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Bush Meets with Religion Writers, Wants to Change the Culture
Changing the culture and the faith-based initiative are topics covered by a select group of conservative religion media writers, including Richard John Neuhaus.
In personal conversations with folks, some Democrats and liberals, others Republicans of both moderate and more conservative stripe, I often find that they want to play down the strong and influential role that religious conservatives play in the making of public policy today. I thought of these conversations again when I ran across the article referenced below.
As reported in Christianity Today George Bush met with "religion editors and writers" on May 26, 2004. However, he was quite selective about who he choose to invite to the meeting. When reading the following list of writers ask yourself who was not at the meeting:
CT senior news writer Sheryl Henderson Blunt; James V. Heidinger II, president and publisher of Good News; Deal Hudson, editor of Crisis Magazine; James Kushiner, editor of Touchstone magazine; David L. Mahsman, Director of News and Information and Executive Editor for The Lutheran Witness and Reporter of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod; Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief, First Things; World Magazine editor Marvin Olasky; Catholic writer Russell Shaw; Stephen Strang, founder of Strang Communications.
There were no religion writers from any of the major media. There were no writers from any of the mainline denominations.
During the interview Bush mentions Richard John Neuhaus twice, referring to him as a close advisor. Neuhaus is editor of the neo-conservative journal First Things. He gained his fame through an organization which systematically attacked the World Council of Churches and mainline denominations claiming they were associated with Communism. In fact, if there is one person to blame for discrediting the social outreach and mission of the church then Richard Neuhaus is a prime candidate. For him in those days to support programs for the poor made one suspect of being Marxist.
In the Bush interview, the president says that he wants to promote change of the culture. Note the word; change of THE culture. There is one culture of the United States. And he characterizes it as a "feel good" culture, as if we are still living the '60s and '70s. (Conservatives in general blame everything on the '60s.)
At home, the job of a president is to help cultures change. The culture needs to be changed. I call it, so people can understand what I'm talking about, changing the culture from one that says, "If it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else," to a culture in which each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life. I call it the responsibility era. … I said that when I was governor of Texas.
President Bush uses this rhetoric to provide a rationale for slashing social programs, to revamp Social Security, to deny that government has any reponsibility for those who through no fault of their own are unable to succeed in an economy which should be characterized as savage capitalism. He wants disabled persons, apparently, to be more responsible, to exercise better decision-making.
Bush wants the poor to be responsible. But notice in the interview there is not one word about business leaders, not one word about corporate greed, not one word about responsibility for those who profit most from an economy the rules of which favor those who are already wealthy.
These particular religious writers probably liked what George Bush had to say. Their questions certainly did not even begin to expose the real and difficult issues of faith and politics. But George Bush doesn't want to hear from anyone who might disagree; he wants to promote the agenda of the religious right.
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