Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Bushfish, Part 2: Why I Find the Bushfish So Objectionable (First Objection)

Okay, let me put a few things on the metaphorical cybertable.

1. I am an evangelical Christian. Don't laugh! Lutherans were the first ones to call themselves evangelical. We're people who believe in the Good News--the euangelion--that new life and forgiveness come to all with faith in Jesus Christ. Lest some be quick to dismiss what I say, I assure you that I'm a grateful forgiven sinner saved by the grace God grants through Christ to all who are born again.

2. I'm a conservative Republican, a pro-government conservative as identified in the recent Pew Center survey. I'm a Republican in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower, with hat-tips to antecedents like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Henry Clay.

3. I am alarmed by how far from God our individualistic, narcissistic culture has gone.

4. Symbols' meanings can be changed . At one time, long before a guy named Hitler took it for his Nazi movement in Germany, Native Americans used the swastika to symbolize different things. Churchill's V-for-Victory two-fingered salute became, several decades later, a peace sign for antiwar activists opposed to the conflict in Vietnam.

5. As a general rule, I'm not much into signs or symbols. When I pray personally, I never use candles, beads, religionspeak, visual aids, or ritualistic formulae of any kind. I just talk to God, believing that God has made Himself accessible to all with faith in Christ; that's what Jesus was telling us when He told us to pray in His Name. I realize that such symbols and signs can help some people pray and if you're one of them, that's fine. But it's important for what I'm going to say here that you know that they aren't part of my faith life.

Knowing some of this about me, it may have surprised some people to read my comments on the Bushfish at Rob Asghar's blog last week. The Bushfish is a car magnet in the shape of a fish, the most ancient symbol of Christianity--more ancient even than the cross--with the last name of the President in the middle of it, imprinted on a field of red and white stripes.

The company's web site asks at the top of its page, "Do you believe God belongs in government?" Well, duh! I want God to be part of everything we human beings do. I pray about that every day, I ask God to help me share the Good News of Jesus so that hearts and lives are changed by His goodness, and as Jesus directs, I ask God to send "workers into the harvest," committed Jesus-Followers willing to share Christ with those ready to meet Him.

The company marketing the magnet goes on to say this:

If this country's legislature and judiciary are supposed to
reflect the values and beliefs of The People, then send them
a message that they are WAY off course!

If you are tired of secularists telling you that The Lord has no place
in our government and our public institutions, then show them that
you disagree.

This symbol, this site, and this car magnet have been created for the
millions of Americans who support the President and his vision for a
government that embraces religion, morality, and family values. It
shows worship to the Lord, respect for the President, and hope for

Join the millions of Americans who believe that President Bush’s faith-
based administration presents the best hope for America’s future.
The future is in your hands. Stand up and be counted!

Order a BushFish for yourself or a loved one today.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Now, whether meant as a genuine expression of belief or a bald attempt to play to people's sentiments and rip them off, I find the Bushfish deeply offensive. Here's why:

First: It equates being American with being righteous people of God. More specifically, it equates the policies of a particular politician with the righteousness of God.

In this, it overlooks a very important fact. During last year's presidential contest, I had several people approach me, disturbed by the campaign being waged by President Bush and his operatives. These people are committed Christians, who believe in Jesus, read their Bibles daily, worship, tithe, and use their gifts and abilities to volunteer many hours in sharing Christ with the world through their actions, words, and lives.

But they didn't support George W. Bush. They voted for John Kerry. They didn't agree with every policy proposal made by Kerry. I daresay that not all of Bush's supporters agreed with everything the President said either. But these good Christian people backed Kerry in part because of their moral beliefs, rooted in their faith in Jesus.

Yet, the campaign waged by many on behalf of President Bush discounted the faith of those who would support Kerry as inauthentic, that true Christians would only back Bush. "How can they say these things?" one man asked me. "They're just writing me off as a Christian because I disagree with them politically."

The Bushfish carries this theme deep into the first year of Mr. Bush's second term. Let's be clear: George W. Bush seems to be a personally decent man. I am glad that he prays each day and that his relationship with Christ is important to him.

All the same things could be said of Jimmy Carter, a small-government, moderately liberal Democrat. And it's stupid to argue, as author Tim LaHaye does, that Bush's policies are more reflective of his faith than Carter's policies were of his. I'm pro-life and conservative, but I believe that a solid case can be made for the Christ-rootedness of Carter's policies--from his emphasis on human rights in foreign policy to his insistence on equality of opportunity for all Americans. One could also make the case that many of the current President's policies are un-Christian.

But politics and political principles, after all, are only temporary arrangements. The United States of America, as much as I love it, must itself be conceded to be only a temporary arrangement.

Only three things are going to last forever: God, God's Word, and human beings. To suggest that there's eternal righteousness in one person's policy decisions and that all who disagree with him are "secularists" is arrogant, smug self-righteousness and I am sure, not of God!

[More tomorrow]


Gary Sweeten said...

Many years ago, during the Regan Administration, I was invited to attend a conclave of "Evangelical Leaders" at the White House. I was shocked to be invited but I was 21 and could vote so there I was.

It was running as smoothly as cat hair when one of the pastors challenged Sunny, the lady who was in charge to "Quit trying to manipulate us Christians for political gain."

She was very shocked and I was very relieved. She was a highly paid consultant who focused on getting Evangelical Christians to vote for Regan. I do not think it was immoral or unethical but neither do I think we ought to be ignorant about the motives of politicians. They want our votes.

Mark, take a look at the back of the "Bushfish" and see if it is made by Carl Rove. Thanks for the alert and for pointing out when the Politicians have no clothes on.

Mark Daniels said...

Thanks for your affirmation and for the interesting anecdote, Gary. I hope that neither Karl Rove or any other Bush operative had any hand in the production of the Bushfish. In any case, I don't like the syncretistic impulses that are behind it.