|RANT FROM NOVEMBER 2004
"He Hardly Looks Christian at All"
Recently we saw a local production of the musical play, CABARET, and found it quite challenging. One scene still stands out. The Master of Ceremonies comes on stage, escorting an over-sized, that is, human-sized, chimpanzee. His song laments that the world of Nazi Germany in the early 1930's didn't understand his attraction to her. "Why can't they see her through my eyes?" he sings. His last line shocked the audience: "She hardly looks Jewish at all!"|
The line came back to me, slightly altered, amid all the recent stories of the Acting President and his religion, and his attack on the old "wall of separation," and what has been labelled, "the faith-based presidency." I happen to know Christianity, what it is and what it claims to be, by experience. And I must say, referring to the Acting President, "He hardly looks Christian at all." Five observations come to mind.
 Christianity has inherited the Ten Commandments of the Torah, and much has been made of recent attempts to make them binding on all Americans. One of the commandments states, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." It has always been taken to mean, "Thou shalt not tell lies." The Acting President is widely perceived to be a liar. More and more newspaper columns and cartoons spend space and ink listing his lies. "I am the environmental president." "I am a compassionate conservative." "No child will be left behind." "The Clean Air Act will clean the air." "The Forest Preservation Act will preserve the forests." "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction." "Saddam Hussein perpetrated the attacks of 9/11/01." "The mission is accomplished." "Everyone received a tax cut."
Persons with some experience, and even persons with none, become suspicious that lying may be taking place, when the speaker has a funny little grin on his face when nothing at all funny is going on or being discussed. He looks like a liar before he speaks. Christians have been instructed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount "Let your yes be yes and your no be no." [Matthew 5:37] The Acting President doesn't do that.
 The Acting President often tells his audience how often he prays. When a person keeps repeating how much and how often he prays, he is out of step with the spirit and the letter of the plain instructions of Jesus, again in the Sermon on the Mount "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them... But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret..." [Matthew 6:l,6]
 Here's more from the same bundle of instructions to Christians "I say to you, Love your enemies." This doesn't mean, "Sleep with them." It does mean expend effort to try to understand them. But this Acting President isn't doing that at all. He calls them evil, and denies that they have any legitimate reason to be angry at the USA. He says they must simply be destroyed, and tries to incite that same hatred in others, and then quotes, as if he were the Messiah and the Son of God, "He who is not with me is against me." He hardly looks Christian at all. In fact, at this point he looks like what some Christians have called Anti-Christ -- one who tries to take Christ's place.
 Christians have met together on the first day of the week for almost two thousand years. The tradition was well-established by the time of the events described in the Book of Acts. Some of us, who don't keep track of his every move, partly because of that smirk, missed this, but Amy Sullivan in THE NEW REPUBLIC, quoted in THE WEEK, tells that the Acting President doesn't attend worship services regularly and doesn't belong to a local congregation anywhere. He is out of step with that ancient tradition, and hardly looks Christian at all.
 At the heart of Christianity is the forgiveness of sins. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." [I John 2:9] A person who has never made a mistake, or, rather, who is unaware that he ever made a mistake and needed to confess it and be forgiven for it, can never really be a Christian. He has missed the very heart of Christianity, especially of fundamentalist Christianity. It has simply gone over his head and passed him by.
These five points make a body wonder what it is about the Acting President that Christians like. Maybe it's similar to the intelligence factor among the secularists. Most American TV- and computer-game-addicted voters seem to want a president stupider than they. They've won elections several times. Maybe the Christians want a president more sinful [whatever his awareness of that may be] than they. They really don't want a moral example, or a leader who leads.
Ron Suskind, in THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE of October 17, 2004, describes what he calls "the faith-based presidency." The Acting President makes decisions based on his "instinct" rather than logic and information. He calls that "faith" and wants us to believe him in spite of logic and information. He wants us to trust him in spite of the miserable consequences of what he has already done. But faith has nothing to do with it.
What we have is megalomania on his part, and stupid gullibility on the part of his staff of yes-men. We also have gullibility and laziness on the part of Congress, who make no move to impeach. We have, in addition, indifference and a lack of courage on the part of all the rest of us, who have not yet mounted an effective protest, to say nothing of the revolution Jefferson suggested we would need from time to time. If ever there was time for that, this is it. This election will be the last non-violent chance to change things. Meanwhile we have to get over being impressed by the Acting President's Christian posturing. He hardly looks Christian at all.