View Full Version : For God’s sake!

31 Oct 04,, 18:42
This is a newspiece reported from the USA.

I sure am keen to know how far is all this correct.

For God’s sake!
- 42 per cent Americans say they are born-again Christians
In a country where 93 per cent of its citizens own a Bible, it pays to be seen as a President with unshakeable faith in his Creator. And that, on Tuesday, could tilt the scales for George W. Bush in a critically poised American election. Gouri Chatterjee reports from New York

Passion for the Christ: George W. Bush; a devout Christian carries a cross ahead of a Good Friday procession

Religious leaders criss-crossing the country to rouse the faithful. Politicians turning to godmen for blessing. The star of an epic film roped in for his reel-life aura. Lay people fulminating, why can’t we teach our religion in schools when you can talk of Muhammad all you want? A cowbelt that is seen to be more virtuous, moral than the godless cities. An intelligentsia that can’t stop discussing a nation divided and polarised along the fault lines of religion… Sounds familiar, does it? Welcome to the US Presidential election 2004.

“American politics, right now, is increasingly marked by religiosity,” wrote Harold Bloom, emeritus professor at Yale University, in the Wall Street Journal last week. Forget the specific issues, from terror to outsourcing. The bottom line is this: If George Bush is re-elected, it will be because he is a man of faith and the bumper sticker “God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat” will be exposed as the handiwork of “liberals” for whom Bush and his flock have as much contempt as L.K. Advani and his acolytes have for so-called pseudo-secularists.

If God rewards Bush with another term in the White House it will show He is not ungrateful. “George W. Bush’s Presidency is the first faith-based administration in US history,” wrote Arthur Schlesinger Jr, a historian who was also a top aide to President John F. Kennedy, in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times. The US Constitution makes no mention of God; Church and State are supposed to be strictly separate.

But that can’t stop a born-again Christian, one of the 42 per cent Americans who describe themselves that way. Bush has confessed that he had a “drinking problem” and “there is only one reason I am in the Oval Office and not in a bar. I found faith. I found God.” As payback, he has held cabinet prayer sessions, peppered his speeches from the scriptures (his speechwriters are graduates of religious colleges), seeded every corner of the executive with religious conservatives, channelled government money into “faith-based initiatives” and done more than any other American President to advance the agenda of the Christian right wing on issues such as abortion.

At a campaign stop recently, an overwhelmed supporter expressed gratitude that “God is in the White House”. The President, reportedly, did not demur. He simply told the man, “Thank you.” In a documentary released last month, entitled George W. Bush: Faith In The White House, that some say “aspires to be The Passion Of The Bush,” no one, including its hero, acknowledges any constitutional boundaries between Church and State. To them, America is a “Christian nation,” period. Is it any wonder that Bloom fears, “A second term for George W. Bush will help bring about the commencement of an American theocracy, an eventual tyranny of the twice-born.”

The world already knows the power of his faith. “I believe God wants everyone to be free, that’s what I believe. And that’s part of my foreign policy,” he said in the third Presidential debate. “In Afghanistan, I believe the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty.” He has followed up this theme of “freedom is on the march” in almost every stump speech since. “Freedom is taking hold of in a part of the world that no one ever dreamed would be free,” he has said, “and that makes America more secure.” And he probably believes it too.

A striking profile in the New York Times magazine of October 17 shows how belief is the organising principle of the Bush White House. Advisers, even Cabinet members, are simply meant to believe in the wisdom of the President, whatever the countervailing evidence. A former environment secretary is quoted: “In meetings, I’d ask if there were any facts to support our case. And for that, I was accused of disloyalty!” Senators are told not to worry about the complexities of Iraq; the President’s “instincts” tell him he’s doing the right thing. “This instinct he’s always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do,” a Republican and former official in Bush’s father’s administration has told the magazine. It’s a long article with many such examples. The only point the White House has contested is a sentence near the end where Bush is quoted as saying he will privatise Social Security, something his challenger had already accused him of.

For the rest, Bush may actually be happy to be portrayed as a President with “preternatural, faith-infused certainty in uncertain times”. His supporters like him that way. Republican voters are far more passionate about their candidate than Democrats are about theirs, say polls and reporters on the campaign trail. Many of them are deeply religious as those who regularly attend church are more likely to support Bush; those who don’t are more likely to vote Democrat. In 2000, Bush won 79 per cent of voters who described themselves in exit polls as members of the “religious right”. Even the poorest tribal in the deep of Madhya Pradesh wouldn’t say what an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania told an ABC News correspondent last week: “We mayn’t vote, but we pray Republican.”

Forget Hollywood, religion is “very” important to most Americans, a Gallup poll says. A Time/CNN poll found more than half believe that the prophecies found in the Book of Revelations including the Apocalypse are going to come true; nearly a quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. They keep 2,000 Christian radio stations and 250 Christian TV stations in brisk business; 93 per cent of Americans have a Bible.

Mostly from middle America, the rural cowbelt, these “real” Americans crib that you can’t teach the Bible in schools (during a rally at which Bush appeared this month in Columbus, Ohio, one of the three crucial states, the independently-owned National Public Radio’s microphones captured warm-up speaker Chris Spielman, a local football hero, firing up the crowd of 18,000 by declaring: “I don’t want to send my kids to school and if they mention the name Jesus, they’re suspended or taken to court”) and see the cities as dens of moral degradation. This is the America that sees purging school libraries of Harry Potter’s witchcraft as a cause, that has bought 42 million copies of a 12-volume series of eschatological thrillers against a UN-anointed “World Potentate” that the educated elite has barely heard of.

The unflinching loyalty of these supporters (“He is a man of his word,” was the common refrain among supporters); Bush’s inability to name a single mistake of his Presidency — there can be no doubt, they are doing the Lord’s work. What is new in this election is that voters are wholly comfortable with politicians discussing faith and using it to make decisions. For the Republican party that is a godsend. Rationality would have got them nowhere with Bush’s performance. Even loyalists wonder about Iraq. But ardent faith takes care of all that. As the Bush-Cheney billboards say: One Nation Under God.

Bush and his men are clever enough not to make his campaign an overt religious crusade. Hence the importance of issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, stem cell research. Especially as these are issues that fire up the religious leaders even more than the laity. And energising the churches has been the central part of the Bush electoral strategy. Bush’s main political adviser, Karl Rove, has said on record he was frustrated that as many as four million conservative white evangelical voters did not go to the polls four years ago. In an election as tight as this one was expected to be, the Republican Party mounted a concerted pitch to what it sees as its base.

A few months ago it issued a 22-point memo to evangelical churches outlining how to generate enthusiasm among members, suggesting volunteers write letters to local newspapers, hold pot- luck dinners, etc. But one created an uproar: “Send your church directory to your State Bush-Cheney ’04 headquarters or give it to a field rep.” For those born-agains who still wondered why they should vote against the Democrat candidate, the party directed them to kerrywronforevangelicals.com. There are sites for Mormons and Roman Catholics too. And in mailings to churches in some states, it suggested “liberals” will “ban the Bible”. Beliefnet, a multi-faith Website on religious matters, recently ran a story that the Republicans had hired someone, who is an advocate of the position that the separation of Church and State is a myth, to visit hundreds of churches around the country. Some priest or godman accompanied Bush on almost all his campaign meetings, some travelling with him on Air Force One.

The response of the religious right must have evoked a quiet hallelujah at Bush HQ. Churches cannot officially endorse candidates or they’ll lose their tax-exempt status, so conservative pastors formed groups to do God’s work properly. One such group, Redeem the Vote, extensively toured battleground states with Christian rock groups and mounted hugely successful voter registration drives. It enlisted Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, to implore Christians to vote.

Many made voter guides available to their congregations and voter registration forms littered churches across the country. While sermons were carefully worded — “vote Christian” which was defined as “pro-life, pro-traditional family” (i.e. Republican), or on “the significance of the term Almighty used by the President in the last debate” — individual religious leaders issued statements endorsing Bush. Some even named him “God’s candidate” and proclaimed that real Christians can only vote for him.

With its time-polished pews, soaring Gothic nave and stained-glass splendour, Riverside Church seems like a serene spiritual haven from the bustle of Manhattan beyond its doors. But, for the past few months, it has been far more than that. Of course, the church where Bill Clinton spoke just before he went in for a bypass, where Martin Luther King spoke years ago and Arundhati Roy a few years back, worships, not surprisingly, a different God. As senior minister Rev. Dr James A. Forbes Jr put it: “We are determined to change the direction of public policy in America to one that is humane, open, and inclusive; one that resists war and promotes peace. This is a campaign for the soul of our nation.”

Riverside Church mounted a feverish campaign to rally voters, motivate them through discussions on such topics as Should America Go It Alone? and even inspired a group to fast one day every week for 10 weeks till election day. It is holding an “Election eve service” on Monday where Rev. Forbes will read a special sermon entitled “No Matter What!” This is the backlash that the religious right has unleashed, forcing many houses of worship to double as battle stations to bridge the “God gap” that the traditionally secularist Democratic Party woke up to too late. Not to speak of the delicacy of its candidate’s position. John Kerry, a Roman Catholic, had to make clear he was not irreligious even while explaining why he was against the church’s doctrine on such a “foundational” issue as abortion. It is a sign of the times that the last time religion was such an issue in this country, in 1960, John F. Kennedy was accused of heeding the Vatican too much; JFK-II is being accused of heeding too little.

Whether belief is all you need in a world where the old certainties have been shattered, whether faith can really wash away the sins of a disastrous four-year tenure (the Indian voter punished the BJP for far less), we will know on Tuesday night. Thank God, He has no vote.


31 Oct 04,, 18:51
How has this come into the above post?


It is neither in the article or what I wrote. It is also not there when I wanted to edit!

31 Oct 04,, 19:00
Don't believe everything you read in the paper.

31 Oct 04,, 19:03
That's why I want genuine American's views.

31 Oct 04,, 19:31
That's why I want genuine American's views.
Most of it is half truths.
For example:

American politics, right now, is increasingly marked by religiosity

It probably true, but poll after poll shows Americans vote on Terrorism, the economy, and Iraq not religion.

The person writing it seems to fear religion.
For example:

They keep 2,000 Christian radio stations and 250 Christian TV stations in brisk business; 93 per cent of Americans have a Bible.

I don't see religion as a force for evil in the world. Specificity as to the Bible, the Bible is a valuable book no matter you religious back ground. I own a Bible, and have read it through on several occasions. (And I'm not a Christian)

“vote Christian” which was defined as “pro-life, pro-traditional family” (i.e. Republican),

Note that both being pro-life and pro-traditional family are church doctrine. Thus, these are Christian ideas not Republican ones.

31 Oct 04,, 19:34
I haven't seen Bush ban any of the things implied. I generally like Christians, most are good people.

01 Nov 04,, 00:34
Ray, article is very well written and largely an accurate portrayal of role of religion in American politics.

Fact of the matter is Republicans can't win a election without the support of religious right.

Democrats on the other hanad are largely a secular party, and thus do not attract religious votes.

01 Nov 04,, 00:45
Ray, article is very well written and largely an accurate portrayal of role of religion in American politics.
LOL :)

01 Nov 04,, 00:54
I like how you infer that the religious right is some sort of rabid dog (as opposed to the corrupt hollywood types who fawn over Kerry).

I'd like to see how well america would fare without the religious right. The same people who bother liberals so much are the ones working hard and honestly, raising families, etc.

What is so wrong with people exercising their democratic rights? I am a christian. Issies such as abortion, euthenasia, and homosexuality are incredibly important to me. Yet I'm some sort of evil bigot when I vote as such. A secular liberal on the other hand, is allowed to vote for whatever he pleases, because he doesn't base his views on 'religion', but rationality or somesuch.

01 Nov 04,, 01:02
Even though I don't agree with you on most issues, i totally agree with you. Its your right to vote the way you want on what issues matter to you.