[February 17, 2003]

(Version also published 2/24/03 in Capitalism Magazine)

Bush vs Jesus

by Wayne Dunn

President Bush makes no bones about his Christianity-- or his seriousness regarding war with Iraq.

That, however, disturbs Christians of the more tiptoe-through-the-tulips variety. Jesus, they correctly point out, doesn't say to turn the other cheek unless you're a 21st century American attacked by terrorists; He says to turn the other cheek, period.

He doesn't say to love your enemies unless they're really nasty people like Hussein or bin Laden; He says to love them, period. He doesn't say to forgive others unless it's inconvenient--e.g., they’re trying to murder you; He says to forgive them, period.

And so, understandably, kum-ba-ya Christians want to know how President "Jesus-is-my-favorite-philosopher" Bush can justify what they regard as his un-Christ-like, aggressive posture. They want to know how he can reconcile Jesus' "bless them that curse you" with America's blasting them that curse us; for bless the Taliban, Bush did not.

So it comes down to this: When President Bush kills our enemies, is he right? Or is Jesus right?

Well, if self-sacrifice for the sake of your enemies is moral, as the Sermon on the Mount indicates, then that means self-defense is immoral. You can't have it both ways.

Self-defense is good only if 'self' is good, only if self-interest is good. Well, since without your self, your life, no other values are possible to you-- since something that destroys your very capacity to value can hold no value for you--the efficacy of self-defense then is rationally demonstrable.

But while self-defense has a rational basis--your own life as your standard of value-- there is no such basis for Christ's admonition to love, bless, forgive, and "do good to" those who would as soon blow you to bits as look at you. And no rational basis for it has ever been given -- only a mystical one.

Indeed, those who subscribe to cheek-turning and enemy-love do so, not because they can prove that loving one's foes and presenting one's cheeks for smacking is logical --they sneer at "mere" logic. Their foe-love is faux love. They believe as they do simply because the Bible, or some other "spiritual" authority, demands it.

How do they know if the Bible or alleged authority is right? Why, they have faith, of course. Which means, they "just feel" it's true. And that's what faith ultimately boils down to: feelings.

Well, since religionists' beliefs rest on glorified feelings, not certified facts, that means whatever correct views they may happen to hold--for instance, conservatives' general desire to crush tyrants and protect America --are not rationally validated, and are therefore vulnerable.

For example, fundamentalist Christians might argue with their liberal brethren that the Bible doesn't prohibit fighting in self-defense. Perhaps they'll pluck the "eye for an eye" verse out of the Old Testament for this purpose. (And they actually regard that sort of thing as a sound argument.) Their opponents, however, can parry by insisting that they took the scripture out of context, or simply that the New Testament supersedes the Old.

Indeed, anyone who's ever witnessed two "believers" debating knows that it's pretty much a matter of dueling verses. One recites scriptures that tend to support his position, while the other mans the opposite position and does likewise. It's my-faith-says-this vs. your-faith-says-that.

And that's the rub: When you go by faith, it's deuces wild. Without reason as your guide, you can sanction saying or doing anything. You can sashay wherever the spirit guides. Heck, you could use faith to vindicate granting terrorists the Empire State building (i.e., if someone "takes away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also." Modern translation: if someone takes your twin towers, give him your other skyscrapers also).

Those who put faith above reason forfeit the right to complain when others behave unreasonably. Terrorists, remember, cite faith to justify their actions.

A rational man should no more regard a religious mystic's "arguments"--which amount to feelings -- than a physician should a witch doctor's.

Because self-defense is rational and therefore right, Bush is moral to the degree he pulverizes those who threaten America. He's immoral to the degree he follows Jesus.


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© COPYRIGHT 2003 by Wayne Dunn