Then the questions began. "Since the President brought up money, where, exactly is that money?" asked one pastor. "We've talked to the Cabinet Secretaries, and they say there isn't any new money." They peppered him with questions for several minutes. Finally he smiled at them and said, "Tell you what, I'm going to get those guys in a room and bash some heads together and get to the bottom of this. I'll be back in touch with you." He left confidently.
At the meeting's end, several of the pastors said they wanted to pray for my healing. They placed their hands on my shoulder and called on God to hear their prayers on my behalf. I listened and loved it and said a prayer of my own: that I would have the courage to tell them what was really going on at the White House.
That was more than three years ago. Their prayers have worked on my body. I am still here and very much alive. Now I am finding the courage to speak out about God and politics and their dangerous dance. George W. Bush, the man, is a person of profound faith and deep compassion for those who suffer. But President George W. Bush is a politician and is ultimately no different from any other politician, content to use religion for electoral gain more than for good works. Millions of Evangelicals may share Bush's faith, but they would protect themselves--and their interests--better if they looked at him through the same coldly political lens with which he views them.
MSNBC's Countdown got a prerelease copy of Kuo's book by walking into a bookstore and asking to buy one . . . Who knew? On October 13 Countdown producer Jonathan Larsen wrote:
. . . the Bush administration often promoted the faith-based agenda by claiming that existing government regulations were too restrictive on religious organizations seeking to serve the public.
Substantiating that claim proved difficult, Kuo says. “Finding these examples became a huge priority.… If President Bush was making the world a better place for faith-based groups, we had to show it was really a bad place to begin with. But, in fact, it wasn’t that bad at all.”
In fact, when Bush asks Kuo how much money was being spent on “compassion” social programs, Kuo claims he discovered the amount was $20 million a year less than during the Clinton Administration.
God knows these people are not the first to have hocked their souls for the promise of political power. But they're the ones we're talking about now – and they are certainly no better – or even all that different – from progressives, liberals, moderates and conservatives who walked this path before.
Saying this particular set come across as more sanctimonious than others like them may only be saying they come across as more sanctimonious to me. No news there. We are what we are. But if we're even a little bit right about the goodness of God, it's barely begun to dawn on anyone what we will be when we come face to face with our maker.
That's then. Now we have an ugly mess to clean up. We might begin with Andrew Sullivan's advice:
Memo to faithful [insert any theological persuasion you like]: you get entangled with Caesar and you'll regret it. Conflate politics with religion and you do mortal damage to both.
The operative word is entangled – that's what got evangelicals in trouble with this Administration. Engagement on the other hand means everything in politics (and, come to think of it, even more in the life of faith).