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Dei-featism

On April 14th, Townhall.com ran an article by Tony Snow. Titled "Testing Our Faith," it distilled from the story of Christ's resurrection some practical lessons for those living today. Snow, who a few days later was named White House press secretary, wrote:

We take pride in our refusal to believe in things we cannot see, touch or measure. We harrumph and complain when clerics tell us that free will does not confer upon us a measure of omnipotence.

Europe has fallen more deeply for this hooey than we have, but the contagion has begun to spread. We express our vanity through such things as the self-help movement, which in its endless lose-weight, have-sex, purge-guilt, be-happy manifestations promises that one doesn't need God. The Self can do it all. Find a diet. Buy new clothes. Exercise. And bingo! Happiness (along with a trim waistline and a heart-shredding sex life) is yours. Who needs resurrection when you've got the South Beach diet?


Coming from the man who is now the Bush Administration's official voice, the notion that everyone should quit worrying about this world and look to the next is, frankly, disturbing. If a high-ranking public servant is too Republican to pretend that the government can make us citizens happy, at least he could sound confident that we can do the job for ourselves.

Instead, Snow sounds like he's throwing in the towel and inviting us all to do the same. "Interest rates? Outsourcing? Budget deficit? Health care costs? Quit bugging me, you greedy bastards--save your souls!"

Christianity, Snow seems to have forgotten, is the greatest self-help program in the history of our hemisphere. Our Pilgrim Fathers sincerely believed that God had elected them to help themselves to any doggone thing that took their fancy, be it a manse on Beacon Hill or an entire continent. To be worthy of his heart's desire--vain or kinky though it might seem to his neighbors--a man had only to earn it fairly. Max Weber called this the Protestant Work Ethic, but the idea that the Almighty blesses the active and ambitious caught on even with Catholics and Jews. It made America the kind of place where you could drive to church in a shiny new V-8 and feel just fine about it.

Spiritual navel-gazing of the sort that Snow plugs tends to go over big in crumbling empires. Romans took up monasticism when under-breeding was breaking down the tax base and feisty Saxons, Goths, and Persians were running up the defense budget. With so much of the dolce drained from the Classical Mediterranean vita, prayer and contemplation must have looked to the skittish, overtaxed middle class like the safest, most affordable pleasures going. Comforting they may well have been--but not motivating. When Attila rode in from the steppe, all anyone could think to say was that someone must have been sinning pretty heavily to buy so much grief.

Personally, I think sour-grapers like Snow have become a little too impressed by the example of our enemies, those mad monk-type Muslims who live in caves, using rocks for toilet paper. The rivals we should worry about--and consider emulating--are the Chinese. One of their most popular gods, Lu Xing, specializes in helping mortals make money--sort of a divine Robert Kiyosaki. You might see Lu Xing's statue by the cash register the next time you pick up your kung pao shrimp. He looks to be a jolly chap--as well he might, considering the sums his constituents stand to collect from us.

Hopefully, President Bush will remember that it's possible to praise a risen Lord and get seriously to work on the problem of rising gas prices. If a workable policy continues to elude him, he needn't declare an end to consumer culture and order Americans to head for the hills. He can simply say, in his churchiest tone, Mea culpa. Non sum dignus.
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2 Comments On This Entry

Minor quible. Could you post the links to the articles that you quote?

I can certainly see your point with what you quoted, i was just wondering was the entire piece like that? That do not worry if you are fat unattractive, and only make $6/hour, because Jesus died for thine sins and therefore thou art fine?
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Chronos_Titan, on May 2 2006, 11:03 AM, said:

Minor quible. Could you post the links to the articles that you quote?

I can certainly see your point with what you quoted, i was just wondering was the entire piece like that? That do not worry if you are fat unattractive, and only make $6/hour, because Jesus died for thine sins and therefore thou art fine?


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Here's the link. There's nothing wrong, really, with Snow's argument. It just sounds awfully ominous coming out at the same time as the president's warnings about rising gas prices. If Christianity helped make America great, consumerism did so no less.
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