THE GRACE OF DISSENT
Knowing both my penchant for seeing the possibility of grace in unlikely situations and my consistent criticism of the posturing, choices, and directions the George W. Bush regime, a friend challenged me to try to write something graceful about the U.S. President.
SAY SOMETHING NICE. One would think this would be easy to do: just say something nice about the man. Like: he professes Christianity. Like: he is a sober, recovering alcoholic. Like: he is a faithful husband. Like: he loves America. I can say these things. These are commendable for a President. Few Presidents could honestly claim this combination of commitments or characteristics.
LIKE MILLIONS OF US. As laudable as these four claims are, they can be said of perhaps millions of people (millions more if you consider those who have not had the experience of addiction to alcohol). These characteristics do not qualify George W. Bush or any other person to be President of the United States of America. Nor have they apparently assisted him and his regime in leading the American people wisely, or even honestly.
GOD'S HAND ON HIM? During the recent election campaign, the Rev. Pat Robertson said of Bush that though he had made mistakes and was not necessarily right on a variety of issues, God's hand was obviously upon him. There you have it. The right reverend hath spoken: the savvy use and bullying abuse of political power cloaked in well-orchestrated images of civil religion equate to God's blessing. Not!
OPEN LETTERS TO THE PRESIDENT. I am a citizen who has paid close attention to this Presidency from day one. I have taken the time to reflect on his manner and choices and have written over seventy letters to George W. Bush over the past four years. I have commended him and scolded him. I have agreed and disagreed with him. I have offered alternative perspectives along with my prayers. My thoughts and feelings in these letters are open for all the world to read.
OFFERING DISSENT. Some may read into my letters and perspective nothing more than carping criticism. But in my heart and mind I am sincerely trying to offer this President the grace of dissent. Dissent means "to withold assent" or "to differ in opinion." Dissent is not unpatriotic. Dissent is not simply being contrary. Dissent is not a minor key or discordant voice. Dissent is not negativism. The fact that dissent is begrudgingly endured by the majority of people does not reduce its value and importance in the past or to the future for all.
AN ALTERNATIVE VISION. Dissent, as I speak of it as a grace, is rooted in an alternative vision of the common good. Dissent, in my case, is anchored in an understanding of the Biblical image and principles of the Kingdom of God articulated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his church. This is the vision and allegiance that claims my heart and life. This alternative vision of the common good is starkly distinct from the claims, posturing, values base, and policies of the Bush Administration.
A PARTICULAR REASON FOR DISSENT. It is particularly because of the Bush Administration's appropriation of Christian terms, images, and posturing for the sake of selling to the American public a thoroughly secular, wealth-serving, class-dividing, violence-reinforcing ideology that I have raised my voice in dissent. Christianity is not merely civil religion. Christianity is not a tool to be used by power brokers to passify or satiate a hopeful citizenry. It is not wool to pull over the eyes. It is not bapitsmal water to justify the spirit of mammon and violence.
CONTRADICTIONS. It is not of Christ to incite moral alarm at gay marriage and at the same time continue to intentionally mislead the world regarding the connections between the terrorist attack on 9/11/01 and Iraq. It is not of Christian faith to name the Prince of Peace as one's chief counsel and lead primarily by intimidation, the violence of unprovoked war, and at the bidding of donating patrons. To me, the contradictions between this regime's claims to act Christianly and the real claims of authentic Christianity are numerous and glaring, as comprehensive as specific.
THIS GRACE I OFFER. So, this grace I offer this President and his regime: dissent. I simply cannot and will not give assent to this President's claims and directions. I dissent as a citizen. I dissent as a Christian. I offer this President and his Administration and alternative vision and perspective. And I live in hope that it, not the present means or ends, will ultimately prevail for the sake of the world which God gave his Son to redeem and transform.