Friday, September 16, 2005

National False Worship Day

Last week Bush declared today to be national Katrina prayer day.

I have to admit, I was surprised. Not that he'd done it (it smacks of Rove), but that he *could.* I didn't know that "by virtue of the authority vested in the president by the Constitution and laws of the United States," that he had the ability to create new national religious holidays. Or lead state religious services.

Robert Parham's article goes back to that old texutal authority, the Bible, to compare Bush's thoughts on national prayer with the prophet Amos (via Jesus Politics).
"What then would Amos say about a national day of prayer?

The text about feasts and solemn assemblies in the context of a message about social injustice gives us a straightforward answer. Amos would condemn a national day of prayer, if it is severed from a commitment to do justice.

He would likely see a nationalistic piety as false worship, offering comfort but not justice. For Amos, justice today would mean a transformative faith in a sinful world. Justice means practicing fairness in the market place, working for an equitable society, empowering the poor, protecting for the powerless and pushing rich Christians to adjust downward their lifestyles."
Translation: it's not "christian" if you talk the talk but don't walk the walk. And "comfort without justice" sums up the Bush "shop for the sake of the nation" Administration in a nutshell.

The prophet Amos lived, coincidentally, during a time when the gulf between rich and poor was widening. The major themes of the Book of Amos include crazy, radical, unamerican ideas like: social justice and concern for the disadvantaged; the idea that Israel's covenant with Yahweh did not exempt them from his standards of morality; and Yahweh as god and judge of all nations--instead of a pompom-wielding god cheering for one nation over another.

I wonder if Bush has ever read the Book of Amos? But hey, he's a busy guy--after all, being president is hard work. He probably treats religious texts the way he treats the news--gets the people around him to read it, filter it, and explain it to him. Because the man can certainly quote scripture when it serves his purposes--or Karl Rove's. Maybe it is just that his version of the Bible seems different than mine.

Maybe the clue lies when Bush describes the "greatest compassion" as "to love your neighbor as yourself." Because, can Bush truly love himself? In his heart of hearts, does the man even like himself? He's been a failure, all his life, at everything he does. He bullies and belittles those closest to him. He may have cronies but I can't imagine he has many friends--in the sense of people he trusts, and isn't afraid of on some level. He has an oddly, Oedipally, competitive relationship with his father. He knows that all of his public accomplishments have been stolen, not earned--engineered by his father, or his family friend, or the Supreme court. On Maslow's scale, he seems to be somewhere in the sub-basement. And, he knows that his cynical abuse of scripture, according the tenets of his publically professed religion, condemn him to some mighty retribution.

Substance abusers often have a death wish, although it may be subliminal (a fact that advertisers exploit in targeting alcohol advertisements to alcoholics). Perhaps the same self-loathing that fueled his track record of substance abuse is now playing out on a larger scale, where the nation is conflated with the self he is destructing--the lingering death of the "royal we." Perhaps his criminal negligence of hundreds of thousands of people in New Orleans is a demonstration of the same kind of 'love' that he does show himself--loathing, and violence, and destruction.

Or, to quote Sidney Blumenthal, "In Bush's own evangelical language, he [has] revealed his heart."

Am I the only one whom Bush reminds of the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (or tax collector) (Luke 18:9-14)?
9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.

I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’

And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Granted, the Pharisee doesn't actually say "God Bless America," but nonetheless, I still find the passage somehow evocative.

Have a nice National False Worship Day.

And please get some publicans to pray for George and the rest of us.


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