Kerry Must Stress American Ideals Over Bush's Vision of a Cruel God
by David Rozelle
in a cruel God makes a cruel man.
- Thomas Paine
Be forewarned, John Kerry. By contesting George W. Bush, you are contesting "God."
In spite of Bush's sworn duty to uphold the constitutional separation of church and state, this president wears his Christian evangelist religious fervor on not only his sleeve but his every policy proposal and decision, including the one that lied us into waging a world-be-damned war on a sovereign nation.
From the day he took the oath of his office, George W. Bush has behaved more like a muddled mullah than a president.
Asked, for instance, by Bob Woodward (as detailed in the book "Plan of Attack") how he approached the final decision to go to war, Bush replied, "I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will ... that I be as good a messenger of his will as possible."
Asked if he had conferred with his father, George H.W. Bush, the president responded, "There is a higher father that I appeal to."
And lest candidate Kerry simply dismiss "God as God," he should know the dimensions of the deity he may be up against. George W. Bush's divine father is the God of an estimated 90 million evangelical Christians in America .
Most assuredly, most evangelicals conduct themselves as witnesses to Christ's teachings of love and tolerance. Near their fringes, however, are large numbers of extremists who, unlike their more moderate co-religionists, practice no "love thy neighbor" unless their neighbors believe as they believe: no religious or racial parity, no gay or abortion rights, no stem cell research, no United Nations, no evolution, no environmentalism, no eye without an eye in return, no personal salvation without their Christ.
And at their absolute fringe, they are the befuddling prophesiers who hold that something they call the "Rapture" may be at hand. In short, this phantasmagoric forecast calls for a final "seven-year tribulation" between Israel and the hordes of the "antichrist." Before the onset of their Rapture, God's truest believers will be lifted into heaven to observe the pestilence and bloodshed erupting below.
To ensure his re-election, this "faith-based" president will rely on the coattails of extremist right-wing Christians like these. They number in the tens of millions. They could make the difference.
So what's to be done?
First, as Bush's opponent, Kerry would do well to study ex-President Jimmy Carter's broad pragmatic distinction between Christians. In a recent interview, Carter, a Baptist, said that "the two principal things in a practical sense that starkly separate the ultra-right-wing Christian community from the rest of the Christian world" are the support of peace and the "alleviation of suffering among the poor and the outcast."
Second, while Kerry cannot run as a religiously inspired candidate (he has read the Constitution), the question becomes can he win over Christian voters - including legions of evangelicals - without citing Christianity? He can.
What John Kerry must do is cast his every position on every vital issue in a bright moral light that reflects the longstanding ideals of this nation. Embedded in our ideals is a humane concept of Jesus Christ that stands in sharp contrast to Bush's harsh, vainglorious vision. For most of us, believers or not, Christ is a peacemaker, champion of the poor, a healer, steward of the earth, a lover of each of us as a child of God without exception.
Kerry, in secular opposition to Bush, must invoke the moral philosophy that underlies our Constitution.
On Iraq , he must offer a plan for a generous withdrawal, leaving behind a country guided by the United Nations. On the economy, he must renounce the rich as the fount of economic well-being for the rest of us, while repositioning the poor and middle class for prosperity. On human rights, he must assert that all of the world's inhabitants have the same rights to dignity and respect. On the environment, he must avow that the Earth is now in our human hands to hold precious for future generations.
Kerry must proclaim that if he is elected president of the most powerful nation on Earth, its "rules" will be a return to the "golden rule" of its Constitution and Bill of Rights. That's all. Really. What's so hard about saying that? These ideals embody what most of us as Americans thought we stood for. And by Nov. 3, we could stand for them again.
"Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man," Paine reminds us. It also makes for a cruel nation. To defeat George W. Bush, we must defeat his god as well.
David Rozelle lives in rural Spring Green, Wisconsin . E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2003 The Capital Times