“. . . You know what [service] means? It means love a neighbor just like you’d like to be loved yourself. Take time [lots of applause], take time out of your life to make somebody else’s life better. By helping heal a broken heart, or surrounding a friend with love, or feeding the hungry, or providing shelter for the homeless, you can help change America for the better, one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time.”
-George W. Bush, pre-inaugural youth rally, as quoted in Jan. 18, 2005 Washington Post
I was raised in a religious family. My father and both of my grandfathers were ministers. Virtually every Sunday morning, from the time I was very little until I left home to go to college, I went to church.
I don’t go to church very often anymore, but I continue to identify with many of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and believe that my current belief system owes much to my Christian upbringing.
As a result, when I read the Bush quote above several months ago while in D.C. participating in various counter-inaugural activities, I had a very strong reaction. George Bush, the liar, war criminal and attacker of the poor, knows as much about “lov(ing) a neighbor” and “mak(ing) somebody else’s life better” as I do about the best stocks to buy on Wall Street.
As Jesus himself said, in chapter seven, verses 15 and 16 of the book of Matthew in the Bible, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”
Unfortunately, a lot of people, exposed to a relentless fare of conservative ideology and propagandistic “news” shows, have been taken in by this hypocrite. One is a Virginia resident, Phyllis Karhatsu, quoted in the May 17th Los Angeles Times: “He’s the type of person you can see as a father or a brother. He’s a great leader.”
George Bush a “great leader?” A man who is about loving one’s neighbor like oneself? Following the example of Jesus? No, not in a million years.
It is important that we speak this truth, openly and publicly, in ways that ignorant, miseducated or prejudiced people can understand.
Those of us who are truly about making peoples’ lives better, feeding the hungry and providing housing for the homeless, are in an uphill battle right now for the hearts and minds of too many of our fellow U.S. Americans. Even those who don’t support Bush are influenced by the lack of a strong opposition party or opposition movement to the Republicans and Democrats. Absent a visible, independent progressive force for change, most people tend to withdraw into their private lives or the world of TV.
But we should not be too discouraged about the backward views or apathy of some of our fellow citizens. Phyllis Karhatsu’s opinion is not representative of the views of the majority of people in this country. Polls show that less than half our peoples support what Bush/Cheney have been doing since being re-elected.
As we continue to organize, agitate and educate, we must draw from a variety of traditions that are consistent with what we believe. One of them is the life, work and teachings of Jesus. This revolutionary organizer was so committed to speaking the truth and confronting the imperialistic Roman rulers and their apologists within his own Jewish community that he and his followers physically overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple of Jerusalem. He was willing to take direct action against injustice. He was willing to give his life for the cause of justice.
Christian evangelists talk about developing a “personal relationship” with Jesus, developing a spiritual connection to him through study and prayer. There are individual progressives who do so in their own lives, and it is a source of strength. For the many of us who don’t do so, we can and should draw strength from his example as we organize against the false prophets who currently rule over us.