Naming Jesus

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OMG: Barack Obama invokes
the name of Jesus in public more the George W. Bush did! That must
mean…what? Politico’s Eamon Javers offers a range of non-mutually
exclusive explanations, including Obama’s need to demonstrate that he
is a Christian, his desire to appeal to religious conservatives, an
interest in reanimating a Christian Left. It’s worth adding that
Obama’s secularist base so readily puts up with this because, in
American culture, black folks are assumed to be religious and to give
voice to their spiritual commitments.

What really counts, however, is the extent to which politicians associated with the
religious right hide their light under a bushel on the national stage.
During last year’s campaign, Sarah Palin’s clammed up almost completely
when asked about her faith. Mike Huckabee, too, dialed his Baptist
ministerial past down to zero, and made sure that no one was able to
get hold of his old sermons. And George W. hissef never gave his
testimony to a general audience after acknowledging Jesus as his
personal philosopher and savior at that Iowa candidates’ debate in
December 1999. For all the chatter about how the Democrats are trying
to shout God out of the public square, it’s the Republicans who keep
their tongues zipped. Newt Gingrich’s recent religious effusions are
striking for their rarity.

More important than public invocations is how politicians’ religious
convictions may actually affect their public acts. And here, the story
of how President Bush sought to enlist French support for the war in
Iraq by invoking Gog and Magog is instructive (not to say terrifying).

seems that French President Jacques Chirac was puzzled by Bush’s
mentioning this prophesied war against Israel (cf. Ezechiel) that he
instructed his people to find out what the hell Bush was talking about.
Rather than have the thing get into Parisian salon circles, they
contacted a professor in Lausanne, who explained the Biblical
references. He later disclosed the conversation in an article in the school newspaper a couple of years ago. Now comes confirmation from Chirac himself. (See Clive Hamilton’s post on
the subject.)

Not to belabor the point, but it does seem as if Bush
took us to war with visions of an End Times scenario playing in his
head. I’m generally resistant to the liberal nightmare of hordes of
American premillennialists waiting on the Rapture, but when they write
the history of our time, George Bush’s religious imagination has got to
be in there, however often he mentioned Jesus.