Exodus leaders Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas have frequently expressed support for President Bush’s re-election in 2004 — most recently they did so on Janet Parshall’s radio program. (Parshall is also a Bush supporter.)
But as Christian evangelical Jim Wallis noted last September in Sojourners magazine, Bush’s theology is not orthodox Christianity; it is, arguably, American civil religion.
Wallis cites numerous Bush speeches in which the president distorted Biblical passages and gospel hymns, changing traditional Christian meanings into messages justifying his rule, like Caesar, over an American empire.
In Christian theology, it is not nations that rid the world of evil — they are too often caught up in complicated webs of political power, economic interests, cultural clashes, and nationalist dreams. The confrontation with evil is a role reserved for God, and for the people of God when they faithfully exercise moral conscience. But God has not given the responsibility for overcoming evil to a nation-state, much less to a superpower with enormous wealth and particular national interests. To confuse the role of God with that of the American nation, as George Bush seems to do, is a serious theological error that some might say borders on idolatry or blasphemy.
It’s easy to demonize the enemy and claim that we are on the side of God and good. But repentance is better. As the Christian Science Monitor put it, paraphrasing Alexander Solzhenitzyn. “The gospel, some evangelicals are quick to point out, teaches that the line separating good and evil runs not between nations, but inside every human heart.”
The much-touted Religious Right is now a declining political factor in American life. The New York Times’ Bill Keller recently observed, “Bombastic evangelical power brokers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have aged into irrelevance, and now exist mainly as ludicrous foils.” The real theological problem in America today is no longer the Religious Right but the nationalist religion of the Bush administration — one that confuses the identity of the nation with the church, and God’s purposes with the mission of American empire.
America’s foreign policy is more than pre-emptive, it is theologically presumptuous; not only unilateral, but dangerously messianic; not just arrogant, but bordering on the idolatrous and blasphemous. George Bush’s personal faith has prompted a profound self-confidence in his “mission” to fight the “axis of evil,” his “call” to be commander-in-chief in the war against terrorism, and his definition of America’s “responsibility” to “defend the … hopes of all mankind.” This is a dangerous mix of bad foreign policy and bad theology.
Wallis is not a supporter of gay equality, but the article is still well worth reading.