New doco extols Bush’s faith

Arts > Frank Rich: Now on DVD: The Passion of the Bush” href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/03/arts/03rich.html?oref=login”>Review in today’s Time’s of an extraordinary new doco about Bush’s faith. Produced by pro-Bush forces it is to be released on DVD this week to go up against the DVD version of Farenheit 9/11. As the Time’s Frank Rich notes, its narrative isn’t subtle:

“Will George W. Bush be allowed to finish the battle against the forces of evil that threaten our very existence?” Such is the portentous question posed at the film’s conclusion by its narrator, the religious broadcaster Janet Parshall, beloved by some for her ecumenical generosity in inviting Jews for Jesus onto her radio show during the High Holidays. Anyone who stands in the way of Mr. Bush completing his godly battle, of course, is a heretic. Facts on the ground in Iraq don’t matter. Rational arguments mustered in presidential debates don’t matter. Logic of any kind is a nonstarter. The president – who after 9/11 called the war on terrorism a “crusade,” until protests forced the White House to backpedal – is divine. He may not hear “voices” instructing him on policy, testifies Stephen Mansfield, the author of one of the movie’s source texts, “The Faith of George W. Bush,” but he does act on “promptings” from God. “I think we went into Iraq not so much because there were weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Mansfield has explained elsewhere, “but because Bush had concluded that Saddam Hussein was an evildoer” in the battle “between good and evil.” So why didn’t we go into those other countries in the axis of evil, North Korea or Iran? Never mind. To ask such questions is to be against God and “with the terrorists.”

Rich points out how the Bush brand of Christian apocalypticism ties in with other cultural products and produces a niche or base for Bush to operate from:

It’s not just Mr. Bush’s self-deification that separates him from the likes of Lincoln, however; it’s his chosen fashion of Christianity. The president didn’t revive the word “crusade” idly in the fall of 2001. His view of faith as a Manichaean scheme of blacks and whites to be acted out in a perpetual war against evil is synergistic with the violent poetics of the best-selling “Left Behind” novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins and Mel Gibson’s cinematic bloodfest. The majority of Christian Americans may not agree with this apocalyptic worldview, but there’s a big market for it. A Newsweek poll shows that 17 percent of Americans expect the world to end in their lifetime. To Karl Rove and company, that 17 percent is otherwise known as “the base.”

And this is a tactical faith, which produces very subtle strategies of inclusion and exclusion, public announcements and backdoor politics:

The pandering to that base has become familiar in countless administration policies, starting with its antipathy to stem-cell research, abortion, condoms for H.I.V. prevention and gay civil rights. But ever since Mr. Bush’s genuflection to Bob Jones University threatened to shoo away moderates in 2000, the Rove ruse is to try to keep the most militant and sectarian tactics of the Bush religious program under the radar. (Mr. Rove even tried to deny that the wooden lectern at the Republican convention was a pulpit embedded with a cross, as if a nation of eyewitnesses could all be mistaken.) The re-election juggernaut has not only rounded up the membership rosters of churches en masse but quietly mounted official Web sites like kerrywrongforcatholics.com as well. (Evangelicals and Mormons have their own Web variants on this same theme, but not the Jews, who are apparently getting in Kerry just what they deserve.) Even the contraband C-word is being revived out of sight of most of the press: Marc Racicot, the Bush-Cheney campaign chairman, lobbed a direct-mail fund-raising letter in March describing Mr. Bush as “leading a global crusade against terrorism.”

Great article. Frightening film.

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