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Blessed are the Republicans?

Peter Quaranto | Monday, August 30, 2004

You may have been skeptical before, but it is now certain: God wants George W. Bush to be President of the United States of America. At least that is what Dubya and his followers want you to believe. This week, Tom Ridge, Dick Cheney and all the good, ol’ boys converge on New York City to tout Dubya’s character. The announced theme of this Republican National Convention is “Fulfilling America’s Promise: Building a Safer World and a More Hopeful America,” however there is another theme that Karl Rove wants us to digest: “Blessed are the Republicans.”

In his term, President Bush has used religious language more than any president. When asked his favorite philosopher in 1999, he answered Jesus. Bush has reportedly proclaimed that God wants him to be president. Consequently, he has become an instant favorite of many “religious” people because he is perceived as a “man of faith.” Now as Bush and company. attempt to gain another four years, they have sent out letters to church leaders across the country, listing duties, including “Send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney ’04 Headquarters” and “Identify another conservative church in your community who we can organize for Bush.”

While I certainly do not question the commitment of President Bush to his faith, I wonder if that faith is often used as a political tool. President Bush loves to wear his faith on his sleeve and focus on social issues – which he uses to divide as opposed to really addressing the problems – but he speaks not of many of the teachings of his favorite philosopher, Jesus. Thus as he and his delegates congregate in New York City, I thought we might evaluate just how well President Bush has read the teachings of his favorite philosopher, particularly Jesus’ teachings at the Sermon on the Mount. For at the end of the day, if President Bush wants to bring faith into the public sphere, we have to ask the question: Just how blessed are the Republicans?

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus provides clear teachings on his message to his disciples then and now. The first Beatitude reads, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Applying that to today, President Bush and his party would claim his administration has created a culture of responsibility and opportunity for the poor. Unfortunately, quite the opposite has occurred as more than four million Americans have fallen below the poverty line, creating a total of more than 35 million people in poverty. Even more troubling, Bush has consistently sided with management over labor, resulting in a swelling of the “working poor.” In a country that cares a great deal about unemployment rates, a job is no longer a guarantee to leave the ranks of poverty.

A second Beatitude reads, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” In this saying, Jesus speaks about all who suffer from illness. Again, Bush proclaims that he has created a more efficient and more caring healthcare system, but the realities suggest quite the opposite. Over the last four years, the number of Americans without health insurance has increased by more than four million to a horrific total of more than 45 million Americans. According to Paul Krugman, a professor of economics at Princeton, Bush’s plan of creating policies that encourage individuals to pay more for medical expenses helps the wealthy, while increasing the ranks of the uninsured. He writes that the “government must assume more of the risk to reduce socially wasteful spending and make employment-based insurance easier to get.” In other words, Bush’s policies will only create more people who mourn without resources to comfort them.

Finally, a third Beatitude that is relevant proclaims: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” The Bush foreign policy, in reaction to the appalling acts of 9/11, has been to build and utilize American military might to overthrow rogue regimes. Yet, these policies have contributed to a less safe, more hostile world. Only through a comprehensive military, economic and political approach that unites the world to address the roots of terrorism and enforce rule of law will we overcome terror. The Iraq war, a war of choice that was sold to the American people on completely false premises, has only hurt America’s image in the world and its ability to effectively defeat terrorism. Of course, the saddest part is the thousands dead from the war.

This week throughout the RNC, different speakers will attempt to persuade you and me to vote for Bush because he possesses a strong character of faith. Yet if we have the courage to get outside the “bubble” and face the realities, we may see that the last four years have ushered in a time of great hopelessness for the poor and marginalized of our society.

So before the Republicans proclaim their holiness before the world, they should reread Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. For if we dare to seriously face Jesus’ teachings, we see that we cannot become the disciples of a political party that does not live up to its holy preponderances.

Peter Quaranto is a junior political science and international peace studies major. Quoting Talib Kweli, who rocked the JACC last weekend, “Ask Him why some people got to live in a trailer, cuss like a sailor … just to get by … I let them know we missin you, the love is unconditional; Even when the condition is critical, when the livin is miserable.” Buy his new record, “Beautiful Struggle.” Contact Peter at pquarant@nd.edu.

The views of this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.