Creeping Fundamentalism IV: George Bush's appeal

bushcrossJack Beatty, a senior editor at The Atlantic, once explained his understanding of rationalism on the public radio program OnPoint. "Being a rationalist is not for the faint at heart," Beatty said.

Beatty then mentioned that he was looking at a picture of Duke, his late, beloved dog, whose ashes are now in a tin. "It's very hard to accept that that's it, that that's me, that that's all. And that's part of the iron cage of rationality -- that when you die you're dead. . . . That is the bitterest, hardest thing in the world."

That may help explain why Beatty perceives President Bush as not simply irrational, but capable of making rationality "an antonym of Republican."

Beatty surveys a list of what he sees as Bush's indisputable mendacity, eventually arriving at a definition of fundamentalism that many fundamentalists would themselves repudiate:

You can question Bush's veracity, his grip on reality, and the rationality of his policies, but not his faith. Turning to Jesus to escape from drinking was the turning point in his life. Sincerity, unreservedly giving your heart to Jesus, is the fulcrum of life-altering faith, say people who have experienced it. Reason, skepticism, critical thought, irony, argument -- all threaten this sustaining emotional purity. You owe your life to a miracle, and it will go away if doubt creeps in.

All lives have the kind of soul-trying trouble that nearly cost George W. Bush his marriage. Some people see psychiatrists; others take medication; many turn to faith. And for many of this last group, I suspect, Bush's sins against reason, his privileging of his heart over his head, make up no small part of his appeal. Religiosity -- intensity of faith and frequency of church attendance -- now vies with race as a partisan predictor. Just as 9 in 10 African-Americans voted for Al Gore in 2000, so nearly 9 in 10 "high-commitment evangelicals" voted for George W. Bush. Altogether, evangelicals and white Protestant fundamentalists constituted 40 percent of Bush's vote. When Pat Robertson resigned as president of the Christian Coalition, in late 2001, Gary Bauer, a spokesman for social conservatism, said he knew why: "I think he stepped down because the position has already been filled . . ." President Bush "is that leader right now."

Please respect our Commenting Policy