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Call to Christian Citizens: Excommunicate and Impeach George W. Bush

by Rev. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a mennonite minister and writes for the Institute for Global Engagement ( outside of Philadelphia where he lives, works and prays for peace with his wife, Leah.
For the love of God, neighbor, church and country, Christians in America ought to both excommunicate George W. Bush from Christian communion and move to impeach him from an office he has abused. That we cannot do either of these is a demonstration of our inability to love an immoral brother and a misguided country in the way Christ calls us to love. It is a failure of both Christian compassion and true patriotism. The only proper response to such sin is repentance. We must humbly ask God to be merciful to us.

We have failed on two counts: we have neglected the loving rebuke that is due a Christian brother who has been seduced by false teaching and we have forfeited our responsibility to speak out with a unified voice against the injustices of the present political regime. Our first sin, it seems, results from an internal neglect of church discipline. While American evangelicals since the early 20th century have been reticent to take stands on political issues, we have, for the most part, been insistent that our members affirm basic Christian doctrine. In our present crisis, however, we are not able to maintain even this degree of faithfulness.

Stephen Chapman, professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School, pointed out in an article for Counterpunch that George W. Bush blasphemed in his address delivered on the anniversary of September 11th. “And the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it,” Bush quoted from John’s Gospel. The trouble is that he was not referring to the light of the world, Jesus Christ. Bush suggested, instead, that America and its ideals of freedom and democracy are the hope of the world in these troubled times.

Unfortunately, this does not appear to be an isolated case of misspeaking. So far as I can tell, our brother actually believes this messianic interpretation of the American project. We have reason to fear that Bush has been deceived by an alternative spirituality. What is more, we should be concerned that he is teaching this false religion before the whole world. New Testament teaching is clear that in a case such as this what is best for the apostate and the church alike is to “cast the immoral brother out.” Only then will he understand the severity of his error and, we must pray, return to true Christian faith. Only then will those outside the church understand that Christians worship Jesus, not America. That we have failed to practice the discipline required by Scripture is an injustice to both George W. Bush and those he may lead astray.

Our second sin is somewhat different. It is our failure to speak truth to power. It is, in evangelical language, a neglect of our witness to the nation in which we live. While the church is not responsible for governing society (that is the job of government), the church is supposed to speak out against injustice and call the state to its proper function. This, however, we have failed to do sufficiently amidst the fervor of our nation’s “war on terrorism.” The death and destruction that resulted from carpet-bombing Afghanistan was met by too weak a resistance and too little assistance from the church in the U.S. The proposed war on Iraq, though questioned, will most likely take place before summer because official statements against a war from church leaders have not translated into action by church members. While Christians certainly cannot force the government to change, the fact that there are so many evangelical Christians in the present administration suggests a lack of formation and direction from our churches. We have bowed to the gods of national security and America’s “cause.” If not worshiping them, we are at least allowing them to masquerade as truth.

Meanwhile, the war drums have drowned out the cries of the poor in our own country. The present administration continues to quietly reduce our nation’s social catch net while the homeless population in New York City alone has risen from 21,000 to over 37,000. (Bush’s new economic plan proposes, among other things, a 30% reduction in the federal housing budget.) As the military budget balloons, monies for basic social services will continue to dwindle. It was Daniel Berrigan, a former priest and longtime Christian activist in New York, who first suggested to me some six months ago that we should move to impeach the president. I’ve come to believe that he is right. We should impeach president George W. Bush because he has failed to protect the poor at home while terrorizing the poor abroad. The church’s inability to say this with a unified voice is an example of our distance from the gospel of Jesus Christ. If indeed Christ is present in the “least of these,” then we have failed to speak on his behalf at the beginning if this 2003rd year of our Lord.

If the church as a whole is unable to excommunicate and impeach George W. Bush, what can we who see the need for radical action do? Faced with the unfaithfulness of the church’s witness in Nazi Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer insisted that, at the very least, those who would follow Christ must question the state publicly, care for the victims of the state’s abuses and “jam a spoke in the wheel” whenever possible. I should be clear: George W. Bush is not Adolf Hitler, and I am not suggesting an assassination attempt. But we would do well to heed Bonhoeffer’s advice in the U.S. today. In our homes, churches, schools and newspapers, let us expose and criticize the injustices that we know and see. Domestically and internationally, may the church provide relief to the poor, hungry and displaced victims of bad politics. And, finally, in whatever ways we are able, let us nonviolently subvert the powers that are possessed in this present evil age and proclaim liberty to all who are captive--not the least of whom may be our brother in Christ, George W. Bush. If nothing else, we can lift Bush up in prayer, asking God to save him from the temptation of American idolatry and turn his administration’s ear toward the cries of the poor and oppressed. As our hope is in the Creator and Redeemer of the universe, let us not be discouraged. “With man this is impossible. But with God all things are possible.”
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