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Bush Presumes to be the National Pastor

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President Bush made two presidential proclamations designating September 16 as a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina, and September 9th through 11th National Days of Remembrance for the victims of terrorism and the fallen veterans of his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Setting aside for the moment the obvious issue of his naked attempt to elide the outrage of 9/11 with his war of folly in Iraq, I wonder where he finds the authority to proclaim such national prayer services?

In the proclamations themselves he makes a broad claim of authority for calling people to worship using the White House press office as a muezzin. He claims this religious function is based on “the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” I question whether such authority exists. The powers of the President enumerated by the Constitution certainly do not include being the nation’s pastor, and no act of Congress, itself enjoined from establishing religion, could confer ecumenical religious powers on the Presidency.

I certainly concede that a secular day of observation and ceremony to honor the memory of those who have died in disaster, war, and terrorist attack is warranted, but I do not think that any American President has the authority to call Americans to religious services. Nor does this President, in particular, have any moral authority to do so.

A far better memorial to the fallen would be to further real justice and equity in this nation, and to work toward peace and security for all, rather than issuing proclamations from on high calling for empty prayers. The ever-starker divisions between rich and poor, between those who can afford justice and those who do without, can only be bridged by acts, not by a costless proclamation of prayers. A President who has worked so assiduously to champion the causes of the powerful, and to denigrate and neglect the causes of the weak, has no more moral authority to proclaim days of remembrance for those his own failings brought low than he has the requisite legal authority to do so.

The prophet Amos related the words of an angry God to an Israel that had begun to trample the rights of the poor, and deny justice to many of its people. God said:

“I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts, I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.” (Amos 5:21)

Amos said that God wanted justice for His people, not just empty words of worship nor worshipful acts while injustice was done in His name. God proclaimed, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) When the battered inhabitants of the Gulf coast are inundated with justice, Bush may be able to claim the right to memorialize those who died in Katrina’s waters; not before.

No one appointed Bush our national pastor, and his calls for the nation to worship in the name of those his Administration has wronged are rank hypocrisys in the eyes of any just and decent God.

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About MBryan

  • Rex E Rowland

    Dear Pastor,
    I humbly apply for your free Bible .
    I want my life to be change and my friends life.Please I will like
    you to send us the Bible (4)Copies so that will can study it and
    understand it Sir. I realy need it . Well speak English language.
    This is my postal Address again.
    I will being waiting for your reply Sir.

  • Good going, Shark. The Christibans will say you are possessed by Satan. Great read at JABBS, Mark. I’m getting a little tired of the President invoking the Deity every time he flaps his trap. Karl Rove must be working with the Angel Gabriel behind the scenes.

  • Rock on, Sharkie!

  • WTF

    Good goin Shark, at least you got all the capitalizations right. Now repent you heathen! I Say Repent!

  • On a similar note, you may want to check out this post on JABBS.

    It refers to Bush’s sermon at the end of yesterday’s weekly radio address.

  • Shark

    Bush could call it,

    “A Day of Futile Petitions to an Imaginary Omnipotent Diety Who Apparently Doesn’t Give a Flying Fuck About What Happens on Earth.”

    Just tryin’ to be helpful…

    PS: I happen to think that if there is a pro-active God dealing with this little overcrowded, overpolluted blue ball that once housed “Paradise” — then surely He intends things like the Tsumnami and Hurricane Katrina as kind of a Cosmic Flyswatter meant to reduce the population back to a manageable number.

    Voice: Dear Lord in Heaven…”


    Voice: um, Our Heavenly Father… are you there? Hello. Hello?


    Voice: um, God. I’m praying. I’m talking to You. Hello? Hello? Anybody home…?

    [sound of receiver being picked up, dropped, bouncing on the gold covered linoleum floor… then…]

    GOD: …Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t hear the answering machine. I was busy working on this great new product; I call it the “Bird Flu” and *you people are gonna love it! It’s gonna be more popular than the Beatles! It’ll spread faster than an STD at a meeting of Televangelists in Amsterdam!

    * Historic-Etymology Note:

    “you people” is a Divinely Inspired Phrase invented to imply immediate inferiority in the hearer — and it was passed along to Ross Perot as an oratory tool back in the late 1990s.

  • Bush shouldn’t call it a day of prayer. I think that’s the mistake. Call a day of recognition, remembrance, whatever. He’s taking for granted that there are people who DO NOT PRAY. He’s also overlooking the many different faiths in our country. Just another mistake from our fearless leader.

  • Justin Berry

    He freed 25 million iraqis, and gave them their 40acres and a mule in iraq. If Bush and the vast majority of Christian americans are rubbing the cat the wrong way….turn the cat around.

  • Good point, I should have read the post more closely. You pretty clearly say that Bush in particular has no moral authority. FWIW, I concede. 🙂

  • The distinction is that Bush doesn’t even try to do anythig for the least among us. Lincoln had some moral basis to invoke the name of God; he freed the slaves, after all. What has Bush done that might grant him such moral authority outside the simple inhabitance of the office of President, which all should agree has no religious powers?

    Just because it is commonplace for a President to claim relgious prerogatives, does not mean that we need agree that Bush has such power. I do not find Bush an acceptable moral icon or ecumenical religious figure. And if I do not, many others surely do not, and we ought to say so. Loudly.

  • How is this any more sanctimonious and abusive of presidential authority/church-state separation than, for example, Abraham Lincoln declaring the last day of Thanksgiving “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens?”

    Of course, if you are planning to take President Lincoln to task, too, I will withdraw the question.

  • I agree with what you are saying to an extent, but i dont think you are looking at things from enough of a ‘us centric’ point of view…

    It a statement of fact that people in the us take their religion far more seriously then in most (to the extent that it determined the last election)

    Im sorry if im guilty of stating the obvious, but my only point is that seen in that context, a united states president declaring a day of prayer and rememberence wouldnt be met with cynism, or seen as unexpected…

    it would be seen as doing something to help unite the country at a time when its been hit by so much tragedy