Lord, Give Me Peace... Just Not Yet
The Roman Catholicism of my youth emphasized duality. I was taught to love God and to fear God. I was taught that there was a Heaven and a Hell. I was taught that we all share a social responsibility for each other, but that I was solely responsible for salvation of my own soul. God was both a mystery and the answer to the mystery of life. Over time I learned that God meant different things to different people. The most important lesson was that the idea of God seemed to be infinitely malleable. How else would one explain President Bush's ability to claim Jesus as his favorite philosopher while at the same time advocating war over peace? Bush's fundamentalism helps him deny that he has discarded the teachings of Christ to support his own beliefs. Bush's faith is in himself, not God. Bush uses God as a powerful tool to sell both the American public and himself on his worldly actions. Bush does not trust in God; he trusts in himself.
Throughout history, men and women have worshiped gods in order to make sense of the world. Over time, the idea of one god was advanced and became accepted through the spread of three great religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The role of monotheism in maintaining social order is the main reason for its longevity. It has proven to be both constant and flexible. The president of the most advanced country in the history of the world, a country built on science and technology, is a fundamentalist Christian. The man who has attacked America, a country he claims to be "The Great Satan," to prevent its empire from destroying the ancient culture and holy lands of Islam, is a fundamentalist Muslim. Could religion be anymore flexible?
In a preventive war of biblical proportion, Bush proposes to save America by leading the world into the birthplace of monotheism, the Tigris-Euphrates valley, what is known today as Iraq and known once as Babylon. The justification of this action has proven to be as malleable as the religious beliefs of the president. First, Bush claimed that Iraq, and Saddam Hussein, had ties to the religious fanatics who attacked America on September 11, 2001. When this claim could not be supported by the facts, Bush, with the help of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, claimed that Saddam had "Weapons of Mass Destruction." The theory was that these weapons could be used by Saddam or supplied to terrorists for use against America and the West. When this argument proved unpersuasive, the Bush administration trotted out a new marketing campaign with Colin Powell as salesman. But the new campaign has been awfully short on verified facts and awfully long on suppressed and even fabricated evidence.
We really should not be too hard on President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Myth has been part of marketing monotheism from the get go. According to Moses, God appeared to him as a burning bush and he had tablets with God's commandments to prove his story. According to Mohammed, the archangel Gabriel appeared to him and dictated the Koran, verse by verse. History tells us there is nothing like a little mythology to get those pagans off their butts and doing what you want them to do. Well, there is one other thing, war.
The prophet Bush seems to pray: "Lord, give me peace... just not yet."