Skip to comments.Bush Mix of God and War Grates on Many Europeans
Posted on 04/06/2003 10:08:46 AM PDT by marshmallow
PARIS (Reuters) - The religious overtones in President Bush (news - web sites)'s speeches increasingly grate on many ears in Europe, where leaders invoking God in times of war are widely suspect of misusing faith for political purposes.
No less than the German president, French prime minister and Belgian foreign minister have joined religious leaders in expressing concern about Bush's beliefs and the place of religion in U.S. politics.
Media commentators, especially in northern European countries with Protestant heritages, have branded Bush's evangelical views as Christian fundamentalism, with some even comparing them to the Islamic fundamentalism of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites).
The discussion reflects both the widespread popular anti-war sentiment in Europe and the deeper gulf between a continent where faith is on the wane and an America where religious values probably play a more prominent political role than ever before.
German President Johannes Rau, a Protestant preacher's son who makes no secret of his own faith, reacted sharply this week on n-tv television to press reports that Bush believed defeating Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) was part of a divine plan.
"George Bush has got a completely one-sided message. I don't think a people gets a sign from God to liberate another people," he said. "Nowhere does the Bible call for crusades."
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, a vocal critic of the war, said before hostilities broke out last month that he saw Christian fundamentalism gaining influence in Washington and added: "That is, of course, a dangerous point of departure."
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, asked about a U.S. weekly's cover story on Bush and God, told Le Point magazine: "In no way can God be called on for a vote of confidence."
UNEASE AT GOD TALK
Bush's firm faith, rooted in an evangelical Protestantism that reflects an important voter bloc in his Republican party, has also prompted questions in mainstream U.S. media about how much it colors his stand on Iraq (news - web sites) and his war on terror.
In his speeches, he has asked for guidance from "the loving God behind all of life and all of history," hinted he believed there was a "divine plan" for the world and warned Americans that "we are in a conflict between good and evil."
These references may not seem so out of place in the United States, where all presidents say "God bless America" and "In God We Trust" is emblazoned on dollar bills.
But they stand out and sometimes even shock many Europeans who remember how German soldiers trooped off to World War One with "Gott mit uns" (God with us) stamped on their belt buckles.
"I believe George Bush's religious views are genuine," Cardinal Karl Lehmann, head of the German Bishop's Conference, told the Catholic weekly Rheinischer Merkur in an interview on Thursday. "But this careless way of using religious language is not acceptable anymore in today's world."
In Sweden, invoking God in politics is so unusual that parliamentarian Hans Lindqvist told Reuters: "I've never seen anything like this before."
Commentators in Britain, where Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites)'s firm but discreet Christian beliefs have also aroused critical attention, have described Bush as "chaplain in chief" and analyzed his use of religious phrases and images in detail.
"For world-weary Europe, the presidential language evokes mirth and queasiness in equal measure," The Independent wrote.
In France, where even practicing Catholic or Jewish politicians shrink from mentioning religion, the daily Le Monde reacted sharply last week to the news that the U.S. House of Representatives had called for a day of national prayer and fasting to secure divine blessings for U.S. troops in Iraq.
"This bizarre approach shocks Europeans," it said in an editorial. Its religion correspondent accused Bush and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of "gross misuse" of religion.
"One is tempted to say the destiny of America is in the hands of a small group of Protestant bigots," Henri Tincq wrote.
The religious side of Bush's thinking has attracted much less public attention in traditionally Catholic countries such as Ireland, Italy and Spain, where the Roman church has lost most of the vast influence it used to wield in secular affairs.
Media there have focused mostly on whether the Iraq conflict is a just war, sometimes quoting the pronounced anti-war stand of Pope John Paul (news - web sites) II.
Russia, which in its old communist days might have churned out caustic criticism about the White House and "the opium of the people," has also shown little interest in Bush's beliefs.
"Politicians now routinely invoke God and Orthodoxy for all sorts of things," one longtime foreign resident remarked. "You can't open a billiard hall without an Orthodox priest present." (Additional reporting by Bart Crols in Brussels, Andrew Hay in London, Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin, Patrick McLoughlin in Stockholm, Ron Popeski in Moscow, Carlos Santamaria in Madrid, Estelle Shirbon in Rome and Kevin Smith in Dublin)
Old Europe doesn't seem to be very interested in reconciling their differences with the U.S. after the Iraq war, much less in "tolerating" the faiths of others.
That's just so... liberal.
If citing religion in a speech so angers the Europeans, I wonder how they feel about being rendered instantly irrelevent as a world power by America's decision to go to war against EU/NATO's wishes.
The Axis of Whiners.
Who cares what they think?
Uhhhh ... What the f*** d'ya' think we've been all about these last 300 years or so?
Personally, I find the German mix of peace and known terrorist associates (Fischer) grating in the extreme.
I don't care what the Germans think.
Isn't their stated deference to Muslims' religious beliefs the Europeans' justification for letting themselves be swamped with immigrants who refuse to assimilate?
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