prejudices, insecurities and limitations- and consider such small-mindedness compatible with the life and teachings of Jesus.

To which I can only say "Amen"--if you'll forgive the allusion, Bush. Kuo declares himself distressed to find that the Holy Trinity has added another personage: it's no longer only God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, he says. Now's its also God the Policitian. To which I'd add, I fear, a fifth: it's God the CEO.

1 comment:

PK said...

Well, got to admit, he did a great job of getting them to vote for him, even if he didn't mean any of it. Ohhh, and we thought Nixon was 'tricky Dicky'... He had nothing on the likes of 'King George'. He pandered and sweet talked them into voting for him. They didn't seem to care what he really was, he was a 'born again christian' as far as they were concerned, and so voted for 'one of their own'. Ahhh, the devil comes in many forms it is said. When I was very little I read that the 'snake' that tempted Eve was the devil. I am not a 'christian', but I can see where, if a 'born again' has open eyes, they might start to see Bush in that light.. finally. Some are.. it's starting all over the Net. I love the heat of the light, don't you:)?