Searching for Bush's Jesus

Laid in a manger, abridged in the White House

I've been thinking for some time now that perhaps, when Bush and Robertson accuse Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez of undermining his country's economy by sharing some of its oil riches with the poor, Chavez, a good Catholic, should say he is simply implementing Jesus's teachings. And now apparently Chavez has taken my advice. When Jesse Jackson visited Venezuela recently, Chavez said to him, "You can be sure we will continue fighting for the ideas of Martin Luther King, for Christ the Redeemer's idea of loving one another and building a society of equals through our peaceful and democratic revolution."

So, to carry on in this vein, when Bush accuses Canada or Spain, say, of not doing their share in the War on Terror, perhaps they should remind him that Jesus taught us that a more effective approach is to love our enemies. And when Bush brings up the very real horrors inflicted on the United States in 2001, the countries that opposed the Iraq war as a solution could remind him that Jesus was against retaliation, always insisting, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone" (John 8:7). Also, it might be an intelligent new approach for those running in 2006 against Bush's policies to point out that a true New Testament literalist would automatically provide health care and decent wages for everyone.

Of course, there's another even wilder explanation of the disconnect between Jesus's teachings and Bush's claim to be a follower. It could just be that, always proud to proclaim himself a nonreader, he never really got around to reading the whole New Testament. At the very least he should spend some vacation time refreshing himself. Then he would surely discover the gentle Jesus of my childhood and, instead of congratulating a woman for being such a great hard-working American when she explained that she needed three jobs to support herself, he might finally give us the four-day work week that was being promised way back in the 1950s.

illustration: Lady Alexandra Palace

We are far too complacent, allowing ourselves off the hook by pretending that we aren't involved in the acts that our leaders perform. We should be outraged. We should never again let Bush forget Jesus's scary warning: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matt.16:26). The United States still has the potential to be the greatest influence for good the world has ever known. And Bush himself, if he so chose, could lead us there. Let us and Bush not forget that Jesus said simply, "If a man love me, he will keep my words" (John 14:23).

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