The Two Truths of Christianity

Just finished watching PBS Frontline special on the faith of George Bush The Jesus Factor–aired in May 2004)

One commentary that was particularly interesting was the noted shift in Bush’s theological speak prior to and after the Attacks of Sept. 11th.

Prior to the attacks one of the reporters interviewed described his faith language as self-help Methodist Evangelical. After the attacks it was Calvinist.

The Self-help Methodist strain we see in things like his compassionate conservative 2000 Campaign Slogan. His constant emphasis on Jesus being the source of his sobriety, his Faith-Based Initiative measures as the first act of his presidency. A time most of us forget due to the majority of his term served since the attacks and the extremely controversial actions (and inactions) undertaken during that time.

David Brooks just wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times where he describes how “W” (not HW) transformed the Republican party in a way no one has since Reagan. That the Republicans of the 90s were too busy allowing Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan to speak at the ’92 Convention. That the party was spinning into a weird Newt-led domestic tax policy, rising anti-immigrationism, and foreign isolationist policy.

It was W who brought compassionate conservatism to overcome all this. Not the Reaganite “Government is the problem not the solution” motto, but the government has to help those who really know how to do what needs to be done–i.e. faith based initiatives and compassionate conservatism.

An interesting thesis, but leaving out a few points. One: the President, within his own party, is currently described as “radioactive.” The Maverick McCain waits in the wings for his chance. The Republicans theoretically–though not likely in my mind–could lose either the Senate or House. Or more possibly–though still less than 50% in my book–the White House.

Two. And more importantly, the compassionate conservative agenda never really got off the ground. It was an interesting theory, still to be tested.

Col. Larry Wilkerson (deputy to Colin Powell) and Brent Scowcroft (erstwhile mentor of Condi Rice and member of George Bush I Administration) have come out within the last week blasting Rumsfield and Cheney. Wilkerson called them a cabal—now a buzzword, heard it used in tonight’s episode of E-Ring. An you don’t have to be Jurgen Habermas to realize that non-transparent channels of communication in realms of such enormous power leads to conflict of interests (can anyone say Haliburton?) and more dangerously politicians unanswerable to the populace. Not held liable for their failures–can anyone say Rumsfield is still the Sec. of Defense?

What happened is that self-help Methodism turned into the Axis-of-Evil strict empire-building dualism of Calvinist American theology. The attack fundamentally changed the president I believe on a deep spiritual-psychological level. It brought forth this language of messianism, of his divine mission, of this country’s purpose to bring forth democracy in the world.

All of which projects so much evil externally. It becomes a meta-narrative that focuses energy and personnel and the popuulace, no doubt, but turns cannibalistic in time, eating its own….a true patriot like Colin Powell forced to lie before the UN on Cheney-Tenet’s “slamdunk” anyone?

That Calvinist theology, inspired more it seems by the stories of Joshua slaying the enemies of God than Jesus loving the enemies, leads to a direct blacklash in charges of hypocrisy. For one thing: one man’s divine slaying of the heathens is another man’s genocide. Consult the story of how the Israelites are commanded by God to put certain pre-existing enemy tribes under the ban. The ban is to slay all the men, and sell the women and childrne into slavery–or kill them too. All of them. Not too often most of us imagine what it would have been like to be a Jebusite or Philistine. [Did God really command that, or do you think it was an ex-post facto justification, and/or some Israelites really believed God wanted them to kill them all, or did they just learn the tactic from the ones they used it on….probably all of the above.]

By creating such a black/white dualism there is no choice but to eventually be called on one’s own evil. Whether those who are calling the so-called righteous on their own evil are evil themselves (e.g. A Terrorist Critique of American hypocrisy) or self-serving (uber-liberal deconstructionist Americans and Europeans, or those from the Third World who have aped the nihilistic postmodern in-speak).

In the next post I’ll go into the relationship between the self-help Methodism, so-called, and the dualistic-apocalyptic Calvinist strain in relationship to Catholic theology (not anywhere on Bush’s radar) as they relate to the understanding of the Two Truths in the Buddhist realizer Nagarjuna: The Relative and the Absolute. And how the Relative world further manifests as a polarity (as it always does) in the religious relative sphere between Self-powered paths and Other-powered paths. Then I believe the change within the President will become clearer.

Published in: on October 26, 2005 at 9:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: