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April 4, 2004: The GOD Franchise - Who Owns the Trademark?

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On Monday March 29 (see Interesting commentary…) a Bush administration representative has said that it was ""beyond the bounds of acceptable political discourse" for Kerry to mention Scripture in his rebuke of Republican policies. 

Yep, last Sunday, just the day before, Kerry had delivered a speech at a church service and quoted James 2:14-17 –

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

And Kerry then pretty much lit into the whole idea of compassionate conservatism.  We get the conservatism.  Where’s the compassion part?  Got my Bible right here.  I see these words about making things better for people.  I see God says you ought to do more than talk about it.  So, where’s the action to match the words? 

Oddly enough, this echoes Clara Peller back in the mid-eighties - the woman who played a crusty old lady who slapped the counters of all sort of hamburger joints and loudly asked the probing question - "Where's the Beef!"  This implied that the only place in town where she could get a hamburger with an ample portion of "beef" was at Wendy's.  A cliché was born.  And then Walter Mondale used the phrase "Where's the Beef!" in his 1984 presidential run against his rival Gary Hart. 

Here Kerry is doing something parallel.  Hey, George, where’s the beef? 
The Bush folk got very angry.  Heck, they own the franchise on using Christian devotional references in political discourse.  This was kind of like trademark infringement – a matter of branding.  The “Faith-Based President” was being mocked. 

Most curious. 

And now we have Marina Hyde in the April 3rd Guardian (UK - thus the odd spelling below) on religion in American politics who does her riff on this.  After explaining the Kerry bible quote blow-up she comments -


Take into account the burgeoning (if niche) appeal of a bumper sticker which reads "God Is A Democrat" in the States, and you've got what the politicians seem bent on making the key issue in the forthcoming election.  Namely, who the hell's God backing? 

Now, I'm not a theologian of the calibre of, say, Melvin Gibson, and am therefore wary of pitting myself against a bumper sticker, but I'd have to hazard on current evidence that God is a Republican. 

Most things you've ever heard about him suggest this.  He's associated with territorial creations and divisions, smiting people, retribution - your basic liberal nightmares. 

Indeed, a few years ago, Newt Gingrich went so far as to explain to a group of conservative students that there was only one thing separating them from evil tax-and-spend liberals: belief in God.  "That is the core cultural issue of this society," he declared.  "Are we in fact endowed by our creator, which then implies a whole range of implications about the nature of life, or are we randomly gathered protoplasm, temporarily together, seeking, in some situation-ethics rational way, to temporarily make sure we're not in pain?  Now, those are two radically different world views."  Yes - God v tax.  Who says debate isn't what it used to be? 

Meanwhile, there was a point where George Bush would specifically align himself with the priest figure when speaking to the nation (invocations to pray for the September 11 victims, for instance).  Then he graduated to aligning with Biblical prophets (quoting Isaiah on the day of "victory" in Iraq).  Now, he seems pretty much indivisible from the deity in some of his speeches (recent claims that justice "is ours").  In short, he's not a New Testament kinda guy, and not just because he hasn't read that far yet. 

But Jesus - now here's hope for John Kerry, because Jesus just has to be a Democrat.  Ask yourself this: would Jesus be more concerned with feeding the poor and sorting out education or earmarking another few billion for the global ballistic missile defence programme? 
And yet Kerry's brave move to sink to Bush's level may still backfire.  At this stage, it could all come down to the Holy Spirit.  And who's to say that mystery-wrapped-in-an-enigma isn't voting for Nader? 


Got it!  Bush loves the idea of the Old Testament God of vengeance and power.  Kerry seems to like the idea of Jesus and compassion for the meek and lowly (the wimp version).  Mel Gibson likes to think long and hard about Jesus being tortured – as that gets Mel all worked up.  Nader is probably a Buddhist. 

What does it matter?  These secular Europeans must think us mad. 

So whom does God favor? 

Remember Randy Newman – “God’s Song”


Man means nothing he means less to me
Than the lowliest cactus flower
Or the humblest yucca tree
He chases round this desert
Cause he thinks that’s where I’ll be
That’s why I love mankind

I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
From the squalor, and the filth, and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayer you offer me
That’s why I love mankind ... 

I burn down your cities – how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You all must be crazy to put your faith in me
That’s why I love mankind
You really need me
That’s why I love mankind


God, if there is one, probably isn’t taking sides.  He, or she, or it – your choice – is amused, and a bit bored with this all. 


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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