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Monday, November 08, 2004

A BUSH THEOCRACY?
By
MICHAEL MARRIOTT




I watched with keen interest the debate raging on the Capitalism Magazine website of why either Kerry or Bush should receive our votes. Some planned to vote for Bush while remaining “anti-Bush”; others (including an “anti-Kerryite against Bush”) decided Kerry was less an evil than Bush and would vote accordingly.

In large measure this debate arose in late spring when some prominent thinkers advocated voting for Kerry due to Bush’s religiosity. In summary, the argument was that Kerry was a concrete bound pragmatist void of abiding beliefs. Kerry could do no real damage to the nation since he, like Bill Clinton, could only advocate legislation in a piecemeal, ineffectual fashion, even if such legislation ran counter to his liberal instincts. The Republican congress would check his more radical schemes.

Bush, however, possessed strong beliefs due to his unwavering adherence to Christian ethics. While this philosophy is unsupported by reality it nonetheless is more substantial, and more attuned to popular belief, than the nothingness of Kerry. Bush could do real damage to the nation through policies designed to embed religious concepts within the government, creating in essence the foundations of theocracy. Philosophically at least the nihilist Kerry was less a threat than the religious Bush.

This argument was compelling and caused me to reconsider my intention to vote for Bush. In the end I voted for Bush because the crucial link in the argument could not be established to my satisfaction. Bush, while certainly a religious man, is not a religious fanatic. To me this was a crucial point. For only a religious zealot would work actively to undermine our Constitution by destroying the wall between church and state in order to establish a theocracy.

No single act of Bush during the past four years indicates such fanaticism. Numerous arguments were presented to prove, en toto, that Bush was perhaps a closet fanatic. One of the strongest was that Bush attacked secular Iraq rather than theocratic Iran in deference to his overpowering religious impulses. Yet I concluded the exact opposite: that Bush attacked the secular rather than the religious underscores the notion that Bush is not a religious zealot, for if he was he would not hesitate --- indeed he would prefer --- to attack an Islamic theocracy based upon his hate of an enemy religion. I believe many historical events support this contention of how zealots act, such as the Christian crusades of the Middle Ages and the Muslim attacks of today.

Bush himself was extensively questioned in several pre-election interviews regarding the effect of his religion on his policy decisions. He understood very well the separation of church and state and said so explicitly. He further stated that he has no intention of imposing his religious views on others. Bush’s religious beliefs are private in nature and although he did admit he cannot completely prevent these beliefs from seeping into his decision making, he uses faith primarily to fortify himself in times of doubt.

Of course Bush may have lied regarding his intentions. This is where character enters the picture. I took Bush at his word that he will keep his faith private. And Bush most certainly is a man of his word. For instance, one is struck by his fidelity to promises he made during the 2000 campaign. Further, his administration has been free of scandal, a further sign of an honest (or extremely clever) chief executive. I will accept Bush’s explanation regarding his religion until he gives me reason to believe otherwise.

Thus I categorize Bush as a secular leader who happens to be religious. This is not unusual. Washington started the tradition of oath taking on the Bible in 1789. Lincoln invoked God when in office, perhaps more then any other president before or since. Most of the presidents of the late 19th century were thoroughly pious in their religious beliefs while more recent presidents (Eisenhower, Carter, and Reagan) certainly wore religion on their proverbial sleeve. The secular American republic has endured despite the religious belief of any particular president. That Bush is religious was not in and of itself a sufficient reason to vote for Kerry. It certainly is not proof that he intends to create a theocracy.

When this question was settled another immediately confounded me: what about Bush altruism and Christian ethics? Doesn’t this indicate that Bush is traveling down the road to theocracy by less strident means?

It is true that Bush has a pronounced streak of altruism (I do not maintain that religion plays no part in his persona). He unfortunately advocates service and sacrifice as virtues. Altruistic impulses have caused some terrible Bush decisions, most notably the military prohibition against attacking our enemies when they hide amongst civilian or religious targets. Altruism has also misdirected the rationale for fighting the war on terrorism, from one of rational self interest to one based upon liberation of and democracy for foreign populations.

Still, two points need to be kept in mind regarding Bush altruism. First, he is acting within the context of the dominant ethics of our times. Both he and Kerry accept altruist morality. Until the day comes when altruism falls from grace our choices remain limited. To condemn Bush alone for practicing altruism is unfair and fails to take into account the virulence of the altruism followed by those arrayed against him.

This leads to the second point. Kerry altruism extends far beyond that of Bush. While Bush recognizes that selfishness is sometimes a good thing (as evidenced by his comprehensive tax cuts), Kerry advocates total subjugation of the individual to the “greater good”. Nobody can seriously argue that Kerry would execute a war any less altruistically than Bush, if indeed he would wage a war in the first place. His morality advocates total sacrifice to our enemies, the poor, the environment and any other entity he might arbitrarily invoke. Even our rights are sacrificed to the whims of others in the Kerry worldview. As a blame America first liberal democrat, Kerry’s entire history suggested that he would never act unilaterally, instead relying on the consensus of nations as France before defending our rights. Insofar as Kerry possessed any firm beliefs altruism was it.

In contrast Bush accepted the idea of preemption; he indeed takes the fight to the enemy, albeit at times without moral clarity. Bush will act in America’s interest with or without allies.

How can Kerry morality be preferred in any manner to that of Bush? Bush’s altruism is bad but at least applied unevenly; Kerry’s altruism is horrible and would be applied consistently across the board. Bush’s altruism must be kept in check but is not a harbinger of a theocracy in the United States.

Bush and a Republican congress certainly bear watching. I for one will react vigorously should anyone attempt to insinuate religious tenets into our government. Without more substantial proof I was unwilling to hand the honor and glory of the presidency to Kerry, a man without ideas driven by a mindless altruism. Finally, should Bush suddenly unveil his true religious colors, I believe our many counter-balancing institutions combined with free speech and independent inquiry will crush any attempt to impose a theocracy upon the United States. Mark me as a pro-Bushite against Kerry.




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