By Tony Russell|
Washington, August 7 -
"Good morning. Welcome to our Second Annual Faith-Based Press Conference. We're a little late getting started, so we'll skip the opening prayer and go straight to the question-and-answer session. Our first conference last year got off to a bumpy start, but I feel confident that we've got the right kind of religious leaders here this time to ask the right kind of questions. Am I right? Who wants to kick it off?"
"Mr. President, our Bible study group has been focusing on the Beatitudes this month, and it's generated a lot of questions. It would be a big help if you could explain how your role in starting the war in Iraq, and in supporting Israel's invasions of Palestine and Lebanon, squares with Christ's words in Matthew, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.'"
"Tom, I've found that dropping a few hundred 'widowmakers' on the enemy works wonders in converting the survivors into peacemakers."
"Begging your pardon, sir, but hasn't our occupation of Iraq had exactly the opposite effect? A lot of our commanders are saying that we have converted Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorists, and that we've enflamed the entire Middle East with hatred, not just of Muslim versus Christian and Muslim versus Jew, but Shi'ite Muslim versus Sunni Muslim."
"Tom, what can you expect? These aren't people who've read the Beatitudes. They don't follow the script."
"Well, no, they don't, Mr. President. But if you don't mind my saying so, I don't think it's our job to make other people do what God wants. I was thinking more along the lines of our following the script. Maybe if we stopped worrying about how we could claim a victory in this war, and started worrying about our mandate to be peacemakers…."
"There's only one person here with a mandate, and I got mine from forty million voters. Let's give somebody else a chance. David?"
"Our church has been studying the Beatitudes as well, sir. The opening verse, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'—that's created an awful lot of discussion. I'm afraid that when we really prayed about it, it just didn't look as if giving tax break after tax break to the rich, and cultivating them as 'your base,' was consistent with the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ."
"What the devil is going on here? I thought we were here to talk about stem cells and gay marriage. Those are the chief religious issues of our times. That's all you and I have talked about for the past five years. Now, if somebody will steer us that way, I've got a great little PowerPoint prepared on stem cell lines."
"Mr. President, with all due respect, we've been heavily involved in scripture study in our church as well, and I'll be honest with you, it's disturbing to flip past hundreds of references to caring for the poor and sick and widowed and orphaned, and to establishing justice, and to being merciful, in order to get to the passages on stem cells and gay marriage. In fact we just can't find any passages on stem cells and gay marriage."
"Keep looking, Art. I'm sure they're in there."
"No sir, they aren't. I'll give it to you straight. We've always been 'strict constructionists' of the Bible in our church, and there's a growing sense that as fundamentalists, we need to get back to the fundamentals. We've discovered that things like giving a raise to the minimum wage for the poor only if you can eliminate the estate tax for the rich, or spending so much of our budget to wage global war, violate both the letter and the spirit of Holy Scripture."
"Holy cow! What's got into you people?! You've been with me through thick and thin—never a doubt, never a complaint. And I've been good to you. I've steered millions of federal dollars to your churches so you could offer social services that attract people like ants to a picnic. I've ripped a hole in the wall between church and state that you could drive a church bus through. And this is the thanks I get? I thought I could count on you to keep the faith!"
"We are, sir. But ultimately our allegiance isn't to the president. We're accountable to a Higher Power."
"Dick? Dick Cheney? Since when have you been dealing with Dick Cheney?"
© Tony Russell, 2006
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