One difference between God and George W. Bush (and this is among multitudes of differences) is that God is willing to change God’s mind and the president makes no mistakes and sees no reason to change course even when the world is burning around him.
Ron Suskind illustrates the faith-inspired stubborn streak that Bush maintains in an article published this weekend in The New York Times Magazine. “Without a Doubt” doesn’t break a lot of new ground. Bush’s faith is well documented. But this article has some good stories to tell.
Bush employs a theology in which he believes that he personally is an instrument of God sent to lead the free word. Bush speaks for God. In office, Suskind writes, this belief has allowed him to grow more isolated:
On Feb. 1, 2002, Jim Wallis of the Sojourners stood in the Roosevelt Room for the introduction of Jim Towey as head of the president's faith-based and community initiative. John DiIulio, the original head, had left the job feeling that the initiative was not about ''compassionate conservatism,'' as originally promised, but rather a political giveaway to the Christian right, a way to consolidate and energize that part of the base.
Moments after the ceremony, Bush saw Wallis. He bounded over and grabbed the cheeks of his face, one in each hand, and squeezed. ''Jim, how ya doin', how ya doin'!'' he exclaimed. Wallis was taken aback. Bush excitedly said that his massage therapist had given him Wallis's book, ''Faith Works.'' His joy at seeing Wallis, as Wallis and others remember it, was palpable -- a president, wrestling with faith and its role at a time of peril, seeing that rare bird: an independent counselor. Wallis recalls telling Bush he was doing fine, '''but in the State of the Union address a few days before, you said that unless we devote all our energies, our focus, our resources on this war on terrorism, we're going to lose.' I said, 'Mr. President, if we don't devote our energy, our focus and our time on also overcoming global poverty and desperation, we will lose not only the war on poverty, but we'll lose the war on terrorism.''' Bush replied that that was why America needed the leadership of Wallis and other members of the clergy.
''No, Mr. President,'' Wallis says he told Bush, ''We need your leadership on this question, and all of us will then commit to support you. Unless we drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we'll never defeat the threat of terrorism.''
Bush looked quizzically at the minister, Wallis recalls. They never spoke again after that.
''When I was first with Bush in Austin, what I saw was a self-help Methodist, very open, seeking,'' Wallis says now. ''What I started to see at this point was the man that would emerge over the next year -- a messianic American Calvinist. He doesn't want to hear from anyone who doubts him.''
The roll-call of problems faced by our country is enormous. The war in Iraq is going very poorly. Millions of Americans have lost their health insurance under the Bush Administration. Poverty rates are increasing after nearly a decade of steady declines. And this President has such strong faith in himself that he cannot admit to one mistake while in office. Maybe he could learn something from the Bible.
After the slaves had been freed from bondage in Egypt they began their long journey to the Promised Land. At one point the people became concerned when Moses was delayed returning from the mountain with God. They turned to Aaaron for leadership. Aaaron quickly had the people build an image of a golden calf to worship. God was not happy that the people he had just spent freeing from slavery were so quick to turn away. The next thing you know God is so angry that God is planning on destroying the people.
11 But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12Why should the Egyptians say, It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever. 14And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
- Exodus 32:11-14 (NRSV)
Yes, confronted with evidence even God is willing to change God’s mind. This is a Bible study lesson someone should try and teach the president before his ill-placed faith leads to even more disaster. This is a message for us all.