On Bush, Religion, the Economy, What's Normal, etc.

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Nov 06, 2003 12:00 AM
Comments on various items currently in the news, with telling quotes...

Heavy thinkers, longtime critics of President Bush, are taking him to task on Iraq specifically and foreign policy in general. On Iraq, the complaint is that the United States should not have taken out Saddam Hussein, that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction sustains the falsity of Bush's invasion pretext and that the rising number of American deaths proves we are hated there - as in Vietnam - and should come home.

Responds Bush, "The enemy in Iraq believes America will run. That's why they're willing to kill innocent civilians, relief workers, (and) coalition troops. America will never run."

On foreign policy generally, in the words of UVa's Gerard Alexander, "The charge boils down to this: Bush is creating new enemies faster than he is deterring old ones." Alexander concludes:

"(Yet) instead of the verdict's being in, and favoring the administration's critics, the jury is still out. There is no persuasive evidence that U.S. policy is provoking the seismic shift in America's reputation that Bush's critics detect. ... If the jury is still out, [then] shouldn't we err on the side of caution? Not if doing so means we are so constrained by multilateralism that we deny ourselves the tools we need to protect ourselves effectively. The possible nexus - made far more imaginable by 9/11 - between international terrorist groups and rogue states bent on developing weapons of mass destruction means we are in the unhappy position of asking which risks we should run, not whether we should run any at all."

At his consecration, New Hampshire's new openly gay Episcopal bishop said this to those in attendance: "It's not about me; it's about so many other people who find themselves at the margins. Your presence here is a welcome sign for those people to be brought into the center." Thereby, he touched upon the long-held essence of homosexual aspiration: acceptance as normal.

Scripture postulates homosexuality - both preference and practice - as deviant, even sin. Yet now U.S. Episcopalianism officially has raised up a homosexual as not sinful or even deviant but normal. That is what offends - outrages - many Episcopalians here and a majority abroad.

Even now, objecting American Episcopalians are being isolated on the fringe, dismissed as fractious judgmental kooks unwilling to see the higher importance of inclusiveness and church unity. But these "kooks" have Anglican Communion allies abroad representing many times the Episcopalians here embracing homosexuality as normal.

The archbishops of Kenya, Australia and South America - among others - deplore the New Hampshire consecration. They speak of "broken" and "impaired" communion with the American church and foresee open schism. Says Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, representing 17 million Anglicans there (compared with the 2 million Episcopalians here):

"We deplore the act of those bishops who have taken part in the (New Hampshire) consecration, which has now divided the church in violation of their obligation to guard the faith and unity of the church."

The usual suspects are ripping a U.S. evangelical Christian lieutenant general - Jerry Boykin - for giving speeches about the "evil" of Islam and the centrality of Christianity in America. Investigations are being demanded (and one in the Pentagon apparently is going forward); and so, from Cairo to Karachi - and even unto the halls of the U.S. Senate - is Gen. Boykin's neck. And in truth maybe, given his lofty position as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and special operations, the general should have kept his thoughts private.

But the cacophony over his comments does ask the question why it has been left principally to evangelical Christians - as opposed to interfaith mainliners - to speak of Christianity and Islam in any but tapioca tones. This is a Christian nation and religion clearly isn't beanbag. If Islam is fraudulent or violent - if certain of its followers believe killing innocents is the path to paradise - then how is it wrong to point out perceived inherent differences with Christianity? And why does the interfaith community demur from doing so?

Yale's David Gelernter, famously maimed by the Unabomber, notes (regarding smug offense taken at Gen. Boykin's remarks):

"Granted, ours is an Offended Age. All right, I'm offended (might as well get with the program). As a practicing Jew, I am offended when Jews all over the country pop up to denounce angrily some hapless truth-teller who says what is obvious, that this is a Christian country, ... (that) Christianity is (at any rate) a variant of Judaism, formed on a Jewish armature. ... By erecting and maintaining America on Christian principles, Christians have tendered Jews the deepest of compliments. Why not accept it in that spirit?"

On the economy, bad followed good again. Oct. 31 headlines such as these told the tale of economic turnaround: (1) "Economy Records Speediest Growth Since the Mid-'80s." (2) "U.S. (Third Quarter) Economic Growth Surges; Output Rises at Highest Rate Since 1984." (3) "Compelling Signs of Resurgence: Dramatic Acceleration in Q3; Consumers and Business Both Pitch in to Generate Better-Than-Expected Gain." (4) "Best Growth Since Reagan Boosts Bush." And (5) "So Much for Recession."

Yet, as inevitably seems to happen, the bad news came just days later, as these headlines suggest: (1) "Senators Assail Trading Abuses at Mutual Funds," and (2) "Fund Scandal Widens as Congress Opens Hearings Into Trading." First Enron, then Arthur Andersen, then CEO pay, then investment houses. Now mutual funds - which, combined, hold $7 trillion in assets.

How about the strength and resilience of the U.S. economy - despite the best efforts of some that should know better to sabotage it, to cheat and to wink at the rules?