At first blush, the tone of this year's presidential campaign may not seem any more dirty, rancorous, or partisan than other recent contests.
That President Bush's policies stir up the ire of the opposition is not unique or unexpected. Criticism based on legitimate differences in policy or ideology is useful. But this campaign has displayed a subtle undercurrent that transcends rudimentary policy differences and is instead rooted in an overt disdain for Mr. Bush. It appears that the transparency of the president's faith is the single greatest characteristic exposing him to the incessant hatred of his political detractors.
Christians should not be surprised by these attacks. The Apostle Peter clearly warned that believers would suffer for the name of Christ. Believers should expect it and not be ashamed. Believers might even praise God for such sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-19).
While never overtly flaunting his faith, Mr. Bush has not been embarrassed to profess openly that his beliefs influence both his convictions and his behavior. In what is obviously a sincere part of his life, Mr. Bush wears his faith effortlessly on his sleeve.
Many among the media and academic elites-more than any other segment of our society-have proven that they do not understand or tolerate anyone who professes a reliance on faith in Christ. They find the president's faith weak, simplistic, and altogether foolish. Scorn is not reserved for Republicans: Leaders from these same groups ridiculed Jimmy Carter 28 years ago when he candidly revealed that he too struggled with the sin of lust.
While alternative media such as blogs and talk radio are becoming more important, the frustration for Mr. Bush's supporters, and for many Christians generally, is that those scornful of the president's Christian profession have a disproportionate share of access to major broadcast, film, and print media. In countless fundraisers, concerts, and interviews, celebrities, artists, and the complicit media have praised tolerance while showing intolerance of Christians.
One lowlight of the 2004 intersection of entertainment and politics: After a concert in which she dedicated her closing song to filmmaker Michael Moore, singer Linda Ronstadt lamented, "This is an election year, and I think we're in desperate trouble and it's time for people to speak up and not pipe down. It's a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or fundamental Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment. I'd rather not know."
Even former Vice President Al Gore, in a recent interview with The New Yorker, went so far as to compare Bush's faith to "the same fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia," as if the president were no different than an Islamic terrorist. (See Quotables, Sept. 18.)
But again, harassment such as this should not come as a surprise to Christians. The Apostle Paul taught us that God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He proclaimed that the foolishness of God was wiser than man's wisdom. He warned that the person without the Spirit would not accept the things of God because they are spiritually discerned. And so it is that those who without spiritual discernment attack Mr. Bush's faith as unintelligent, foolish, and simple (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:14).
In spite of these attacks, it is hard not to marvel at how comfortable and steadfast the president appears to be in the midst of constant attack. Mr. Bush seems completely at peace with the knowledge that the stands he must take could well cost him reelection to the very office he believes he was "called" to hold.
If President Bush's faith makes him a particularly polarizing candidate, it must be comforting for him to know that he is following in Christ's steps. Jesus, certainly a misunderstood and polarizing figure, once told us, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19).
President Bush may or may not be reelected this November. Regardless of the results, he can remain at peace knowing that he has run the race.
-James B. Teela is a Michigan businessman