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George Bush's Theology: Does President Believe He Has Divine Mandate?
Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life ^ | February 12, 2003 | Deborah Caldwell

Posted on 02/12/2003 8:35:27 PM PST by rwfromkansas

In the spring of 1999, as George W. Bush was about to announce his run for President, he agreed to be interviewed about his religious faith -- grudgingly. "I want people to judge me on my deeds, not how I try to define myself as a religious person of words."

It's hard to believe that's the same George W. Bush as now. Since taking office -- and especially in the last weeks -- Bush's personal faith has turned highly public, arguably more so than any modern president. What's important is not that Bush is talking about God but that he's talking about him differently. We are witnessing a shift in Bush's theology – from talking mostly about a Wesleyan theology of "personal transformation" to describing a Calvinist "divine plan" laid out by a sovereign God for the country and himself. This shift has the potential to affect Bush's approach to terrorism, Iraq and his presidency.

On Thursday (Feb.6) at the National Prayer Breakfast, for instance, Bush said, "we can be confident in the ways of Providence. ... Behind all of life and all of history, there's a dedication and purpose, set by the hand of a just and faithful God."

Calvin, whose ideas are critical to contemporary evangelical thought, focused on the idea of a powerful God who governs "the vast machinery of the whole world."

Bush has made several statements indicating he believes God is involved in world events and that he and America have a divinely guided mission:

-- After Bush's Sept. 20, 2001, speech to Congress, Bush speechwriter Mike Gerson called the president and said: "Mr. President, when I saw you on television, I thought -- God wanted you there." "He wants us all here, Gerson," the president responded.

In that speech, Bush said, "Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them." The implication: God will intervene on the world stage, mediating between good and evil.

At the prayer breakfast, during which he talked about God's impact on history, he also said, he felt "the presence of the Almighty" while comforting the families of the shuttle astronauts during the Houston memorial service on Feb. 4.

-- In his State of the Union address last month, Bush said the nation puts its confidence in the loving God "behind all of life, and all of history" and that "we go forward with confidence, because this call of history has come to the right country. May He guide us now."

In addition to these public statements indicating a divine intervention in world events, there is evidence Bush believes his election as president was a result of God's acts.

A month after the World Trade Center attack, World Magazine, a conservative Christian publication, quoted Tim Goeglein, deputy director of White House public liaison, saying, "I think President Bush is God's man at this hour, and I say this with a great sense of humility." Time magazine reported, "Privately, Bush even talked of being chosen by the grace of God to lead at that moment." The net effect is a theology that seems to imply that God is intervening in events, is on America's side, and has chosen Bush to be in the White House at this critical moment.

"All sorts of warning signals ought to go off when a sense of personal chosenness and calling gets translated into a sense of calling and mission for a nation," says Robin Lovin, a United Methodist ethicist and professor of religion and political thought at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Lovin says what the president seems to be lacking is theological humility and an awareness of moral ambiguity.

Richard Land, a top Southern Baptist leader with close ties to the White House, argues that Bush's sense of divine oversight is part of why he has become such a good wartime leader. He brings a moral clarity and self-confidence that inspires Americans and scares enemies. "We don't inhabit that relativist universe (of European leaders)," Land says. "We really believe some things are good and some things bad."

It's even possible that Bush's belief in America's moral rightness makes the country's military threats seem more genuine because the world thinks Bush is "on a mission."

Presidents have always used Scripture in their speeches as a source of poetry and morality, according to Michael Waldman, President Clinton's chief speechwriter, author of "POTUS Speaks" and now a visiting professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Lincoln, he says, was the first president to use the Bible extensively in his speeches, but one of the main reasons was that his audience knew the Bible -- Lincoln was using what was then common language. Theodore Roosevelt, in his 1912 speech to the Progressive Party, closed with these words: "We stand at the edge of Armageddon." Carter, Reagan and Clinton all used Scripture, but Waldman says their use was more as a "grace note."

Bush is different, because he uses theology as the guts of his argument. "That's very unusual in the long sweep of American history," Waldman says.

Bush has clearly seen a divine aspect to his presidency since before he ran. Many Americans know the president had a religious conversion at age 39, when he, as he describes it, "came to the Lord" after a weekend of talks with the Rev. Billy Graham. Within a year, he gave up drinking and joined a men's Bible study group at First United Methodist Church in Midland, Texas. From that point on, he has often said, his Christian faith has grown.

Less well known is that, in 1995, soon after he was elected Texas governor, Bush sent a memo to his staff, asking them to stop by his office to look at a painting entitled "A Charge to Keep" by W.H.D. Koerner, lent to him by Joe O'Neill, a friend from Midland. The painting is based on the Charles Wesley hymn of the same name, and Bush told his staff he especially liked the second verse: "To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill; O may it all my powers engage to do my Master's will." Bush said those words represented their mission. "What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves."

By 1999, Bush was saying he believed in a "divine plan that supersedes all human plans." He talked of being inspired to run for president by a sermon delivered by the Rev. Mark Craig, pastor of Bush's Dallas congregation, Highland Park United Methodist Church.

Craig talked about the reluctance of Moses to become a leader. But, said Mr. Craig, then as now, people were "starved for leadership" -- leaders who sacrifice to do the right thing. Bush said the sermon "spoke directly to my heart and talked about a higher calling." But in 1999, as he prepared to run for president, he was quick to add in an interview: "Elections are determined by human beings."

Richard Land recalls being part of a group of about a dozen people who met after Bush's second inauguration as Texas governor in 1999.

At the time, everyone in Texas was talking about Bush's potential to become the next president. During the meeting, Land says, Bush said, "I believe God wants me to be president, but if that doesn't happen, it's OK." Land points out that Bush didn't say that God actually wanted him to be president. He said he believed God wanted him to be president.

During World War II, the American Protestant thinker Reinhold Niebuhr wrote about God's role in political decision-making. He believed every political leader and every political system falls short of absolute justice -- that the Allies didn't represent absolute right and Hitler didn't represent absolute evil because all of us, as humans, stand under the ultimate judgment of God. That doesn't mean politicians can't make judgments based on what they believe is right; it does mean they need to understand that their position isn't absolutely morally clear.

"Sometimes Bush comes close to crossing the line of trying to serve the nation as its religious leader, rather than its political leader," says C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, a clergy-led liberal lobbying group.

Certainly, European leaders seem to be bothered by Bush's rhetoric and it possibly does contribute to a sense in Islamic countries that Bush is on an anti-Islamic "crusade."

Radwan Masmoudi, executive director of the Washington-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, worries about it. "Muslims, all over the world, are very concerned that the war on terrorism is being hijacked by right-wing fundamentalists, and transformed into a war, or at least a conflict, with Islam. President Bush is a man of faith, and that is a positive attribute, but he also needs to learn about and respect the other faiths, including Islam, in order to represent and serve all Americans."

In hindsight, even Bush's inaugural address presaged his emerging theology. He quoted a colonist who wrote to Thomas Jefferson that "We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?" Then Bush said: "Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for his inauguration. The years and changes accumulate, but the themes of this day he would know, `our nation's grand story of courage and its simple dream of dignity.'

"We are not this story's author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. Yet his purpose is achieved in our duty, and our duty is fulfilled in service to one another. Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose today; to make our country more just and generous; to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life.

"This work continues. This story goes on. And an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm."

TOPICS: Current Events; Evangelical Christian; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: bush; catholiclist; providence; religion
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To: ultima ratio
You're blind, as usual.
121 posted on 02/14/2003 9:00:53 AM PST by Polycarp
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To: St.Chuck; ultima ratio
I am not surprised that you are a Bush-bot, and blame bubba for everything type. That is fitting with your other allegiences.

Bush is a far more moral man than Clinton (in every way), and takes his responsibility to protect American citizens far more seriously than Clinton ever did.

122 posted on 02/14/2003 9:02:45 AM PST by yendu bwam
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To: ultima ratio
At this point, no it is not about oil. The oil fields in the actual USA, all 50 states, can produce more than Middle East - if the enviro-whackos would take a seat. That's not it.

The terrorism is the main point. We Americans are very naive when it comes to this. Terrorism networks are hard to penetrate, according to all reports. And until we neutralize the terrorism, we'll all be stocking up on duct tape, plastic, water, food, etc. Well, and oxygen. Seal off a room, like they're talking about, and suffrocation will kill you before biological warfare will.
123 posted on 02/14/2003 9:05:26 AM PST by Desdemona (Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us.)
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To: Polycarp; Jim Robinson; Admin Moderator
As a frequent poster on Catholic threads, I have to take issue with your characterization. And I also seriously question the wisdom of turning this issue into a "holy war." FreeRepublic offers us an unparalleled opportunity to discuss issues and exchange ideas in an open forum. Biting the hand that feeds us is both bad policy and ingratitude.

Polycarp, this post is a good example of the sort of thing that should not be allowed. Why should Jim Robinson have to tolerate unfair personal attacks in exchange for the benefits that he has offered to us? Let me say that all Catholics are not so ungrateful. Nor do we all attribute evil motives where there is no evidence for them.

Personally, I agree with CatholicGuy's general premise that a proposed attack on Iraq does not rise to the qualifications of a just war. But that does not give me the right to cross over the line into personal assaults on the characters of everyone who disagrees with me.

Maybe we need a spell-checker that automatically flags words like "bigoted," letting us know that we are straying over the line from intelligent discussion into the realm of character assassination.
124 posted on 02/14/2003 9:06:12 AM PST by Maximilian
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To: Desdemona
The other thing Bubba did was completely decimate our intelligence capability rather than quadrupling it, like should have happened.

No one bears more responsibility for 9/11 than Clinton. History writers in 40-50 years will clearly see that.

125 posted on 02/14/2003 9:06:51 AM PST by yendu bwam
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To: Maximilian
But that does not give me the right to cross over the line into personal assaults on the characters of everyone who disagrees with me.

I agree, Maximilian.

126 posted on 02/14/2003 9:08:41 AM PST by yendu bwam
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To: Domestic Church
***"CG, are you French?" Almost lost the keyboard with the coffee on that one,lol!***

I put a notch on my desk for every keyboard or computer screen sprayed with coffee. :0)

BTW, I have a method of cleaning coffee out of keyboards that works.
127 posted on 02/14/2003 9:09:11 AM PST by drstevej
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To: ultima ratio
In point of fact, it is the French and Germans who have taken the stances they have taken for the sake of countless illegitimate commercial contracts with Iraq on terms incredibly favorable to the French and Germans.

True. And the French are very afraid of their soon-to-be exposure as an illegal nuclear weapons provider to Saddam.

128 posted on 02/14/2003 9:10:26 AM PST by yendu bwam
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To: Desdemona
The terrorism is the main point.

You're right, Desdemona. Bush simply believes (as do I) that we need to get them (and they are a form of evil - that wishes to kill us and our wives and our children) - before they get us. He is right.

129 posted on 02/14/2003 9:12:04 AM PST by yendu bwam
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To: BlackElk
There is much more to this situation than meets the eye.

You are correct, BlackElk.

130 posted on 02/14/2003 9:13:22 AM PST by yendu bwam
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To: Polycarp
Then why not just quit yer bitchin, and be happy???? :0)
131 posted on 02/14/2003 9:16:35 AM PST by Chad Fairbanks (We've got, you know, armadillos in our trousers. I mean, it's really quite frightening.)
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To: al_c
"In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son...". [Heb. 1:1-2]

God's speaking to us by his Son is the _culmination_ of his speaking to mankind and is _his greatest and final revelation_ to mankind.

(The exceptional greatness of the revelation that comes through the Son, far exceeds any revelation in the Old Covenant as noted over and over again in the first and second chapters of Hebrews.)

Once the writings of the New Testament apostles and their authorized companions were completed, we have everything that God wants us to know about the life, death, & resurrection of Christ, and its meaning for the lives of believers _for all time_. In this way Hebrews 1 & 2 shows us why no more writings can be added to the Bible after the time of the New Testament. The canon is now closed.

It is not accidental that the apostle John wrote that warning (about adding or subtracting to the words of Scripture) in the very last chapter of the very last book of the Bible. [Rev.22:18-19]

For many books, their placement in the canon is of little consequence. But just as Genesis must be placed first (because it tells us of creation), so Revelation must be placed last (because its focus is to tell us of the future and God's new creation). ...

Thus, it is not appropriate for us to understand this exceptionally strong warning at the end of Revelation as applying in a secondary way to the whole of Scripture.

Placed here, where it must be placed, the warning forms an appropriate conclusion to the entire canon of Scripture. Along with Heb.1 & 2 and the history-of-redemption perspective implicit in those verses, this broader application of Rev.23:18-19 also suggests to us that we should expect no more Scripture to be added beyond what we already have.

The warning God gave through John in Rev.22 shows that God himself places supreme value on our having a correct collection of God-breathed writings, no more, no less. He's quite able to see to it that we have them. The closed canon we have today is God's doing. What we have didn't depend on men.

In fact, some of the earliest writers CLEARLY distinguished the difference between what they wrote and the writings of the apostles. In A.D.110, Ignatius said, "I do not order you as did Peter and Paul; THEY WERE APOSTLES, I am a convict; they were free, I am even until now, a slave".

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would see to it that the disciples would be able to remember and record without error all that he had said to them when he was with them. [John 14:26; 16:13. See also: 2 Pet.3:2; 1 Cor.2:13; 1 Thess.4:15; and Rev. 22:18-19].

So in compiling the canon of Scripture, the work of the early church was not to bestow divine authority or even ecclesiastical authority upon some merely human writings --- but to RECOGNIZE the divinely authored characteristics of writings that already had such a quality.

This is because the ultimate criterion of canonicity is divine authorship --- (as Jesus promised) --- NOT human or ecclesiastical approval.

In A.D. 367 the Thirty-ninth Paschal Letter of Athanasius contained an exact list of the twenty-seven New Testament books we have today.

The Apocrypha is not divinely authoritive.

If the sovereign God thought that the Apocrypha should have been included in the canon of Scripture, it would be there.

Even though Jerome included those books in his Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible (A.D. 404) he specifically said himself that they were not "books of the canon" but merely "books of the church" that were helpful and useful to believers.

The Roman Catholic Church didn't even declare the Apocrypha to be a part of the canon until 1546. In affirming the Apocrypha as within the canon, RC's held that the RCC had the authority to constitute a literary work as "Scripture".

The Apocrypha CONTRADICTS the Scriptures, but they do serve to support Rome's teachings -- such as prayers for the dead and justification by faith _PLUS_ works, not by faith alone.

REFORMERS deny that Rome can make something to be Scripture that God hasn't already caused to be written as his own words. The Apocrypha are not "God-breathed" words, and they weren't even considered to be Scripture by Jesus or the NT authors.

Roger Beckwith writes: "On the question of the canonicity of the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha the truly primitive Christian evidence is negative."

(The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and Its Background in Early Judaism - London: SPCK, 1985, and Grand Rapids: Eerdman's, 1986 - esp. pp 436-437)

The preservation and correct assembling of the canon of Scripture was an integral part of the history of redemption itself. Just as God was at work in creation, calling his people Isreal, in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and in the early work and writings of the apostles, so God was at work in the preservation and assembling together of the books of Scripture for the benefit of his people for the entire church age.

God's greatest revelation to mankind was written down by the apostles. We have everything we need to know about the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and its meaning for the lives of believers for all time.

No more writings can be added to the Bible after the time of the New Testament.[Heb 1:1-2 Rev.22:18-19]

Only those who don't believe that God is sovereign would doubt his faithfulness to his people and think that he would allow something to be missing from Scripture for almost 2,000 years that he thinks we need to know for obeying him and trusting him fully. The canon of Scripture today is exactly what God wanted it to be, and it will stay that way until Christ returns.

The apostle Paul: "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man (one of "the brethren" in whom is the Holy Spirit) makes judgements about all things, but he, himself is not subject to __ANY__ man's judgement". [1 Cor.2:14]

CAVEAT reiteration: Unless one has "the mind of Christ" he will consider the infallible Word of God (Scripture) as "foolishness" and won't be able to discern spiritual truth from error, so what I wrote above is only for those who have "ears to hear".
132 posted on 02/14/2003 9:20:39 AM PST by Matchett-PI (Clinton: "Republican dogs ate my anti-terrorism policy")
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To: Polycarp
Of course the Pope opposes this war. He is a liberal, blind to the suffering of the Iraqis under Saddam, adverse to whatever the US proposes to the contrary. Not surprising at all.
133 posted on 02/14/2003 9:32:08 AM PST by ultima ratio
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To: Polycarp
"Cute. On par with your usual anti-Catholic histrionics." ~ Polycarp

On the contrary. I am pro-catholic church.

The universal church is the only Christian church.

Unfortunately, you don't understand that there is a huge difference between the tyranny that is in Romanism and the freedom that is in the holy catholic church.

America's founding fathers were Calvinist *Christian* libertarians, believing in INTERNAL (self) restraint.

"In terms of population alone, a high percentage of the pre-revolutionary American colonies were of Puritan-Calvinist background. There were around three million persons in the thirteen original colonies by 1776, and perhaps as many as two-thirds of these came from some kind of Calvinist or Puritan connection" (Douglas F. Kelly, The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World — (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992), p. 120.

"The U.S. Constitution is a Calvinist's document through and through."

And because of that, they made sure that in America, one man’s liberty will not depend upon another man’s (religious) conscience (as in Europe)!

Dr. George Bancroft, arguably the most prominent American historian of the 19th century — and not a Calvinist — stated:

"He who will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty"

The 55 Framers (from North to South):

John Langdon, Congregationalist (Calvinist)
Nicholas Gilman, Congregationalist (Calvinist)
Elbridge Gerry, Episcoplian (Calvinist)
Rufus King, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
Caleb Strong, Congregationalist (Calvinist)
Nathaniel Gorham, Congregationalist (Calvinist)
Roger Sherman, Congregationalist (Calvinist)
William Samuel Johnson, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
Oliver Ellsworth, Congregationalist (Calvinist)
Alexander Hamilton, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
John Lansing, Dutch Reformed (Calvinist)
Robert Yates, Dutch Reformed (Calvinist)
William Patterson, Presbyterian (Calvinist)
William Livingston, Presbyterian (Calvinist)
Jonathan Dayton, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
David Brearly, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
William Churchill Houston, Presbyterian (Calvinist)
Benjamin Franklin, Christian in his youth, Deist in later years, then back to his Puritan background in his old age (his June 28, 1787 prayer at the Constitutional Convention was from no "Deist")
Robert Morris, Episcopalian, (Calvinist)
James Wilson, probably a Deist
Gouverneur Morris, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
Thomas Mifflin, Lutheran (Calvinist-lite)
George Clymer, Quaker turned Episcopalian (Calvinist)
Thomas FitzSimmons, Roman Catholic
Jared Ingersoll, Presbyterian (Calvinist)
John Dickinson, Quaker turned Episcopalian (Calvinist)
George Read, Episcopalian, (Calvinist)
Richard Bassett, Methodist
Gunning Bedford, Presbyterian (Calvinist)
Jacob Broom, Lutheran
Luther Martin, Episcopalian, (Calvinist)
Daniel Carroll, Roman Catholic
John Francis Mercer, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
James McHenry, Presbyterian (Calvinist)
Daniel of St Thomas Jennifer, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
George Washington, Episcopalian (Calvinist; no, he was not a deist)
James Madison, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
George Mason, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
Edmund Jennings Randolph, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
James Blair, Jr., Episcopalian (Calvinist)
James McClung, ?
George Wythe, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
William Richardson Davie, Presbyterian (Calvinist)
Hugh Williamson, Presbyterian, possibly later became a Deist
William Blount, Presbyterian (Calvinist)
Alexander Martin, Presbyterian/Episcopalian (Calvinist)
Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr., Episcopalian (Calvinist)
John Rutledge, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, III, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
Abraham Baldwin, Congregationalist (Calvinist)
William Leigh Pierce, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
William Houstoun, Episcopalian (Calvinist)
William Few, Methodist

The founders identified the 13 colonies of their union as "Free Protestant". As Protestants, their Declaration in 1776 that "all men are created equal (in authority) " was consistent with the doctrine of their founder, the man who first openly protested the hierarchy of men (the pope and priests in the Roman Chatholic Church) over Christians. His name was Martin Luther. He was a Roman Catholic priest from Germany who began the "Protestant Reformation". He stated the following:

"I say, then, neither pope, nor bishop, nor any man whatever has the right of making one syllable binding on a Christian man, unless it be done with his own consent.

Whatever is done otherwise is done in the spirit of tyranny...I cry aloud on behalf of liberty and conscience, and I proclaim with confidence that no kind of law can with any justice be imposed on Christians, except so far as they themselves will; for we are free from all."

by Stephen L. Corrigan -

134 posted on 02/14/2003 9:36:46 AM PST by Matchett-PI (Clinton: "Republican dogs ate my anti-terrorism policy")
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To: sinkspur
Podiatry is not a thriving practice in third-world countries.

This may be one of the most idiotic things you have ever posted. I imagine in part it comes from your lack of experience in third world nations as well as your desire to belittle and demean Polycarp.

135 posted on 02/14/2003 9:46:08 AM PST by Siobhan ( Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet )
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To: Matchett-PI
Your cut and paste is woefully wrong as it relates to the Episcopalians on the list.
136 posted on 02/14/2003 9:48:02 AM PST by Siobhan ( Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet )
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To: Polycarp
It looks as though only Divine Intervention will straighten out the moral sewer this once great nation has become.

Maybe you could start your own nation, with you in charge.

Then you, at least, would be happy.

Hoping for some kind of cataclysm to teach your fellow citizens a lesson is, frankly, sick. Some of that hellfire could splash over in your back yard, too.

137 posted on 02/14/2003 9:49:21 AM PST by sinkspur
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To: drstevej
BTW, I have a method of cleaning coffee out of keyboards that works. M

How 'bout beer?

138 posted on 02/14/2003 9:52:36 AM PST by conservonator
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To: Siobhan
I imagine in part it comes from your lack of experience in third world nations as well as your desire to belittle and demean Polycarp.

It comes entirely from my desire to belittle Polycarp's Fallwellian-Robinsonian notion that God needs to hurl down some hellfire to teach sinners a lesson.

It's a childish notion that is human in origin, not divine.

139 posted on 02/14/2003 9:53:18 AM PST by sinkspur
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To: Desdemona
Most of the world is anti-Catholic. Get used to it. I've never seen Catholics complain more about it than I have here.

FreeRepublic is here to supposedly act as a forum for those who love the Constitution and the Republic in which we live. It does not have a secondary heading that says "except for you Catholics". Where Catholics live in large concentrations we rarely encounter the kind of hostility that comes out on internet forums like this one. And encountering the hostility means making a choice to fight it or to roll over and play dead.

"Getting used to it" or "rolling over and playing dead" is not the answer. And if you recognize that most of the world is "anti-Catholic" are you suggesting that we should shut up and accept the back of the bus or second-class citizenship?

140 posted on 02/14/2003 9:56:53 AM PST by Siobhan ( Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet )
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