Robert Wright is a visiting fellow at Princeton University's Center for Human Values and the author of "Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny." He wrote this piece for the NYT. It adds new details to Susskind's famed NYT Magazine article on 'The Power of the Will' -- Bush's faith-and-will based approach to altering reality. By Bush's own words he's a devotee of Oswald Chambers.
Bush is the American Calvinist, and the world is trapped in his beliefs -- and delusions. Emphases mine.
October 28, 2004
... there is a way to get a clearer picture of religion's role in this White House. Every morning President Bush reads a devotional from "My Utmost for His Highest," a collection of homilies by a Protestant minister named Oswald Chambers, who lived a century ago. As Mr. Bush explained in an interview broadcast on Tuesday on Fox News, reading Chambers is a way for him "on a daily basis to be in the Word."
Chambers's book continues to sell well, especially an updated edition with the language tweaked toward the modern. Inspecting the book - or the free online edition - may give even some devout Christians qualms about America's current guidance.
... the theme that dominates "My Utmost": committing your life to Jesus Christ - "absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will" - and staying committed. "If we turn away from obedience for even one second, darkness and death are immediately at work again." In all things and at all times, you must do God's will.
But what exactly does God want? Chambers gives little substantive advice. There is no great stress on Jesus' ethical teaching - not much about loving your neighbor or loving your enemy. (And Chambers doesn't seem to share Isaiah's hope of beating swords into plowshares. "Life without war is impossible in the natural or the supernatural realm.") But the basic idea is that, once you surrender to God, divine guidance is palpable. "If you obey God in the first thing he shows you, then he instantly opens up the next truth to you," Chambers writes.
And you shouldn't let your powers of reflection get in the way. Chambers lauds Abraham for preparing to slay his son at God's command without, as the Bible put it, conferring "with flesh and blood." Chambers warns: "Beware when you want to 'confer with flesh and blood' or even your own thoughts, insights, or understandings - anything that is not based on your personal relationship with God. These are all things that compete with and hinder obedience to God."
Once you're on the right path, setbacks that might give others pause needn't phase you. As Chambers noted in last Sunday's reading, "Paul said, in essence, 'I am in the procession of a conqueror, and it doesn't matter what the difficulties are, for I am always led in triumph.' " Indeed, setbacks may have a purpose, Chambers will tell Mr. Bush this Sunday: "God frequently has to knock the bottom out of your experience as his saint to get you in direct contact with himself." Faith "by its very nature must be tested and tried."
Some have marveled at Mr. Bush's refusal to admit any mistakes in Iraq other than "catastrophic success." But what looks like negative feedback to some of us - more than 1,100 dead Americans, more than 10,000 dead Iraqi civilians and the biggest incubator of anti-American terrorists in history - is, through Chambers's eyes, not cause for doubt. Indeed, seemingly negative feedback may be positive feedback, proof that God is there, testing your faith, strengthening your resolve.
This, I think, is Mr. Bush's optimism: In the longest run, divinely guided decisions will be vindicated, and any gathering mountains of evidence to the contrary may themselves be signs of God's continuing involvement. It's all good.
... Chambers himself eventually showed some philosophical flexibility. By and large, the teachings in "My Utmost for His Highest" were written before World War I (and compiled by his wife posthumously). But the war seems to have made him less sanguine about the antagonism that, he had long stressed, is inherent in life.
Shortly before his death in 1917, Chambers declared that "war is the most damnably bad thing," according to Christianity Today magazine. He added: "If the war has made me reconcile myself with the fact that there is sin in human beings, I shall no longer go with my head in the clouds, or buried in the sand like an ostrich, but I shall be wishing to face facts as they are.
If only Bush would move on to read the later Chambers, post WW I. Or if only Bush were a preacher or writer rather than President.
There are good reasons to vote for GWB. If you believe preventing abortion is the overwhelmingly important thing in the world, worth sacrificing thousands of adults and children to the pyre of war and chaos, then vote for GWB. If you believe he has been appointed by your deity to rule, then vote for GWB. If you seek the end of human civilization (radical green? millenialist), then vote for GWB.
I can't think of any other reasons.