Presidents & the Apostles’ Creed

The funeral service for George H. W. Bush was as genuine as the man himself. It was one of those very few times when politics could be set aside to remember the character of an honorable person who embraced the Christian faith and lived a life of service undergirded by that faith.

Such times are rare indeed anymore. The Christian faith espoused by Bush is no longer as pervasive in our country as it was earlier in our history. Yet there were, in the first row, three ex-presidents, the current president, and another former presidential candidate all paying respects to Bush 41.

There still was controversy, though, as depicted in this photo showing all of those in that front row reciting the Apostles’ Creed. Well, almost all.

While everyone else was affirming Christian faith, Donald Trump stood stone-faced, not participating.

Eminent Christian leaders already have jumped to his defense and scolded those who have criticized his non-participation. Should we not be concerned about it? Are those who have pointed out his lack of response merely Pharisees who should just keep quiet?

First, let me say that I have no illusions about the others who chose to recite the creed. Jimmy Carter has always claimed to be a born-again Christian, yet his theology is akin to a theological liberalism I cannot endorse. God is the final judge.

Bill and Hillary Clinton have also always professed to be Christians, but I find little to nothing in their lives to back up that profession. Bill’s practice of carrying a Bible to church during his presidency only showcases the hypocrisy of his life of sexual immorality. Both Bill and Hillary are dissemblers (the nicer word) of the highest caliber, although the latter isn’t nearly as good at it.

Barack Obama’s brand of Christianity emanates from the liberation theology camp where Jesus is nothing more than the forerunner of his true heroes: Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, etc. His view of Scripture was such that he dismissed the Bible’s clear teaching on homosexuality; in fact, he mocked it (I saw the video in which he did this). His tenure as president saw direct attempts to curtail Christians’ liberty of conscience.

So, in my view, those people reciting the Apostles’ Creed were hardly advocates of what the creed states. Hypocrisy abounded.

Yet, does that excuse Trump? Why was he so stone-faced? Perhaps stone-faced is not a strong enough word—he seemed to be practically scowling. What is so offensive about the words of that creed that he would refuse to say them?

In one sense, he is being more honest. Neither his life nor his words back up any idea of his being a real Christian. Why add public hypocrisy to his already innumerable sins?

In case you are unfamiliar with the Apostles’ Creed, let’s run through it phrase by phrase in the newer version found in the Book of Common Prayer.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

If you believe there is a God who made all things, this should be easy to say.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Now we’re getting more specific. Saying this part requires that you truly believe Jesus is the one and only Son of God. And then there’s this thing at the end that talks about being judged one day. I can understand why a non-Christian wouldn’t want to recite that.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic [universal] Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

This promises, among other things, the forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Christ. What if you are someone who has publicly stated—as Trump has done—that you don’t think you’ve done anything for which you need to ask forgiveness?

Yes, I can understand why he didn’t say those words.

My appeal is to my fellow Christians who rush to Trump’s defense no matter what he says or does. Be careful. Maybe he doesn’t deserve your solid support. Pray for him, of course. Be grateful for any policies that help relieve the governmental burden on our profession of faith.

But don’t crown Donald Trump with the title of political savior.

Steve Berman wrote an article on The Resurgent website recently in which he strongly cautioned Christians about the true nature of our president. “Trump is not an evangelical,” he noted. “He has no investment in Christianity other than a transactional, expedient relationship. And that can change–very quickly.”

He continued, “Trump’s nature is self-preservation, and self-aggrandizement. When he fights, it’s on behalf of himself, with you along for the ride as long as you’re riding in his chosen vehicle (aka the ‘Trump train’).”

Berman then offered a long string of names of people Trump has left in the dust once their usefulness to him had ended. He concluded his article with these words—words Christians should take to heart:

In 2015, I quoted my then-pastor, who cautioned Christians to be careful, because the first time Christians differ from Trump, he will turn on us. .  . .

The long line of those who have been left waiting for Trump to pay off, know what happens when the time comes for him to leave them. Trump is who he is, and in the strongest likelihood, that will not change. As Christians, and as conservatives, we must be very, very careful not to hang our hats on the shaky pole of “perhaps.”

“Perhaps” he won’t abandon us, we hope. “Perhaps” he may really be a “baby Christian,” as some have speculated. No. It’s well beyond the time to come to our senses about the reality of Donald Trump.

I didn’t see too many political cartoons about this particular memorial service, but the one I did see I found to be most appropriate.

Bush 41: A Man of Faith & Honor

Bush 41 is what the country started calling him once his son became president. Yet George Herbert Walker Bush was not just a number; my own research on him has led me to revise not only my evaluation of his presidency but my perception of him as a man of faith and honor.

I voted for him twice, yet I had reservations as to whether he was the best successor to Ronald Reagan. I continue to note his deficiencies as president: his walkback of the promise of no new taxes hurt him badly in his re-election bid; he also seemed to lack the kind of energy needed for that re-election. But I now believe he accomplished more than some people give him credit for: ousting the corrupt Panamanian drug lord Manuel Noriega and gathering a coalition of nations to beat back Saddam Hussein’s power grab in the Middle East are two of his greatest achievements.

Perhaps a review of his earlier life—which is being and will be reviewed all this week—will help highlight his overall accomplishments.

Bush was the youngest Navy pilot in WWII, flying 58 combat missions. On one of those missions, he was shot down and rescued by a passing US submarine. He easily could have died bobbing around in the Pacific Ocean. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in action.

After the war, he moved his family out of New England to Texas and proved himself successful in business as director of an oil company and president of an offshore drilling equipment company.

Bush’s first attempt at elected office was as an unsuccessful Texas Senate candidate in 1964, but then he won a seat in the House in 1966; he lost another Senate race in 1970 to Lloyd Bentsen (who later ran against Bush in 1988 as the Democrats’ losing vice presidential candidate).

During the Nixon presidency, he was appointed as Permanent Representative of the US to the UN, then served as chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), beginning in 1973. That had to be one of his most difficult assignments, as he attempted to right the GOP ship in the midst of Watergate.

President Ford recognized Bush’s skills and appointed him head of US Liaison Office in Communist China, then he took over as director of the CIA in 1975. That agency now bears his name.

I knew little to nothing of Bush until the 1980 presidential primaries when he ran against Reagan to receive the Republican nomination. Admittedly, I was chagrined when Reagan chose him to be the vice presidential candidate on the ticket. I thought he was too liberal.

Reagan, though, wanted Bush to publicly agree with the strong pro-life position in the Republican platform, which he pledged to do. This struck me at the time as pure politics since Bush had not been strongly pro-life prior to that time. It may have been exactly that. Yet for the rest of his life, even after he left public office, he never backed down on that commitment. I believe it became his conviction over time.

During my sabbatical year, Bush’s Library was one of my research stops. The museum was very well done, and perusing it one day at my leisure helped me to get a better measure of the man.

I also took the opportunity to get as close to the Oval Office as I ever will.

The research I conducted during the sabbatical helped me see also the Christian faith of the man. I didn’t know how close he was to Billy Graham. I was unaware that for many summers prior to his presidency, he had Graham come to the family compound in Maine to speak to the family. Bush wanted his entire family to be instructed by Graham. To his credit, Graham chose not to preach but to conduct those sessions in the Q&A mode, which was much more effective.

It was during one of those visits that George W. Bush took a walk with Graham on the beach and began his spiritual journey to Christian faith.

When Bush 41 moved against Saddam Hussein, it was Graham that he wanted by his side—not as a political advisor, but as a spiritual counselor. Graham heeded that summons. The two were close personal friends. It was a revelation to me just how close they were for those many years.

I’m teaching a new course this coming semester that I’m calling “Religion and the Presidents,” and I’m pleased that I’m now going to be able to add one more name to the number of those whose Christian faith was genuine.

When Bush gave his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention in 1988, one of the lines from that speech (authored by Peggy Noonan, but obviously approved by Bush) has stuck with people. He spoke of the numerous non-governmental volunteer organizations throughout the nation that were performing valuable services. He called them “a thousand points of light.”

Bush didn’t believe that government was the answer to all of our problems. He looked instead to all those people, usually guided by their faith, as the better solution. I believe his life demonstrated that belief. One political cartoonist, in the wake of his death, has made the point very well.

We need more men of faith and honor. We need more George Herbert Walker Bush’s.

Everyone Else Is to Blame

Some people just won’t go away. Former president Obama is one. He’s already making public comments on his successor, pointedly criticizing his policies. It might be helpful if Obama could remember how George W. Bush treated him when he took office. Honoring a long tradition of allowing the new president to set his own course, Bush never launched into a public critique. But that was when honor was still something people cared about.

Now we have Hillary Clinton refusing to exit stage left quietly. I know this is kind of old news, but I haven’t been commenting on politics recently—I have to catch up.

What’s remarkable about Hillary’s public statements of late is that they are so tone-deaf and ridiculous that even her own Democrat party leaders are distancing themselves from her.

She simply can’t come to terms with her loss in the last election, and she doesn’t seem the least bit willing to admit she might be the biggest factor in that loss. No, everyone else is to blame.

Surely the loss couldn’t have had anything to do with a private e-mail server, Benghazi, or the antics of the Clinton Foundation. Of course not. She deserved to be president because her last name is Clinton (when she chooses to use it instead of Rodham). The new president is illegitimate.

In her commencement speech to her alma mater, Wellesley, she did joke (as much as Hillary can ever joke about anything) that a little liquid imbibing helped get her through the defeat, but again, there was nothing in that speech that displayed any knowledge of her own faults. Those listening, though, might have picked up on one of those faults:

How does one develop a seared conscience? It can start at a young age and become such a habit pattern that one actually begins believing the falsehoods:

The nation dodged one bullet in November. We’re still trying to deal with the other bullet. More on that tomorrow.

Political Cartoon Day: Campaign Edition

So many political cartoons, so little time and space to share them all. I’m going to try today, though. The emphasis will be on the Democrat side, but I won’t forget Republicans either.

Hillary Clinton has got to be one of the more radioactive candidates in presidential campaign history. Some Democrats are finally beginning to hear the alarms going off:

What

She thought she would waltz to the nomination, but results in New Hampshire show she hasn’t even won the majority of women, which has to be dismaying for her, since she bases most of her “appeal” on being the first woman president:

Shut Up

Yet there is some question about just how effective her husband’s support on that issue really is:

One Reason

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has surprised everyone with his appeal, which comes down to one thing only:

Free Stuff

Despite his appeal to pure-bred socialists like himself, Sanders realizes he needs to reach out to voters who might not ordinarily support him. So where does he go to win them over? To that champion of uprightness and integrity, Al Sharpton:

Black Votes Matter

Even though Sanders swamped Clinton in New Hampshire by 22 percentage points, they got the same number of delegates, thanks to Democrat party rules that include “super delegates” who can choose whomever they want. Sounds fair, doesn’t it?

Delegates

That would be Sanders’s philosophy coming back to bite him. Yet, despite how the game may be rigged for her, Hillary isn’t taking any chances. Perhaps she will unveil another campaign revamp. Hillary 4.0?

Revamp

On the Republican side, South Carolina may be Jeb Bush’s last gasp; that’s why he has brought in the former president to campaign by his side. Will it help?

Campaign Support

And Donald Trump keeps being Donald Trump, which is a problem in itself. His use of insults, vulgarities, threats of lawsuits, and claims of being cheated are what seem to dominate his campaign. Don’t go looking for any real substance there; you’re just supposed to feel his anger and jump on board his train wreck.

For what it’s worth, he’s pledged to stop using curse words and obscenities publicly.

Juvenile

For the record, I’m not impressed.

2016’s Worst-Case Scenario

Joe Biden says he is out of the 2016 race, then proceeds to give a 25-minute campaign speech. Why? Commentator Charles Krauthammer thinks he is positioning himself should lightning strike Hillary Clinton in the form of a federal indictment.

Any indictment that may come will be the result of an FBI investigation into her e-mail scandal, but there are other reasons to fervently oppose a Hillary nomination, with Benghazi being a key one.

Today the House special committee investigating Benghazi will have her testify. Four Americans died in that terrorist attack that she tried to blame on a hardly seen video. When she appears before the committee, perhaps they should also have empty chairs next to her as a remembrance for the four who died.

There’s actually a fifth victim here as well:

Empty Chairs

Another cartoonist picked up on that theme rather pointedly also:

Waste of Time

For me, it doesn’t matter which of the possible candidates Democrats will offer to the public; I could never vote for any of them. Why don’t they just get it over and change the name of the party officially to the Socialist Party? Or how about the Kill Innocent Children and Sell Their Body Parts Party? The Let’s Destroy Marriage Party? You get the drift. There’s no way I can ever support what Democrats now stand for. How any Christian can give support for them is beyond my comprehension.

Then there’s the Republican side where Donald Trump continues to lead in the polls. Some, like this cartoonist, view him this way:

Trumpet

His candidacy certainly has been long on bravado, a cult of personality, and the ability to hit hot-button issues that appeal to angry voters. But he’s far from lacking substance; what bothers me the most is the substance I see.

Trump, in my view, has only latched onto a type of conservatism because it’s what will get him the nomination. He, by his own admission, has always aligned himself more with Democrats than Republicans, and now mouths conservative platitudes that I don’t really think he believes.

Ronald Reagan underwent a serious rethinking of his New Deal liberalism over a number of years, coming out of the period of rethinking as a confirmed conservative in principle. Trump is, I fear, nothing more than an opportunist jumping on a bandwagon of reaction against the Obama years.

That’s not enough. It’s also dangerous to put one’s trust in an opportunist. It will come back to bite.

His latest foray into the Loony Left’s talking points is the insinuation that 9/11 was somehow George Bush’s fault. Whatever critique we, and I, may have of Bush’s actions, anyone who even hints at his complicity in letting 9/11 happen is wandering into the fever swamps.

There were so many daily threats Bush was given that there was no way to single out ahead of time what actually happened on 9/11.

Further, Trump then asserted that if he had been president, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened, indicating that his immigration approach would have prevented it. Does he not know that 15 of the 19 terrorists that day came into the country legally? And does he really want us to believe that he would have rounded them up and deported them in the short 8-month span he would have been in office prior to 9/11?

Hitching a ride on the Trump Train will spell disaster for the GOP.

911

Can you imagine a worse scenario than what we may be facing as an election choice in 2016?

Miss Those Days

As noted above, I’ll never vote for Hillary or any other Democrat. But please, Republicans, don’t force me to vote for a third party.

Degrading Iraq, not ISIS

I understand debate over whether military involvement in Iraq was advisable. Honest people can disagree over that. But making George Bush into some kind of bloodthirsty dictator is way over the line. He was responding to a threat that was growing in the region, and he took out a dictator who was hoping to rule the entire Middle East. Further, he acted on what was the best intelligence at the time with respect to chemical weapons, and he certainly didn’t lie so that American soldiers would die.

American soldiers did die, and the hope was that their deaths would be worth something in the long run, like a stable Iraq. Now, all of that has been overturned as ISIS has taken over most of those cities that Americans died to free. This is a travesty, especially when the Obama administration and the military brass say the taking of Ramadi is “no big deal.”

Pass It On

President Obama’s promise that he would “degrade” ISIS rings hollow. They are growing in strength and influence, making him and his minions appear to be no better than “Baghdad Bob,” the Saddam Hussein mouthpiece who said there were no American troops anywhere while the Hussein regime was, in fact, on the verge of being toppled. It’s not ISIS that’s being degraded; it’s something else.

Degrade Portion

No matter what credible criticism one can level at President Bush over his Iraq policy, he did achieve a fledgling Iraqi nation that was at least stable at the time. Even President Obama acknowledged this as he prematurely—and against the advice of his military commanders—pulled out the remaining American forces. The new “stability” is not something to be proud of:

Stable Iraq

So as Iraq descends into chaos and ISIS is poised to control the entire country, Obama wants us to believe he is not responsible for this turn of events:

Didn't Build That

Frankly, he really doesn’t care much what happens over there. He’s never considered a war on terror to be all that legitimate. Instead, he thinks global climate change is where we need to focus.

Biggest Security Threat

As I’ve said before, his ideological blinders have created a new territory called Obamaworld, a fantasyland of his own making.

Merely Tactical Setbacks

In a Memorial Day speech yesterday, President Obama said we should rejoice because for the first time in a long time American troops are not fighting in an overseas war. He even mentioned Afghanistan, where 10,000 Americans are still on active duty. The news report I was watching also commented that 3500 American military personnel continue to work with the Iraqi army.

So how is that a testimony to complete withdrawal from overseas conflicts? He did what he does so often—make a blatant statement of supposed fact that is at odds with the facts.

Even this late—more than six years into his presidency—he still acts like all the problems in the Middle East are due to George W. Bush. You can criticize Bush’s policies, and I think there is ground for criticism, but a direct comparison of the two presidents’ actions show rather stark differences:

Legacy

If you think Bush was mistaken in toppling Saddam Hussein, and that the aftermath of that was particularly messy, one thing to remember is that when he left office, he also bequeathed to Obama an Iraq on the verge of stability. Obama’s decision to pull out all troops, despite the advice of the military, has led to the chaos that is ISIS.

One wonders what, in fact, his overall strategy really is. Look the other way and pretend that everything is fine?

Strategy

Since he is so adept at comparing himself with his predecessor, here’s another apt comparison:

Success

At least George Bush recognized when his strategy needed to be altered, based on the situation. Obama just waltzes along as if all is great. Three of the four major cities in Iraq now under the control of ISIS? No problem. Our strategy is working, he assures us. The latest disaster is merely a tactical setback, not a failure of strategy. How long will he keep saying that?

Tactical Setback

Far-fetched? I’m not so sure.