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Austin Cline

The Bible as Bush's Guidebook (Book Notes: Religion, Politics, and the Christian Right)

By January 30, 2006

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Should an American president govern according to the secular standards and laws which define the office, or according to person religious beliefs and traditions? One would imagine that the former is correct, but at least in the case of President George W. Bush, the latter takes precedence. It's as if he's a minister and the American public is his own personal congregation. Religion, Politics, and the Christian Right: Post-9/11 Powers in American Empire

In Religion, Politics, and the Christian Right: Post-9/11 Powers in American Empire, Mark Lewis Taylor writes:

The Bible, in the form used by Protestant Christians, has received a special sanction in the ritual life of Bush’s governing practice. Bush himself reads biblical passages within evangelical devotional literature. Using the Bible or other collection of sacred writings is not a problem.

But when he holds up the Bible, as he did once, referring to it as a “guidebook” for a faith-based group receiving federal government funds, he crosses line and presents personal religious preference as a federally funded perspective in the government of a multireligious society.

It should be noted that this wasn’t written by an atheist; it was, instead, written by a Professor of Theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary. It’s not particular to atheists to think that while a person can use the Bible (or anything else) as a guidebook in their personal lives, it’s inappropriate for them to choose it as a guidebook either for governing or as an appropriate guide for groups receiving government funding to do government work.

It is precisely the goal of Christian Reconstructionists, however, to have the Bible established as the guidebook for all facets of everyone’s life — whether they like it or not, whether they are Christians or not. President Bush may not be a Reconstructionist himself and he may not even know what the term means, but he is advancing their agenda by promoting the Bible in the manner that he does.

Perhaps this is coincidental, but perhaps it is not — the ties between Reconstructionism and the broader movement of conservative evangelicals is many-faceted and extensive. A key tactic of Reconstructionists has been to increase the use of their language, concepts, and categories among evangelicals. This, in turn, causes their ideas to become accepted and standard without most people entirely realizing it.


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