Sunday, October 23, 2005

Hire Me! I Know How to Pray.

Back in June 20, 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney made this statement: “The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they are in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” And now we have the Harriet Miers’ nomination in which President Bush says her religious background was a factor in her selection. What do these two issues have in common?

The Republicans are known as the party of values, and Bush was elected, and re-elected largely because of his affiliation with the Almighty. And the results have been enlightening, but less than holy. I wont go into the sordid details of the war, the economy, disaster preparedness, and independent investigations surrounding the White House, but keeping Bush buoyant during this storm has been his religions affiliation.

There’s an idea in America that if a person believes in God, follows the Bible, attends church, then that person has their priorities straight and that person will do good work. The fruit of that labor may not be clear, but there is faith that the positive results will happen….eventually. Much of Bush’s success has relied upon this belief. Fundamentalists may concede that the President’s work looks bad short-term, but have faith that the long term effects of such a strong Christian in the White House will be positive.

Of course this is strange to reasonable people, the 72% of the people who now think the country is headed in the wrong direction, and it should be strange. If I went to my job interview and said “I will do a good job because I have my priorities straight. I’m a Christian!” I would probably, rightly so, knock myself out of contention for that job. I say rightly so because it would show that I have some kind of fundamental reasoning problem. Let’s say I got the job, did poorly, and the boss called me into his office to fire me. If I said, “You can’t fire me. I’m a Christian. The things I’ve done here are of God…don’t be so short sighted” the boss would probably call security to escort me out.

But isn’t this more or less what the president has said to us during his job interview and during the time when we should have fired him? It is hopeful, yes, but also foolish and illogical to think that just because someone is religious they are also necessarily competent for any given job—except, maybe, minister. (I put the “maybe” in there because I’ve known plenty of devout Christians who made terrible ministers.) Aren’t such leaders who use their divine affiliations praying—pun?—on the hopes and fears of their constituents? Don’t Christians want Bush to be a good Christian president so badly that they will give him much more leeway than a religiously neutral president?

Having said all of this, shouldn’t we be kind of insulted when the President touts Mrs. Miers’ religious faith as a qualifying attribute for the Supreme Court? Does her faith have anything to do with her job qualifications as a judge? And if it does, shouldn’t that fact on the face of it disqualify her?

Perhaps the worst thing the President could have done was to tie Mrs. Miers’ nomination to religion. The President has already used all of the religious capital this country was willing to give out. I think many people have come to the sobering conclusion that just because someone is religious does not mean they are capable. Hardly a week goes by where we do not see a Priest involved in a scandal. Here are people who devote their whole lives to religion and there is no guarantee that they are capable or even moral.

I think we have all learned a hard lesson. I would even predict that religion tied into politics is in its last throes. It may be in greater danger of dying out before the Iraqi insurgency—perhaps before the century is out. I just can’t imagine that politicians in more progressive countries use religion for political leverage. How often does the Prime Minister of France talk about being a devout Catholic? Is he even a Catholic? Does anyone in France care? But can you imagine an atheist trying to run for President in America? He or she would never even get out of the gate.

We would like to think that someone’s fear of God will drive them to be good, responsible, moral and ethical. But there is no direct correlation to this. I’m not saying that Christians cant be good at a certain job, it’s just that it is a not even a variable in the formula. You get a job based on your qualifications and you keep the job based on your performance. It’s pretty simple. To enter religion into that formula would be crazy. If a person wants to be a Christian that’s wonderful, but it should be a non-issue when it comes to a person’s job. Overlooking or excusing mistakes because someone believes in God would not be acceptable where you work, and it shouldn’t be accepted for our political leaders.

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