Oct 2006 # 3

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Many years ago, when I was much younger (and some say better looking) I had what is termed a "conversion" experience. Being from a Christian family, my primary religious understandings were shaped by that environment. So 'becoming a Christian' was not something I thought was foreign. Being young and full of beans I threw myself into this new experience. My eyes had been opened, I thought. My spiritual being was assured of a place in the eternity of paradise.

I became involved in the local youth scene and threw myself into evangelism with gusto. I was working with lots of other young people and those that weren't already part 'of the kingdom' were fair game in the war for souls. So it was not surprising that I soon had a 'god told me to ...' experience. In my zeal to show how in touch with god I was and how ready I was to listen to his direction, I told the church heavies that I was now anointed and would need their support to get the project going. Fortunately, as I now look back on it, one of the wiser heads prevailed and said, "Shane, god might have told you but he hasnít told us yet. Besides, if he did tell you, then he'll provide the means, wonít he?"

I was deflated at one level. On another full of anger that these blind men couldn't see the great work god had called me to. I certainly didn't have the resources to do what I wanted alone and so far, god wasn't coming through either. What was I to do? As I now reflect back on this time I'm glad I was only full of hot air and my own self-importance. From my current perspective, I wonder how time will treat George Bush's declaration that he "is on a mission from God"?

George's declaration was revealed in a BBC documentary titled "Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs". In an interview for the program Palestinian Foreign Minister, Nabil Shaath, tells of how, during a meeting with Bush, the US President told him, "I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq', and I did." The President is also quoted as telling his host "I feel God's words coming to me: 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And by God, I'm gonna do it". I guess this is George's way of saying he had a, 'god told me to' experience.

Should we be surprised by Bush's claims? Not really. George had his own personal epiphany in 1985. By his own admission he had been till then, what might politely be termed, a tearaway. He drank, he smoked, he took drugs, and he screwed around. He was, by the sounds of it, a fairly regular kinda guy. But after his encounter with the Reverend Billy Graham, he "came to the Lord" and was saved. Given Graham's avowed anti-Semitism, anti-gay, anti-liberal, anti-union, and anti-just about everything else he deems to be 'non-Christianí, we should ask, if Bush's confessor is so out of touch with reality, where does that place Bush?

Writing on the beliefnet.com website Deborah Caldwell observes that, "Bush has clearly seen a divine aspect to his presidency since before he ran." She notes, "there is evidence that Bush believes his election as President was a result of God's acts". Kevin Phillips in his latest book "American Theocracy" confirms this report of George's self appointed 'divine anointment'. Caldwell and Phillips recount Bush's speeches in which invokes some sort of divine anointing not only on himself but also on the USA.  They recount how Bush has spelled out an absolutist moral position by calling on the notions of "good" and "evil". Caldwell writes that Bush, whatever his original 'faith' may have been, is now firmly entrenched in the Calvinist theological camp.  Calvin's theology, she writes, is "critical to contemporary evangelical thought, focused on the idea of a powerful God who governs "the vast machinery of the whole world." Bush ... believes God is involved in world events and that he and America have a divinely guided mission ..."

Bush and his cohorts divine delusion is like a kind of moral and ethical bypass. When a powerful group embark on a course of action, that they know from deep within their humanity is wrong - such as the senselessness of war, they need to find some higher authority or power upon which to cast the blame. It works like this.

A powerful group of ideologues believe that God has given them a divine task. As they plan the enactment of that task they realise there will be casualties - collateral damage they might call it. They embark on the calling and find the slaughter is terrible but, and this is the crucial bit, they know that this slaughter is a necessary part of doing God's will. Remember, they are only acting on orders. God has told them what to do and so if there is any wrong, it must be on God's part. But, as we all know, God cannot be wrong because, well, God is God.

What is emerging is a new global theocracy. This belief in a higher authority has been used and abused since Adam was a pup. It has been used as much by "us" as it has been by "them". During the last four centuries it can easily be argued that "we" have consistently resorted to using some form of divine invocation to defend the most atrocious acts. Whether itís at the personal level of deriding, say, the theory of evolution or more radically shooting doctors who perform abortions or on the global scale of subjugating whole peoples and destroying their heritage in the name of a 'civilised god' (as the Spanish did), the supposedly 'civilised Christian world' has little to be proud of. And now the theocrats are in charge of the global village.

I can openly admit, even if it causes me some embarrassment, that what I thought was god's whisper in my ear was, possibly, a bad prawn on a pizza. Or perhaps it was just good old fashioned vanity. Whatever it was I was dangerous. When no-one else saw 'the bigger picture' like I saw it or supported the mission like I did, they were the ones who were deluded and wrong. They were the ones out of touch. They were the ones who were opposed to what god wanted. They were the ones who were inferior in their faith.

Right here, right now in 2006 the deluded theocrats stand ready to roll out their hate and anger and spew out their venom in what they would call "divine wrath" on all who donít see the world their way. In reality it is greed, power-lust and fear that drive them. Greed because they fear others might gain something they donít. Power-lust because they feel powerless. Fear because that is all the powerless can feel.

God is not on George Bush's side any more than he or she is on my side or your side. What we can only do is see the actions of those who claim a divine mandate and measure them up against the overriding ethical and moral absolutes that really do matter. Those absolutes are that we all have the right to live without fear and to attempt to understand each other so we can travel together and create a better world than we already have. If I had the opportunity to ask George Bush one question it would be, "are you prepared to face your own humanity and acknowledge the humanity you deny in others?"