I read Lileks first thing this morning, like I do every morning. He talked about a NYTimes piece (I know! I know! I shouldn't read the rag, but I can't help myself) that addresses Bush's faith and how it, essentially, made him short-sided on all decisions. Too certain, you see. Read it here. I dare you. It's a test of stamina.
Our author (Ron Suskind) paints a picture of a president who is...well...dumb. (Shocker) But not only that, he's blinded by his religious faith. He quotes Bruce Barlet,a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush ,"He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence." Yes, that is the 'whole thing' about faith. I have neither observed nor experienced any reason to believe in my God. Someone just mentioned it to me once, and I thought,"Hey, why waste time with rational thought when I can make my life come up roses by just professing belief in some higher power."
You can just see Mr. Suskind rolling his eyes when he writes about one Bush supporter who said, "I prayed, then I got to work." Or speaking about his trepidation of speaking at a large rally that he "...looked to God" and said what was in his heart. And after hearing that at the rally despite Bush's verbal miscues the Christian crowd "got him", we get to the rub...finally:
"And for those who don't get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. "You think he's an idiot, don't you?" I said, no, I didn't. "No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!" In this instance, the final "you," of course, meant the entire reality-based community."
Again, he nailed it...the "you" is "reality-based" people. No, the "you" is snotty, liberal journalists who only think a church's use is for weddings and funerals. "You" is those who live in about five square mile in the middle a New York who think they're qualified to speak for all Americans. You is someone who whould choose to insult so-called "faith-based" people by making their opposite not "secular-based" but..."reality-based". But it is true, they don't get it. As annoying it is that East Coast elitists can't fathom any clear thinking individual's support of Bush; the sad, and more important, fact is that they really don't get Christians. Sincere religious belief is the first sign of mental weakness for them. Claiming to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a concept they equate to a punchline. They just don't understand. I guess it's not really their fault...but it is. They lack the ability to give someone with a differing view respect. The minute you claim to be a Christian, especially of the evangelical variety, they have visions of the nut house. I actually consider what God thinks of my actions and my decisions before I make them. That means that I don't always act out of my best interests, or even those around me. I'm sure I'm not batting 1.000. Sometimes I get my will confused with God's, but I hope that all my decisions are the same ones God would make. On those occasions when I do err, I pray that God will jerk me back on course. The fact that someone who might think like that is in the White House scares them to no end.
Lileks said it like this: "The problem some people have with Bush isn't that he believes in God, it's that he really believes in God. To a certain stratum of our intelligentsia, you're supposed to believe in God like you believe in continental drift, or the tides, or the yearly reappearance of Shamrock Shakes at McDonald's. The idea that it's a two-way conversation strikes many as nonsense, proof that we're dealing with someone two steps removed from worshipping the moon...It varies, shall we say. For every believer who feels compelled to drop to his knees you have a Gene Hackman-style priest from "The Poseidon Adventure," yelling at God. Rational people can have many different manifestations of faith, and it's a failure of imagination to think there's but one way." And that's why I say it's not their fault but it is. You can't fully understand if you don't share this belief, but its a complete "failure of imagination" to think no one else should...or could.
Suskind ends his tome with a short dialogue with Jim Wallis that goes thusly:
JW - "Where people often get lost is on this very point,'' he said after a moment of thought. ''Real faith, you see, leads us to deeper reflection and not -- not ever -- to the thing we as humans so very much want."
RS - And what is that?
JW - "Easy certainty."
To that I say,"I couldn't disagree more." If my faith offers me one thing, it is certainty. Assurance that this life is temporal; that my eternity is secure. That there is right and wrong, good and evil, and that you can tell the difference. That I have a purpose and a meaning that trumps any this world can offer. But certainty in today's parlance equals intolerance, and intolerance equals hate.
They just don't understand. They don't understand how you can recognize truth and act on it. Believe God is real and trust in it. Hear the word of Jesus and endeavor to live it.