There’s nothing that shouts religious hypocrisy better than the baptism scene in The Godfather. While the words of Christian holiness resound, Michael Corleone’s people are on their Christian shooting spree murdering all the heads of the New York mafia families as well as Moe Green out in Las Vegas. Michael stands removed from the carnage he orchestrated - on the altar in the church - looking as innocent and reverent as a choirboy.
Last week, President Obama made his yearly appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. – a tradition that goes back to the Eisenhower days. And nothing says piety louder than an event filled to the coffee brim with the President and First Lady, members of Congress, foreign diplomats and religious, business and military leaders. No poor or homeless invited. No one who can’t afford the haberdashery of the finest Washington boutiques need try to attend - so step away from the door.
During the President’s speech, with its usual blurring of the lines between church and state – the hypocrisy so thick you could cut it with a butter knife - Obama made all the usual sounds of respecting everyone’s religion, and even threw in a little shout-out to atheists. It was also an opportunity for him to make his religious affiliation unequivocally clear. He is not a Muslim. He is a Christian – he loves Jesus and follows those teachings. God called and he listened.
And, he had this to say:
“But no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know.”
Okay, so my question is, if President Obama “knows” this, then how come his military has killed thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen – to name just a few places? Does he think Jesus won’t have a problem with this? Does Jesus recognize the separation of church and state, much as our government is supposed to (but doesn’t) do? Does he think that because he’s president and has the power to wage war when it’s in our “national interest” that somehow that excludes him from an accounting of those murdered by him, his government and his military? Will God call that an accident or collateral damage, much as the military does, and let bygones be bygones? In light of all the bloodshed, how does he remain a Christian in good standing?
Toward the end of the beastly breakfast, Obama also said:
“For it is only through common struggle and common effort, as brothers and sisters, that we fulfill our highest purpose as beloved children of God.”
I don’t know – maybe it’s me and my self-esteem issues – but I don’t think I could go sashaying around calling myself a beloved child of God. If there is a God, I’m not sure he even likes me. But, whatever, the bottom line is that you simply cannot have it both ways. If this God/Jesus of his is real – then he can’t rationalize what he does in his job as if it has no bearing on the big God-picture. You can’t engage in military actions that destroy lives and then take out the missal when it suits you and pray for guidance. Oh, sure, that’s all well and good with the concept of separation of church and state, but as for a religious excuse – it just doesn’t wash. Jesus doesn’t make distinctions about who you can kill or when it’s acceptable. Yes, I know, according to Christian teaching, God will forgive just about anything. So, if you kill a person a day and every night you ask God to forgive you – the theory goes – that God of course will forgive you and in the end you’ll get to go to heaven no matter how horrible you were in real life. I wonder though, does God have a maximum number of bodies that he’ll tolerate? Is he ever like, “Dubya! That’s enough! You cannot kill one more person in your war on terror! I mean it this time!”
Anyway, this whole Christian/war president equation just doesn’t add up - so what’s left is a choice - it’s either an overt and calculated lie that any of this religiosity means anything to Obama, or it’s some kind of narcissistic rationalization that makes him think he’s above the ordinary rules of God/Jesus that the rest of us are supposed to follow - he’s president so he’s extra special. Kind of like all those people that win awards and gush effusively about how they want to thank God for giving them so many blessings and all of that. Every time I hear one of these acceptance speeches I want to scream. Jesus! What does that say for the rest of us – that God doesn’t love us as much? That the fact that we tried but didn’t succeed or our dreams didn’t come true means they are loved more by God than we are? And sometimes in my more paranoid moments, it’s made me think that God was part of the inner-circle - the oligarchy, the elite, the jet set, the “haves.” On the other side of the velvet rope are not just the beautiful people, but God is sitting in there with them, drinking Cristal from a gold chalice with Beyonce. Poor, ordinary people aren’t allowed in this high-end gathering. And those of us that had bad luck or just plain failed in our endeavors – well, it wasn’t bad luck at all, it was God picking favorites.
None of this religious/Christian stuff makes any sense to me at all. But still, I really hope the whole God/Jesus story is true, especially the basic Christian tale - the one about love, charity, humility, turning the other cheek and rich people being as likely to get into heaven as a camel getting through the eye of a needle - because that could be really cool. If one day, at the gates of heaven, I see Obama, Petraeus, Cheney, Rumsfeld, the Clinton’s, Condi Rice and every last Bush (including Laura), and none of them can get in, but I’m ushered right on through the pearly gates – then all of the angst during this life, all of the unfairness, greed, lies, war and corruption – would be assuaged by some measure of justice offered up in the final chapter. And because I wasn’t greedy, murderous, selfish or narcissistic – and also because I wasn’t running around calling myself a Christian and praying in public while shrouding myself in the cloak of false piety while I did the opposite of what Christ taught, I’ll get to hang with the angels while all those politicians, military and business leaders who go to elite, networking prayer breakfasts are down there somewhere ducking demons. Yeah, that would be pretty righteous.