By Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | November 13, 2006
Just in time before the election, the head of the National Council of Churches (NCC) and the former United Methodist bishop of Washington, D.C., penned a newspaper op-ed lampooning President Bush for supposedly claiming that “God is on our side.”
“God takes no side in war,” they insisted. “Do not let anyone tell you differently.”
In their column for the Arkansas-Gazette, NCC chief Bob Edgar and Bishop Felton May never actually quoted Bush about his supposed claims of divine favor. That’s because Edgar and May were relying on caricatures, not actual facts.
Instead, Rev. Edgar and Bishop May recounted their distress over 9/11 anniversary television images of President Bush at a Ground Zero memorial service, of a chapel near the “airliner crash site” in Pennsylvania that prominently displays a Christian cross, and of choirs singing “God Bless America.” Not surprisingly, Americans of all political stripes sought solace in their traditional religious symbols and practices when remembering a national calamity.
But religious remembrance of 9/11 evidently peeved the two church officials, who prefer to appropriate religious symbols for their own political causes of the left, most of which involve apologizing for
America. Having to recall Islamic terrorists caused 9/11 is painful for the Religious Left, because it distracts from their own preference for America-bashing.
Rev. Edgar and Bishop May grieved that Bush, post-9/11, once used the word “crusade,” which Bush later quickly retracted. Yet the clerics fretted that Bush’s comment is “still burned into the memories of many non-Christians (and Christians, as well).” Indeed. In typical Religious Left fashion, Rev. Edgar and Bishop May are more preoccupied by the West’s sins of 1000 years ago than by the threat posed today by Islamic jihad.
According to Rev. Edgar and Bishop May, Bush’s rhetoric about freedom as God’s gift to every human being on the earth is the equivalent of claiming that God is on
America’s side. “He has positioned America and its military as God’s arm in making that gift a reality in
Iraq,” the clerics intoned.
Iraq aside, Bush’s speeches about universal freedom repeat the beliefs and aspirations of American presidents from the last 200 years. “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time,” Thomas Jefferson famously asserted.
Do these clerics disagree with
Jefferson? Do Rev. Edgar and Bishop May believe in innate universal human rights? If so, they do not say it or show it. Edgar’s NCC, like the rest of the Religious Left, is silent about the depredations and persecutions of radical Islam, just as they were -and remain – silent about Marxist repression. For them, human rights seem to be only a rhetorical tool with which to bash the
Rev. Edgar and Bishop May expressed chagrin about President Bush’s phrase “Islamic fascists” to describe terrorists, which unfairly “taints a whole people or a world religion is hurtful at best and at worst inflammatory.” The clerics implored: “Just because they may invoke God’s name as they commit their evil, we should not do the same.” Note that Rev. Edgar and Bishop May, like most of the Religious Left, are not shy about condemning Christian “fundamentalists” and the alleged threat that Southern Baptist potluck suppers and Pentecostal hymn sings supposedly pose to decency and democracy. But they are quite anxious to defend radical Islam from potential slander.
According to Rev. Edgar and Bishop May, Jesus taught that God does “not play favorites.” The clerics then go on to condemn U.S. policies since 9/11: the “torture and the degrading or demeaning of our fellow human beings” by the U.S., the “unlawfully detaining our fellow human beings” by the
U.S., and “a government that has routinely skirted the rule of law while invoking it as making us some outstanding example of civilization.”
Although God purportedly does not play favorites, God does evidently reserve special condemnation for the
U.S., as channeled through His spokespersons, such as Rev. Edgar and Bishop May. The two clerics insisted that since Jesus “tells us we are all ‘children of the Father’ it might not be a bad idea to start reading and studying the Koran, the Torah, and the Upanishads.” Although both Rev. Edgar and Bishop May are theologically trained (Edgar is a former seminary president), they do not quote Jesus very accurately. In Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus urges “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven….” From the perspective of Jesus, God offers Himself as a Father to those who are willing to do His will. In orthodox Christian theology, God does not impose Himself as Father on anybody; rather He is a Father to those who want Him.
In John 8:44, Jesus even talks about some people who prefer the Devil as their father. But Jesus’ more politically incorrect stances are not likely to merit the attention of left-wing clerics like Rev. Edgar and Bishop May, for whom the politics of social justice often take priority over the historic doctrines of the faith they are supposed to espouse.
The erroneous theology of the Religious Left leads directly to their wacky political stances. Just as they cannot accept the concrete tenets of their own churches, often preferring instead a foggy syncretism, so they likewise cannot fully accept the premise that basic human rights are indeed the birthright of all. Neither Edgar nor May will be writing op-eds about the slave labor camps of North Korea, or Fidel Castro’s prisons, or Iran’s Islamic police state, or
Saudi Arabia’s iron fisted religious police, or communist Chinese media censorship, or the ugly goals and crimes of Islamic jihadists everywhere.
“God takes no sides in war,” the two clerics piously intoned, even as they vigorously invoked God in lambasting their own country. Jesus asked His followers to visit those who are in prison, and remember those who are persecuted for His name’s sake. But unless you are an incarcerated Islamist, do not look for any prayers by or visits from Rev. Edgar or Bishop May.