I'm not doing as much ranting on this blog as I used to in order to make it a more neutral place, but in this case, I really think I need to speak out.
I am by no means a "Yellow Dog Democrat." In fact, much to my wife's chagrin, I am a registered Republican. However, I would count myself as one of the rapidly-disappearing moderate Republicans.
Something like this picture (from bushfish.org) SHOULD make any Christian who does not wish to engage in idol worship shudder. It's lightning-bolt-summoning material. Why, one might ask? Is Bush not a Christian? He professes to be one, so I have to assume he is. The issue is not Mr. Bush's religious beliefs - the issue is idolatry - when praise that is supposed to belong to God is given to something else.
The fish is an ancient symbol of Christianity. In modern Christian symbology, the Greek word ICHTHUS (Fish) is usually inside the fish symbol. This is a Greek acrostic for "Jesus Christ, of God, the Son, the Savior" [Iesous (Jesus) CHristos (Christ) THeou (of God) Uiou (the Son) Soter (the Savior)]. For a practicing Christian to replace a reference to Jesus Christ with a reference to George Bush (or anything else) should be problematic for anyone who follows Jesus, whether they support Bush or not.
Yes, there are those "Darwin" fishes out there, but they can be categorized as either parody or as an authentic areligious statement. The problem with the Bush fish is that Christians - believers mind you - are symbolically putting Bush in the place of Christ.
It might be different if this were isolated, but the speech writers for the Bush administration have the nasty habit of doing this as well. I can remember shortly after September 11th the president made a speech that said, "There is power... wonder working power in the spirit of the American people." Of course, this is a paraphrase of the old Gospel song that says, "There is power, wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb." I am a great admirer of the American people, but I would never liken our American spirit to the work of the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ. We are begging to be smitten!
This is Idolatry, pure and simple. No one should claim that faith should not be part of a political decision-making process. Religion is a deeply-held part of who we are - we would be schizophrenic if we could turn off part of our being like that. But we have to be careful of the divide between what is divine (Jesus) and infallible and what is human (Bush) and fallible. The minute we become uncritical of our political leaders of whatever party and ideology is the minute we turn away from God towards idols of our own making.
The Rev. John Danforth is an Episcopal Priest who is a former senator and recently resigned his post as Ambassador to the UN. If you will recall, he delivered the invocation at the second Bush inauguration. He is far more conservative than I, but is concerned as well. In an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times he wrote:
"High-profile Republican efforts to prolong the life of Ms. Schiavo, including departures from Republican principles like approving Congressional involvement in private decisions and empowering a federal court to overrule a state court, can rightfully be interpreted as yielding to the pressure of religious power blocs.
In my state, Missouri, Republicans in the General Assembly have advanced legislation to criminalize even stem cell research in which the cells are artificially produced in petri dishes and will never be transplanted into the human uterus. They argue that such cells are human life that must be protected, by threat of criminal prosecution, from promising research on diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and juvenile diabetes.
It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.
I do not fault religious people for political action. Since Moses confronted the pharaoh, faithful people have heard God's call to political involvement. Nor has political action been unique to conservative Christians. Religious liberals have been politically active in support of gay rights and against nuclear weapons and the death penalty. In America, everyone has the right to try to influence political issues, regardless of his religious motivations.
The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.
When government becomes the means of carrying out a religious program, it raises obvious questions under the First Amendment. But even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement. While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another."
(You can read a copy of the full article here.)
May God Bless America, despite our folly!