December 22, 2003
Imagine this scene: Resident Bush is holding one of his rare press conferences. He calls on one of his favorite reporters, a “safe” and cynical television guy, wise to the ways of Washington, whose softball “question” has been pre-approved by Karl Rove. But, the night before, this reporter was visited by an angel and given another question to ask the Resident. The experience shook the reporter to his core and changed him deeply. When Bush calls on him, the reporter asks, “Mr. President. Let me ask a simple question. In the war on terrorism, what would Jesus do?”
You may recall that during the presidential debates, when asked to name a political philosopher who had influenced his thinking, Bush shot back, “Jesus Christ.” One suspected that despite his Ivy League education, Bush had not studied any political philosophy closely enough to cite a name. One hoped that he was being sincere and that his approach to politics and government was based on the teachings of the man from Galilee. If only.
Regardless of your personal beliefs concerning the nature of the person we know as Jesus, one must admit, Jesus was, if nothing else, a man of peace and goodwill. Love your enemies and all that stuff. It’s easy to love your children, your mate (usually!), your friends, your parents (most of the time!) and those you like and who like you. And are like you. It’s very difficult to love an enemy, someone who wishes you harm. But that’s what Jesus instructed his followers to attempt.
Blessed are the peacemakers. It’s easy to return hate for hate, injury for injury, take an eye for an eye. It’s hard to forgive and to wish the best for someone who hates you. It’s easy to appeal to national pride (and fear), wave the flag, exhort the soldiers, attend the rallies and bang the drum. It’s very difficult to transcend ancient hatreds, tribal prejudices, family feuds and all ways people make war, public and private, and, instead, attempt to bring people together to the table of brother and sisterhood. Blessed, indeed, are the peacemakers.
Turn the other cheek. That’s a good one. Can you imagine if this country had responded to the attacks on 9/11 with an attitude of forgiveness for the 19 deluded, hate filled, religious fanatics who hijacked those planes? What if our President had delivered the message that as a Christian he would strive to return love for hate? And although every bone in his body cried, “Attack!” he would, instead, be guided by his favorite political philosopher and turn the other cheek. And so should every American.
Of all the things I despise about George W. Bush, the thing I detest the most is his religious hypocrisy. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing truly Christian about him at all. He’s mean spirited, ill tempered, dishonest, dismissive of those who don’t agree with him and power hungry. He proclaims his Christianity like he waves the flag. But he’s always a safe distance from the battlefield or the soup kitchen. At church, I bet he sits on the front row.
Yes, I would love to see his reaction to the angel’s question. Not for the first time in his public life would he be at a loss for words. But, he might, at least, have to think about it.
As Neil Young sang: oh no, the damage done. All the limbs and lives lost. All the pain and suffering. All the children traumatized by all the shock and awe. All the money wasted and all the goodwill squandered. All the hatred fomented.
This coming year I will try to love my enemy, George W. Bush. I wish him happiness, health, and safety for his loved ones. I wish him no harm. I will attempt to forgive him the damage he has done. It will be hard, but what would Jesus do?
Merry Christmas from the left bank of the creek.
Copyright 2003, Dan Tyler www.dantyler.net