Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Medium and Message

As John points out here, messages from God can sometimes be unreliable. This is not a statement about God, but a statement about human weakness and error. Messages purporting to come from God may have an entirely different source (the Devil may intercept or impersonate) and are then subject to human misinterpretation.

We know that apparently sincere Christians can take opposite positions on a broad range of issues. Just look at Jimmy Carter and George W Bush. perhaps the two most sincere Christians in the White House in recent history. Whatever God is saying to these two men, it apparently provides equal support for both a strong conservative position and a strong liberal position.

Unlike John, I don't question or mock Dubya's sincerity in his faith. Of course it would be foolish to underestimate the political strength of his religious position. But we should not think that he has manipulated religious opinion by a false show of faith. Instead, we should regard it as a feature of the American system that a committed born-again Christian such as Dubya is the one who emerges triumphant from the electoral process. POSIWID: the American system is designed to produce people like Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush.

There is a saying: The Voice of the People is the Voice of God. (Vox Populi, Vox Dei). The American people have spoken, and there is (like it or lump it) a strongly conservative message from just enough people to elect a Republican president and congress.

The trust equation is clearly important. But the Republican voters don't trust Bush just because he is getting messages from God. They trust him because they think they know WHAT messages he is getting from God, and HOW he will interpret these messages. And they trust God to stay focused and "on-message" - in other words, keep sending the right messages to Bush. For example, they don't expect God to waste His time talking to Bush about protecting the environment, when there are more important things to discuss.

Perhaps the ultimate American slogan is the one linking God and Trust. At first sight, reliance on God appears to take the form of hierarchical trust: there is a single central authority, from which everything flows. But the American founding fathers based their religion and their politics on a much more radical principle: individual conscience, which is a form of authentic trust.

As a European, I am not directly affected by American social policy. It is really none of my business whether or not the American people choose to have gay marriage or abortion or even stem cells and handguns. The policies that worry me and affect me are those relating to international relations, and those relating to the environment. And as far as I can tell, these policies are not coming from God or from the so-called moral majority but from a small and focused political and corporate network. The Buck Stops Here.