December 22, 2002

Winter Solstice Reflection:
The Devil and George Walker Bush

I heard a version of Rickie Lee Jones singing "O Holy Night" and for me it is one of the most beautiful Christmas songs. Rickie Lee's version has a sensitivity that reminds me of a spirit of Christmas that is more often than not lost in our culture.

The lyrics were translated into English by John S. Dwight from a French verse by Cappeau de Roquemaure. It portrays an emotion that must underlie the true spirit of Christmas, the ageless hope for a messiah who would bring love and hope into the world and turn men from greed and wickedness.

Long lay the world
In sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul showed its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

The hope of a messiah, which dates from time immemorial, many times longer than the life of the Christian religion, is deeply imbedded in the human heart. It is the hope for a champion of the people against the oppression of tyrants, and against the hardships of existence itself.

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend!

The last verse switches from past, to present and then goes into the future tense.

Truly he taught us to love one another;
His law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother
And in his name all oppression shall cease

In the switch from past to future tense, we enter into the cyclical, eternal hope for the Messiah, a still fervent wish, for obviously the world is still, as Henry Miller put it, "giddy with crime and distress." Here the Christian and the Jewish traditions come back together, for while the Jew says the Messiah has not yet come, the Christian waits for him to come again. In either case, and for untold generations and tribes before recorded history it is a wish as yet unfulfilled. Still the world lies in sin and error.

Now as 2002 gives way to 2003, we are heading into Christmas and our news media is hammering us with war fever. Over what we can't be really sure from the news broadcasts, but we know our court-appointed president is dead set against peace. He's going to have war no matter what anyone does to try to stop it.

Bush is a man who used religious beliefs in his quest for power. He professed to be a born again Christian because by doing it he could tie up the Christian right constituency, and not particularly offend people who are not part of that political faction. It was a politically pragmatic move, and Bush is a consummate politician.

He said his favorite philosopher was Jesus, in answer to a question from the moderator of a debate. Saying "Jesus Christ" was a way to duck the question since Bush doesn't know one philosopher from another. It was also a trump card in the game of "Gotcha!", which is what Bush called it when a reporter asked him if he knew the names of some world leaders. To him it's always a game of "Gotcha!" when reporters ask him questions. It's all about how not to reveal his ignorance on practically anything they ask him about, except his latest war. It's the mindset of a slacker going to class without having read the assignments and trying to fake his way through when the teacher asks questions.

In any case Bush got a lot of mileage out of being an alleged born again Christian. And now he appears to be the most warlike president in history. I'm not sure exactly how Christians reconcile all this war with their religion, since it is obviously in diametric opposition to the very essence of the life and teachings of Jesus.

Bush showed his propensity for killing while already a governor, a distinction few other governors can claim. He presided over more executions than any governor since the death penalty was legalized. And it was an acknowledged fact that he never spent more than 15 minutes reviewing any of the cases before putting his stamp of approval on them and sending them off to die.

The list of deaths he approved included cases in which so-called public defenders slept during court proceedings, cases when it was admitted they didn't make a single inquiry for their clients' defense. The system was deeply corrupt in the worst sense of the word, but none of it fazed Happy George.

I don't know if I would qualify as a Christian or not to those members of the Christian Right, who use the name as a banner to declare war on practically everyone. But I do know that I don't want to see a single innocent person killed if there is a way to avoid it. To me that is what Jesus was about. Since that is more or less the central tenet of the religion Bush says he believes in, why is he so eager to wage war, to kill?

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