Volume 74, Number 3 | June 8- 14, 2005

Talking Point

The weak link in Bush’s triad: Jesus is a Democrat

By Jennie Green

As a commuter, I can’t help noticing that cars sporting Bush/Cheney bumper stickers and “Support Our Troops” bumper stickers often flash Jesus-related bumper stickers as well. Let’s examine this in fast-forward: Bush/Cheney; “Support Our Troops;” Jesus. Or: Politics. War. Religion. Is there something wrong with this picture?

Of course there is. For the past 12 months, this triangle has evoked for me an image of multicolored pool balls (representing all the various news stories) inside a three-sided rack. This image has become ubiquitous throughout mainstream media, and because I don’t support Bush/Cheney, the war in Iraq or the concept of Jesus, I have long dismissed the triad as yet another hard-to-believe development in the saga of American politics. By portraying himself as a devout Christian and exploiting the language of Christianity (all-mighty freedom comes to mind) the president has wooed countless other “believers” who seem inclined to devour whatever the man cooks up — from tax cuts for the wealthy, to lies that have landed American troops in an endless Iraqi nightmare, to more lies that will sell Social Security to the highest Wall St. bidders if we don’t watch our backs.

After the election I lamented the chilly reality of a divided nation. Red state winners seemed motivated by fear and/or greed while blue state losers clung to 1960s- and ’70s-style “open-minded” liberalism. To me the situation seemed hopeless; religious folk from Mississippi to Mecca were fast becoming the toughest nuts to crack.

At the same time, it never occurred to me to question the integrity of the politics-war-religion triangle. Until a few days ago when, from behind the wheel of my geriatric Toyota, I felt broadsided by the familiar sight of three stickers spaced evenly across the wide bumper of a big, black S.U.V.: “Bush/Cheney,” “Support Our Troops,” “Jesus Is Coming.” Through my habitual outrage, a simple question bubbled up to the forefront of my mind: Who decided that Jesus was a Republican, anyway?

I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of Jesus Christ and Christianity is limited. Having grown up at the hands of culturally Jewish atheists, I can distinguish easily between Cantonese and Szechwan cuisine, but I’d be pretty lost in a Bible study group. On the other hand, you can’t live in a Western culture for 40 years and not pick up a thing or two. Here, through osmosis, is what I’ve gathered about Jesus Christ, man and/or myth: that he was your basic all-around good guy; that he was a pacifist; that he was an egalitarian; that he was all about peace and tolerance; that he abhorred disingenuous behavior; that he promoted charity and was forever poised to sacrifice for the greater good.

So. How might Jesus Christ have felt about a political leader who advanced his own war agenda by intentionally misleading his countrymen? And how would Jesus Christ feel about slashing taxes for the wealthy at the expense of the poor? And how would Jesus Christ take the cold-blooded murder of doctors who perform abortions — in his name? And what about the so-called reform of Social Security and other aspects of The New Deal?

Call me a neophyte, but my guess is that Jesus Christ would have been all about safety nets.

Every time I pull up behind one of those bumpers adorned with Bush/Cheney, “Support Our Troops” and Jesus stickers I feel my blood pressure spike. But even more demoralizing to me these days is the impotent state of the Democratic Party. Friends, I am starting to sense that we are a lazy lot. We read an in-depth story about a social or political issue in a prestigious publication, and feel as if we have done something. Those of us who have the means write checks to NPR and our presidential candidate of choice once every four years, and feel as if we have done something. At dinner parties we pontificate among friends over too many glasses of tasty merlot, and feel as if we have done something.

News flash: We haven’t done much of anything.

Not, at any rate, compared to our Jesus-loving, Arab-hating, gay-fearing, gun-wielding, government-mistrusting counterparts who infiltrate local school boards and city councils, and who seem unfazed by the tedious prospect of selling their three-pronged message door to door.

Say what you will about the Republicans, these people were taking notes in Marketing 101 while those of us who considered ourselves too sophisticated for such pedestrian matters got drunk on courses like “A Literary Exploration of the Individual in Society” and “Plato’s Ethics and Epistemology.” Ask yourself: Who’s having the last laugh now?

I suspect that all might not be lost. If we put our hearts and minds and bodies to the task, we Democrats might be able to convince more than a few God-fearing Republicans (particularly the ones that aren’t making out on that tax cut for the wealthy) that signing on with the Republican Party won’t guarantee them a set of silver wings — that in fact the opposite might be true. After all, they do seem open to suggestion. But this will require us to put down the books, turn off the television and drag ourselves away from both couch and coasts. Because we really have our work cut out for us. All those bumper stickers to print! I’m already working on my first batch: “Jesus Is a Democrat.”

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