After weeks of blaming others for the disastrous response to Katrina, Bush used the pulpit at the National Prayer Service to blame the biggest scapegoat of all: God.
By Amy Sullivan
Sept. 17, 2005 | WASHINGTON -- There must be such a thing as divine mercy because the God who sends plagues of locusts and zaps people into pillars of salt would have surely struck down George W. Bush at the pulpit Friday morning. The administration's multipronged strategy to repair the damage wrought to cherished areas of the president's reputation was on full display at the National Prayer Service, which Bush called to remember victims of the hurricane. Bused-in evacuees from New Orleans? Check. Promotion of faith-based organizations? Check. Shifting blame to others? Check. This time, however, after weeks of laying blame at the doorsteps of Louisiana state officials and the mayor of New Orleans and even some of the victims themselves, Bush chose a bigger target: He blamed God.
As in much of what we've heard from Bush over the past few weeks, there was a whiff of the surreal. He bemoaned the "arbitrary harm" caused by the hurricane, the unanswerable question of why God allows bad things to happen, and noted that "the greatest hardship fell upon citizens already facing lives of struggle" -- as if that were merely a coincidence. The service was filled with references to the fury of natural disaster and the shock of unexpected devastation.
But Americans weren't shocked by the death and despair caused by Hurricane Katrina -- we've seen enough scenes of winds whipping tattered coastlines to know what can result, and we've even witnessed massive flooding, although never concentrated in one major city like this. What did shock Americans was the death and despair caused by human inaction. When T.D. Jakes, Bush's handpicked preacher for the event, reflected on the story of the Good Samaritan, the story could have been illustrated in many minds with images of New Orleans residents left to suffer by the side of the road as rescue passed them by.
We can ask why God allows disasters like hurricanes to happen (although God might fairly answer in return: "It says very clearly in the Bible that you should 'build your house upon a rock, not upon the sand'"). It is, after all, one of the oldest theological questions, one that has tested faith and tormented believers for centuries. The more pertinent question in this case, however, is not why God allowed bad things to happen but why the government did.
The chance to avoid, for a few hours, such inquiries may have been the real purpose of the prayer service. It's not the first time a president has called the country together for religious purposes. The Washington National Cathedral -- which was established by a charter of Congress in 1893, although it receives no public money -- is officially the nation's church and serves as host for these events. In 1981, a service of celebration was held when American hostages returned from Iran; after the space shuttle Columbia exploded in 2003, a national memorial took place there; and most recently, the state funeral of Ronald Reagan was held at the cathedral. (Woodrow Wilson is actually buried in a crypt within the building.)
The service that we should compare with this one, however, is the National Day of Prayer that was held on Sept. 14, 2001, just three days after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. At the time, we were a country in shock, unified in grief and anger. Something terrible had happened, and while rescue efforts were taking place on the ground, what the rest of us needed most was comfort. The sight of the entire government, Republican and Democrat, gathered under one roof in solidarity provided simple reassurance. We prayed for strength and for healing. And for the many Americans who rely on religious faith, the president's eloquent words brought some measure of peace: "As we have been assured, neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, can separate us from God's love. May he bless the souls of the departed. May he comfort our own."
This time, however, it's far from clear what the purpose of the service was. The hurricane is now nearly three weeks past. The country is not united in grief so much as in frustration at the failure of the government's response. Even those involved with the religious side of planning the service were unsure about its mission. "The idea that it's somehow a balm on the nerves of a shattered nation is not the case," one such official told me.
This isn't to say that Americans aren't struggling to comes to terms with the loss of life and livelihood, but they don't necessarily need a preacher in chief to help them cope. Some of the most moving images the weekend after the hurricane struck came from services held in the ruins of former church buildings, and from a Mass held on the beach amid debris. Residents of the Gulf Coast are taking care of their faith; what they could use from the administration is not another hymn but single-minded attention to repair and recovery efforts.
Instead what they -- and we -- got was a suggestion that perhaps faith-based organizations are best suited to deal with evacuee needs (the Samaritan, Jakes said, was helped by "resources, not by revenue"); we heard praise from Bush of rescuers that sounded less like an acknowledgment of their heroism than a hope it would rub off. And we were reminded that at the root of all the suffering is a divine "mystery" that we may never grasp.
Sneaked into the service, though, was one rebuke to the president, delivered by Bishop John Chane of Washington's Episcopal Diocese, the official host of the event and a man who has not hesitated to criticize Bush in the past. Before he led the opening prayer, Chane reminded the audience, "Our Lord Jesus reminds us that faith without works is nothing."
Boy, I tell ya, I wouldn't be caught in the same STATE with Dubya. Surely there is a lightening bolt somewhere with his name on it.
He must have set a record by now for continually breaking ALL the Ten Commandments and calling it Government Policy.
That Homie can pass a buck with the best of 'em. I hereby nominate him for Best Actor of the Year for his efforts to talk with poor people and show compassion, that is if he is not arrested first for impersonating a President.
Nomad, it would seem to me that all that you mentioned would serve to make Christians who have NOT been taken in by Bush even stronger in their faith.
God will not be mocked and He commanded that his name not be taken in vain. As a pseudo-Christian (He is a Satanist, he smirks at the weekly Prayer Breakfasts), Bush has mocked the religion and to say that God told him to attack Iraq is the ultimate where taking God's name in vain is concerned, wouldn't you say? It makes mere swearing pale by comparison.
Toss in "Thou shalt not bear false witness" regarding the pack of lies he helped fabricate and use for starting the war along with "Thou shalt not kill/do no murder," (feel free to add any that I may have overlooked that apply) you have the American version of the Anti-christ. Not the ultimate one, but a good trial run, for sure, to see if people will "buy it" and follow him.
How better to show him up for the charlatan and puppet of the NWO than to hit him where it hurts, in his ability to keep financing his war. With all the implications that Katrina and Rita have provided, he will have to crash the economy to keep spending at it's current level.
HAARP or another scalar weapon may have "tweaked" the hurricanes but even that was turned to His purpose, ultimately, as it serves to prove that the Emperor has no clothes and make people aware of his perfidity.
He worships at the altars of Mamon, Mollock, Bachus and ultimately Satan himself. Look at the offerings he has provided to his true gods. Millions, to date, and still counting.
If an agnostic like me can see this, where are Christians looking? :-?
You are right on the spot.
But several Christians have already waken up to what Bush really is. The problem is that a lot of people who say they are Christians never really considered in what they believe.