Thursday, November 29, 2007

"W" is Right; "W" is Wrong!

George W. Bush, our current (but not for too much longer!) President, is a case study in how to/not to be a Christian in the workplace. In order to pursue this thesis I will set aside the questioon of whether it is even possible or appropriate for a Christian to be the President of a nation-state. That is an even more crucial question but it will have to wait for consideration.

"W" is certainly the most forthright and demonstrative about his faith of any President in my lifetime. He clearly intends to allow Jesus to help hium shape his policies and the way he fulfills his duty as President. His affirmation that "Jesus is my favorite political philosopher" is, I believe, sincerely intended rather than (as some have suggested)a cynical stratagem to deflect atention from how little "W" actually knows about political philosophy. I, at least, propose to take him seriously.

And in taking "W" seriously on this point, I mean to affirm his conviction and commitment that Jesus should be Lord in the workplsce as well as elsewhere. Such commitment in service of a "theology" hitched to wagon of the Religious Right horrifies most other Christians and obscures the reality that we have a President who is resoluitely Christian and intends his faith to inform his work life. And too oftenm I fear, a "theology" such as his causes the rest of us to back off and not want to bring our faith in our workplaces for fear of being tarred with the that same theological brush ourselves. Or else we jujst in general feel it is not in good taste to wear one's faith on one's shoulder like "W" does.

I think that is to confuse the nature of the commitment "W" exhibits with the "theology" that informs it. In our postmodern world, where religion and spirituality are back "in" the cultural "zeitgeist" and which is mandadated to tolerate eeveryone's point of view (except perhaps that of the Religious Right!), is seems to me both appropriate and necessary for us to throuw our commitment to Jesus into the mix of commitmnets and opinions that form the culture of your workplace. There is no longer any reason to feel bashful about sharing who you are and how that impacts your worklife or that is sharing your commitment that you are somehow thereby "imposing" your views on someone else. Now, inherent in my affirmation of "W"'s open faith stance is the caveat that such sharing of one's commitment to Jesus ought to be done in the wisest and most winsome way possible. We should choose our spots carefully and share with an openness to others and to conversation with them (when appropriate) about these commitments. "W" may not quite stand up to scrutiny on these latter points but his willingness to make the stand is, in my judgment, a (or "the") commendable feature of his Presidency. So, "W" is right on this score.

"W" is wrong, however, at most other points. The "theology" that informs his commitment is wretched. If one applies the "What would Jesus do?" criterion to his policies, one would (or, at least, I do) have a hard time seeing how Jesus has substantively informed them. His "theology" appears to be "Americanism" with a thin veneer of Christianity, a veneer that gives way any time something less than Christian needs to be done. In short, if we affirm "W"'s commitment to Jesus in the office of President, we must also disavow the substance of what he thinks "theology" is and many of the policies that flow from it in the strongest way.

To sum up, "W" has in a dramatic way subverted the modernist premise that faith is a private, inner matter that should not be allowed to "bleed" out (pun intended) into public life and one's respoonsibilities there. But he has "deconstructed" himself by the "theology" he embraces which seems intent on others' "bleeding" rather than our own and on them serving our needs and wants rather than vice versa, as Jesus would have it.

May we have the courage to stand for JEsus in our workplaces, as "W" does, but may our theology be advocated and embodied in such a way that it participates in the "deconstruction" of "W"'s theology and presents to the watching world an authentic and compelling vision of the "servant"-gospel lived and taught by Jesus, who is indeed "Lord of All"!