Iranian president Mahmood Ahmadinejad, in his 18-page letter to the American president, is suggesting George W. Bush is a bad Christian. He wrote:
Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH), the great Messenger of God, feel obliged to respect human rights, present liberalism as a civilization model, announce one’s opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and WMD’s, make “War on Terror” his slogan, and finally, work towards the establishment of a unified international community — a community which Christ and the virtuous of the Earth will one day govern, but at the same time, have countries attacked, the lives, reputations and possessions of people destroyed and on the slight chance of the presence of a few criminals in a village, city or convoy for example, the entire village city or convoy set ablaze?
The implied answer from Ahmadinejad to his own question is a clear, “No.”
Ahmadinejad goes on to list abuses at Guantanamo, support for Israel, perpetuating poverty, and invading Afghanistan, asking several times if these actions are congruent with the “teachings of Jesus Christ.”
“I have been told that Your Excellency follows the teachings of Jesus (PBUH) and believes in the divine promise of the rule of the righteous on Earth,” the Iranian president wrote. “We also believe that Jesus Christ (PBUH) was one of the great prophets of the Almighty.”
The head of the Islamic police state seems to ask Bush What Would Jesus Do, while answering emphatically that it is not what Bush is doing. No doubt the Iranian president would be delighted to know, or perhaps already knows, that many left-wing clerics in the U.S. have already been asking the identical question and drawing the identical conclusion. In fact, Ahmadinejad is late to the game. These U.S. prelates started asking even before the Iraq war.
In December 2002, the National Council of Churches helped to organize a full-page ad in the New York Times. “Jesus Changed Your Heart,” its headline blazed. “Now Let Him Change Your Mind.” A large picture of Bush in prayer was featured in the center. “President Bush, we beseech you to turn back from the brink of war on Iraq,” the ad opened. “Your war would violate the teachings of Jesus Christ.” The ad was signed by United Methodist and other mainline Protestant officials, officers of liberal Catholic orders, some Jewish clergy, and Sojourners leader Jim Wallis. The ad called the upcoming U.S. military action “unprovoked” and alleged that its cost would be “gouged out of the already unmet needs of the poor.”
“It is inconceivable that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior and the Prince of Peace, would support this proposed attack,” was one featured quote from an ad signer.
Bush having not followed the December 2002 advice of these prelates, many of them signed another ad that appeared in Christian Century magazine in April 2003. Entitled “A Prophetic Epistle from United Methodists Calling Our Brother George W. Bush to Repent,” the full-page manifesto demanded that Bush “repent” for the Iraq War and other sins.
“It is our judgment that some policies advanced by your administration give evidence of the spiritual forces of wickedness that exist in our world today,” the ad stated. It called the notion of “pre-emptive violence” incompatible with Christ and his teaching. Bush’s domestic and foreign policies were called “incompatible with the teaching and example of Christ.”
“Violence is not the way of Christ, and yet you threaten the very earth and all its inhabitants with open discussion of the use of nuclear weapons,” the ad stated. “As Christians we are convinced that weapons of mass destruction are not justifiable for any leader or nation.” The ad likewise challenged the president’s domestic policy and urged a Christ-like focus on “justice for the poor and oppressed, not (on) making the rich richer.”
More recently, the chief lobbyist for President Bush’s own United Methodist denomination declared that Bush’s response to 9/11 included “nothing Christian.” United Methodist Board of Church and Society general secretary Jim Winkler told a rally of liberal church activists in March 2006 that there is an urgent need to “impeach George W. Bush!” because of the “illegal war of aggression” against Iraq that was “sold on lies.” The War on Terror is a “war of vengeance, hatred, and fear,” Winkler insisted.
“We say war is incompatible to the teachings of Christ, but we have United Methodists who have started a war,” Winkler asked querulously last year. “Will they no longer be eligible for membership?” (Vice President Richard Cheney is also a United Methodist.)
Winkler and his American religious left allies may not agree with the Iranian president about such issues as stoning adulturers and veiling women. But they seem to be relatively agreed that Bush’s foreign policy, and probably his domestic policy, suggests that Bush is not a very good Christian.
“Undoubtedly, through faith in God and the teachings of the prophets, the people will conquer their problems,” Ahmadinejad concluded in his letter to Bush. “My question for you is: ‘Do you not want to join them?'”
Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.