President Bush and Syncretism

  • the combination of different systems of philosophical or religious belief or practice -Encarta
  • A movement aimed at establishing a harmony between apparently opposing positions in philosophy or theology. - Oxford University Press

Consider these quotes from President Bush
(from his interview with Al Arabiya, Oct. 4, 2007). I will leave them in their paragraph form, lest anyone accuse me of taking these things out of context:
Well, first of all, I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That's what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace. And I believe people who murder the innocent to achieve political objectives aren't religious people, whether they be a Christian who does that -- we had a person blow up our -- blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City who professed to be a Christian, but that's not a Christian act to kill innocent people.
Then a bit further down in the interview he continues defining his theology:
On the other hand, the ultimate way for peace is for people to realize the great blessings of liberty. And what's interesting, and what has taken place ought to be hopeful to people in the Middle East, is that two young democracies have sprung up where people, when given a chance, voted. See, I believe there is a universal God. I believe the God that the Muslim prays to is the same God that I pray to. After all, we all came from Abraham. I believe in that universality. And I believe a gift of that Almighty to every man, woman and child is freedom. I really do. And I think people, if given a chance, will seize freedom. And it's liberty and free societies -- not -- they don't have to look like America -- an Iraqi democracy is going to be Iraqi, it's going to reflect Iraqi traditions and Iraqi history.

Thanks to the BaylyBlog for bringing this interview to my attention.

I wonder what you all think about this? Not just a President who is a syncretist, but a President who claimed complete faith in Jesus Christ alone now saying that the God he prays to is the same as Allah is the same as "any other religion"'s god.

This is disappointing, but not altogether surprising, news for me.


Anonymous said...

All I have to say is that I would not want to be a president at all. The way the arab world takes offense at EVERYTHING like cartoons depicting the "prophet" mohammed (even though Christians have been dealing with that since its beginning) One would think that he would have to tread carefully with his words constantly. Is this right as a Christian, no, but then again I'm not a president and do not have MILLIONS of peoples lives in my hands everyday. On another note I sincerely hope that this tearing apart of other conservatives by conservatives does not go on alot on your blog,( it is just what the liberals want, need, and use against us, ) us doing thier "job" for them. Political discussion, yes, (I love it) but why not stick with issues and not tearing down people.

Jess said...

Thanks for your thoughts, although I should tell you:

I call a spade a spade no matter whose hand it's in.

I'm not just going to quietly stand by and let untruth come out of someone's mouth, particularly someone who the rest of the world sees as a "Christian" leader, and not call it for what it is (namely, untruth).

And you should re-think the inflammatory way you talk about Muslims. The Muslim world does not in fact, "take offense at everything". They take offense at things that they find offensive.

And this comment by Bush, frankly, will be quite offensive to most Muslims. They do not believe that we all worship the same God... they see Christians as polytheists-- with three Gods: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, whereas they only worship one: Allah. Bush's comment will just be one more piece of evidence to them that Christians are faithless religionists, with more political agenda than true faith.

We as Christians must evaluate where our loyalties lie... I will not be blindly loyal to *anyone*, conservative or not. I hope you won't be either.

In the Bible, Christians are called to unity and to be of one mind. The same is not true of conservatives. If we are to be politically effective, we must be informed and unbiased. I find that too many Christians are far too willing to pass off comments like this from Bush but will rake Democrats over the coals for faulty theology. We must be consistent and we must use our heads. I intend to do so, on this blog and in any conversations I have, online or in person. I would encourage all Christians to do the same.

Blessings and next time please sign your comments,

Jess said...

Oh, and one more thing:

Quoting someone in paragraph form and letting his own words speak for themselves can NOT be accurately termed "tearing down" someone.

Steph VG said...

I guess I'm not surprised, though I'd really, really like to be. Bush started out very strong way back when...either that or it was just my own emotional reaction to our country under attack. Regardless, I pray for him, whether he is a true believer or not.

I once heard someone say you don't get to any high office in the land (much less the highest) without being a true politician. Too much corruption - whether part of your character, or imposed upon you - too many people wanting their palms greased, figuratively, at least, if not literally. So it shouldn't really surprise us that someone whose numbers are so low, on whom his party is blaming all its ills, hated not the least in his own country, would make a foolish statement such as this.

He's trying not to be inflammatory, but the problem is that enemies and detractors see straight through it and aren't calmed, and supporters are disappointed. One more lesson that compromise doesn't always win the day.

I'd like to know the larger context of the statement - was he answering a journalist's question? Was this part of a larger speech? Was this a planned statement, or off the cuff?

I also wonder how each of us would stand the test in his shoes. Call a spade a spade, certainly. We need to do that because too many call themselves believers who only want people to like them. But we must also extend grace, since we are ambassadors of a God of grace. The fact is that at this point, this statement would seem to "cost" him nothing. He's in the last little bit of his presidency and cannot be re-elected. BUT, a president's income AFTER his presidency comes from appearances and speeches. People already think he's an idiot. Also, his statements now could affect the direction and outcome of the coming election for his successor. Not to mention that though he can't be re-elected, he still has things he wants to do, and it takes more than just him to get some of these things done, especially legislatively. Were I in his shoes, a simple "Yes, yes," or "No, no" might seem more complicated with so many people to try to please. We shouldn't follow him blindly - of course not. The man was indeed a fool to make such a statement. But the sin in this statement is one which Christ's death can cover - before God, at least, if not in the public eye.

Kim said...

One of my favorite quotes is from a friend of mine, who is a devout Christian and also politically liberal - "Sometimes to be Biblically consistent you have to be politically inconsistent." Because she is socially liberal, people think she should approve of homosexuality, and she doesn't, and out of that came the quote. I think people are so caught up in the labels of "conservative" or "liberal" or "republican" or "democrat" that we forget to embrace and live out our most important "label": Christian.

Anyway - I certainly wouldn't want to be in the President's shoes - I think that he has allowed the powers that be to force his hand into this "we all serve the same God" mentality. People are so afraid to take a stand on anything, and to offend anyone, that they can't just let someone believe what they believe - which is the most frustrating thing to me. I don't know that I would be much more strong in a situation like that, although I'd like to think I would be. Whether the President truly believes that statement (we all serve the same God) or not, the Bible does say in Matthew that we all have to answer for every careless word we speak.

Good topic, Jess!

Jess said...

Yeah, Steph- the link in the post goes directly to the source of the quote- an interview with a journalist.

Certainly, he was prompted to discuss Islam by a comment by the interviewer that the Muslim world thinks that Bush wants to destroy Islam.

But his theological comments were of his own making and own initiative, from the way the interview reads.

I understand your points about grace, and I think we absolutely need to extend grace to all sorts of Christians in difficult positions, including President Bush. And of course the blood of Jesus can cover foolish statements made by man.

But claiming to follow a universal God is a serious thing. Too many conservative Christians are quick to write off the sins and mis-speaks of a Republican, but will continue to harp for YEARS on the sins and mis-speaks of a Democrat (even after admission of guilt and forgiveness is sought).

This kind of thing really irks me among conservatives... and that initial comment by the anonymous commenter really reveals this tendency. An "us" vs. "them" where "we" identify ourselves more by our politics than our faith.

We need to be wise in our affiliations and be informed about issues like this.


Anonymous said...

Given the fact that for the past 7 years most of his policies and actions have been decidedly UN-Christian - I'm not surprised at all. I don't want to judge his faith, but sometimes I wonder if it was just a ruse to get conservatives to put him in office. He wouldn't be the first, and won't be the last to use the church as a step-stool.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I did not sign my post the first time my name is Bridget (hope that is sufficient for now)
First of all I will not reconsider inflammatory remarks against Muslims,(IMO they are not inflammatory)I will not back down from calling spade a spade either. Muslims want us dead (do all of them? no, but they would be killed along with the rest of us infidels because they are not viewed as true muslims)

I don't know of one Christian political leader (not even Mike) that would say to a Arab leaders face, that the Christian religion is right and that the you (muslims) worship a false god. It would start a war(s)and God bless our troops but they are already stretched thin.

I am blindly faithful to my Lord and Savior, I believe he is the only true One,and would defend it to the death.

I am NOT blindly faithful to George Bush,(or other conservatives) but I have enough respect for him and what he has done to keep us safe to give him the benefit of the doubt

I understand that muslims think we are polythiest, but why should that offend them enough to shoot nuns or burn images in effigy? If Christians did that every time we were offended we would all be out in the streets day and night (and maybe we should)AND we would then be told we were intolerant for getting offended. doesn't seem to work that way for muslims.

should the president have said that? not as a Christian, but as a president I don't see what choice he would have unless he wanted to start another war, and plus since he cannot explain himself to us you are in a way tearing him down.
and no I don't believe that people should seperate thier lives( as in- in my career I am not a Christian but on Sunday I am or to other Christians face I am) which is why I am glad I am not the president. It seems you almost have to do that in order to keep things stable.


Anonymous said...

also, you seem to be saying two things, its ok for Pres. Bush to offend Muslims by standing up for his faith but its not ok to offend them by not standing up for his faith?


Jess said...

Your comments assume that Pres. Bush was cornered into making any kind of statement at all about the God he prays to. But he wasn't cornered at all; he offered up all of those comments on his own. He wasn't hedged in with no other option but to avoid war by giving some seemingly politically-correct statement.

He offered it up all on his own.

And even if he HAD been cornered, I'd still expect him to abstain from speaking at all than to completely contradict his supposed faith.


Shamgar said...

I want to come back to this later, as there are some interesting things in the comments I'd like to comment on myself, but I just want to say that as some have noted here already this really shouldn't be surprising.

The signs were all there and have been since the beginning. Bush is about as much a Christian as the 85% (or whatever that number is) that claim to be Christians on national surveys but barely ever set foot in church.

The word "Christian" like "Evangelical" and "Protestant" has very little meaning anymore. It doesn't matter if you are a Unitarian who sometimes worships trees at a church with a lesbian pastor - you still call yourself a Christian. And this isn't far off from the "Christianity" that President Bush practices.

It is an anemic man-made religion centered around a selection of "good teachings" in scripture that the participant finds particularly appealing or convenient. (Sometimes - inconvenient depending on their personality) It knows nothing of standing before an Almight Holy God in full recognition of your sin. It knows nothing of a loss of all hope if Christ cannot be yours, or of the joy of faith granted to a sinner saved by grace. It knows nothing of the true peace of being justified by faith alone in Christ alone.

So when that kind of idolatry reveals itself more clearly in a situation like this, no, we shouldn't be surprised.

Misty said...

I think that it is completely accurate that I man who expressed beliefs in one manner, before he was elected, would alter what he now professes once he has won his second term. This is pretty accurate with a lot of choices/deceisions/statements that Bush has made.
Many people say that they wouldn't want his job, and I agree... however, there has been much deciet and I think that when we really submit to the Lord and seek His glory in all that we do, we would be capable of doing ANY job without decieving others into supporting us.

Queen said...

Not surprising to me at all. I'd never heard the word "syncretism" before, though.


Wendy said...

Jess said:This kind of thing really irks me among conservatives... and that initial comment by the anonymous commenter really reveals this tendency. An "us" vs. "them" where "we" identify ourselves more by our politics than our faith.

My response:
Our pastor has been preaching this for a couple of weeks. The teaching has been rich and challenging. His basic message is that the sword represents the kingdom of the world, which is defined by systems of laws. The Kingdom of God is represented by the cross, and is defined as the ultimate sacrifice of loving each other (even those opposed to us) so strongly that we'd lay down our lives for them. Our pastor pointed out that you can't fuse these together-the sword & the cross, attempting to make a "Christian" nation-when that's been attempted, we've experienced such things as witch trials-because the two can't coexist closely.

We live under a higher authority, which is an "upside" down kingdom--political powerplays and selfishly serving each other don't mix!

I'm not sure what this means for Christians in politics-I strongly believe we should be involved-but I'm waiting with much anticipation for the next installment of our pastor's message!

*I hope this isn't just rambling-this topic has been rolling around my brain for the last few weeks, so I hope I articulated it well and that it was relevant to your OT. ;)

dcrmom said...

Unfortunately, the words of President Bush are probably believed by many professing and assumably legitimate Christians. I heard this sentiment spoken a lot around the time of the Twin Towers attack.

I guess I always assume it is theological misunderstanding, not reason to doubt one's commitment to Christ.

I do agree that it is not biblical to say that we all worship the same God, but it's a complicated topic, and I have to believe that many Christians who claim to believe that simply misunderstand while still being sincere in their belief in and reliance on Christ.

I think it is great to educate and inform regarding this concept, but I would hesitate to use it as evidence that someone is not a true believer.

*~Tamara~* said...

Actually, Bush said this several years ago and has made similar statements over the years. If I recall correctly, the first time this came out and people glossed over it was when he was trying to "make nice" after 9/11. It should come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention. The people who have held GW Bush out there as a "god-fearing Christian" president have done so at their own peril. They latched onto his claiming Christ early in his campaign and when his policies and practices have not aligned with God's commands, they have either ignored it or made excuses for him.

I know this may come off as harsh, but the "I wouldn't want to be President" response when GWB does something terrible truly makes me angry. There is no position, political or otherwise, that he could hold wherein his sin would be excused by a Holy God. It is sin to claim Christ's name and then knowingly deny His Lordship, no matter what your job title is. And it is sinful to excuse the sin of another person because they "have it tough."

You know what, I wouldn't want to be president either. The job has got to be extremely stressful and difficult if done well. But if I were president, I don't think God would give me a pass on my sins because He ordained me to fill a difficult position. GWB will be known by his fruit just like the rest of us will. He will one day stand before Almighty God and give an answer for how he conducted himself, even while in office, and I don't think, "But hey, I was President and look, even some of Your people said I should be cut some slack," is going to do much to deter God's judgment.

This part of the interview really got me:

but that's not a Christian act to kill innocent people.

That's very interesting. He's doing just that with his war. Every day. Perhaps it's only a sin to take innocent American lives. And interestingly, every Republican candidate for President except one is willing to let it continue. Not only have we most definitely changed the definition of "conservative," but Christians have bought into it hook, line, and sinker.

Jess said...

*~tamara~* said:
This part of the interview really got me:

"but that's not a Christian act to kill innocent people."

That's very interesting. He's doing just that with his war. Every day.

I couldn't help think the same thing when I read the interview.

Terry said...

I have to say that I am really disappointed to hear such talk from a man who professes to be a born again Christian- President or not. I agree that it would have been better to remain silent. It appears that in his effort to "win the hearts and minds of the Arab world", Mr. Bush is willing to say just about anything and that's disappointing. I realize that being the "leader of the free" world requires a fair amount of diplomacy, but doesn't it seem that Christians are always those asked to modify, amend, and defend their beliefs for the sake of peace? Maybe we should reconsider our position as the world's lone Superpower so that we can get back to electing the president of the United States rather than the leader of the free world.

CB said...

My first reaction is that its "political" talk, equating the war with liberty and democracy as so connected to universality.

Elizabeth said...

Honestly, I wish I *was* surprised. :( Since the beginning, I've never felt that his faith was what he claimed.

But I also believe that George Bush is a sinner like every one of us and he, too, can repent and be absolved. We can't know whether or not he lost sleep that night, thinking to himself, "I said WHAT?!" Right?


Anonymous said...

"I know this may come off as harsh, but the "I wouldn't want to be President" response when GWB does something terrible truly makes me angry. There is no position, political or otherwise, that he could hold wherein his sin would be excused by a Holy God."

There is no way I would say "he is the president so his SIN is excused" my only point was, it is easy to say what *we* would do in any given situation from the comfort of our own homes, without actually being in that person's shoes, I could say "well I wouldn't say anything at all" BUT I don't have millions of people listening to my every words, waiting for a reason to start a fight, other leaders can deny the holocaust happened and get a free pass, the Pres. of the USA does not get that same pass by anyone, this does not excuse his knowing or not knowing the Word of God. I would just not know what to do in that same situation, I do not have millions of people depending on me to keep them safe. Our allegience is to Christ and Christ only, unfortunately we live in a world where to say, live or think that way is considered "shoving it down others throats". Therefore why I would not want to be president.


FreeIndeed said...

Sounds as though Bush is looking at the Muslim "God" and Christian "God" strictly from an historical basis. Though Ishmael was not the son of promise, scripture tells us that Elohim made (and has kept) the promise to make Ishmael a great nation and that Elohim was with Ismael when he was cast out of Abraham and Sarah's household. The problem now, however, is that Muhammad in his ignorance (and possible madness) has rewritten the script as to who Muslim's now worship. They believe they worship the El of Abraham and Ismael, but who they actually worship is a false creation of Muhammad. They have been grossly and sadly misled. Our president either hasn't bothered to read the scriptures and compare this to the descriptions of Allah to know that a false el has been created and a false el do they worship.

As to Bush's religion, I'm not at all surprised. I never, ever believed, for a millisecond, that he was who he professed to be.

I watched a documentary last week on veterans returning home from the war in Iraq and suffering from PTSD while carrying vivid memories of running children over in trucks, seeing women killed or bombed out of their homes, etc. I've watched others where babies have been killed or maimed in crossfire, where innocent people have been beaten, detained and or killed, and we all will never, of course, forget (hopefully) the crimes at Abu Graib. Bush's comments on killing innocent people not being a Christian act leaves me almost speechless.

Finally, Brigette, if you don't mind, could you please explain how Bush has kept us safe? We are more of a target for attack than we ever were and we are more hated around the world than we were pre-9/11. Perhaps I'm not seeing the safety Bush has provided us, but I'm willing to listen to your pov if you don't mind expounding on that point a bit further.



Clare said...

A person who calls himself a Christian should surely be aware of John 14:6 - "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Hmmm.... seems pretty clear to me!

Jess said...

The Bible explicitly tells us that when we are called into difficult situations (where we are truly being persecuted or reviled for our faith), we should not speak but should instead wait to see what the Holy Spirit tells us to say. And it also states that we don't have to worry about what we will say at such a time. The Holy Spirit will give us the words to say.

Also I need to say that your 2nd comment on this post reveals a huge lack of awareness on your part of the truth about the Muslim world today. No other such comments will be published.

We ought not compare ourselves with Muslims ("they get offended so easily, but we can't..."). We worship the true and living God and are called to live as such. If we are offended, we ought not be surprised but should instead count that as an opportunity to identify with the sufferings of Christ. When they are offended by us, for reasons other than the Gospel, we are doing material harm to the name of Christ.

Our lives are not to be lived as anti-Muslim but as pro-Christ... and Christ desires that none should perish but that ALL should come to a saving knowledge of Him. People from all tribes, tongues, and peoples will worship at the throne of God one day and we ought to remove all bigotry and racism from our hearts and instead see people as what they are.

Even Muslim radicals, spiritually speaking, are no different from your next door red-white-and-blue-blooded American neighbor who believes in works-based faith. We ought not be so pro-America that we forget God's plans for all the nations.

When the leader of America (which most Muslims see as a "Christian nation") says things that water down what faith in Christ means, we ought to ALL take this to heart and it should grieve us, whether we're Republicans or not.


Kim said...

I believe, unfortunately, that there is a fundamental problem with the world today where Christians are so confused as to what they "can" and "can't" say or believe that they just make something up for themselves. I DID, in fact, believe the president when he professed that Jesus Christ saved him from his sins. There was no reason at the time to believe otherwise. (I am thinking back to pre 2000 election.) However, perhaps he is the seed choked by thorns - the troubles of this world (forgive me if I am using the wrong seed analogy, I am in a hurry! :) ) - and has allowed the outside pressures of being in his position to choke his true faith. We should be praying for him that God would soften and change his heart.

That said - I do agree with Bridget's position on WHY I would not want to be President. It has nothing to do with his words being excusable before God - the same Bible that says you or I have to be accountable for our careless words says the same for him. It has more to do with the fact that we (for the most part, Jess you might have some idea having worked in politics) have no idea the kind of pressure that man faces from every side - and that goes for whomever is in the office. I cannot imagine dealing with the pressure of leading 256 million people with varying degrees of belief in Christ, Allah, Jehovah or no one. That said - that doesn't change his accountability. I just wouldn't want to be in his shoes.

Like you said, and like the Bible says, however, our identities are first as Christians before we are identified with any man-made country.

Interesting discussion...

Meredith said...

I've lurked here for awhile and sometimes disagree (or maybe feel uncomfortably challenged :)) by your posts, I'm totally with you on this one. This has been a topic of discomfort for me since 9/11 re: Bush, his "Christian" stance, how republican=Christian, etc. I have very distinct memories of Bush's speech at the 9/11 memorial service and how it made me very unsettled as a Christian. And, many of our Christian brothers and sisters tend to idolize our American forefathers as great Christian leaders. If you research history, this is not always the case. All governments are imperfect, but as we walk this journey together we can look forward to true peace with Him.

You go, Ouachita girl!