Through the vagaries of cyberspace, a curious message recently materialized in the in-box of my e-mail program. From the contents, I infer that the wraith of Thomas Jefferson attended a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. After the prandial affair, Jefferson apparently e-mailed John Adams, a favorite correspondent in their twilight years. Unfortunately, Jefferson’s message seems to have bounced. Here is what it says:
I accede to your superior powers of prognostication. Science has not, as I had predicted it would, liberated the minds of men from rank superstition and ecclesiastical imposition. In the 21st century, I discover to my disappointment and chagrin that priestly dogma infects the highest levels of American government. The president, one George W. Bush, masquerades as ex officio priest-in-chief of a Holy American Empire. At a “prayer breakfast” attended by foreign dignitaries, congressmen, and prominent clerics, Mr. Bush bid the populace turn to prayer in the wake of foreign and domestic perils precipitated by enclaves of Mohammedan saboteurs.
To prayer, I say, not to reason! The ubiquitous terrors had put him, he said, “on bended knee.” Might you think, sir, he was petitioning a despot swayed by servility, a Potentate who rewards the obsequious, an omnipotent Creator actuated by vanity? Truly, Mr. Bush exhibits the inveterate supplicancy of a superstitious cleric. “I pray,” he said. I pray for strength, I pray for guidance, I pray for forgiveness. And I pray to offer my thanks for a kind and generous Almighty God.” Sir, this president and the electorate are indissolubly bonded in ritual prayer. Mr. Bush said: “See, I work the ropelines a lot [ropelines, I infer, are security devices to quarantine the president from his supporters], and I hear all kinds of things on the ropelines. But the thing I hear the most, the comment I hear the most from our fellow citizens, regardless of their political party or philosophy, is, ‘Mr. President, I pray for you and your family.’ I turn to them without hesitation and say, ‘the greatest gift you can give anybody, is to pray on their behalf.'” As you will note, both Mr. Bush and the populace embrace a deity who intervenes in the course of nature when implored to do so. Their deity is manifestly deficient in initiative and an ungodly bungler! Is he not like an inept wainwright who builds wagons with shoddy wheels he must perpetually adjust?
Our priest-president entertains a Pauline estimation of religious faith. Faith, it appears, is an absolute Johannes Factotum. Faith strengthens, faith abides, faith surmounts every obstacle, faith never faileth. Regrettably, Mr. Bush did not clarify the operant mechanism by which faith effects its preternatural wonders. “Faith,” nevertheless, “shows one the way to self-giving, to love our neighbors as we would want to be loved.”
Woefully, the federal fiscal policy eludes the reach of faith. Mr. Bush purports to endorse the moral counsel of Jesus Christ. One might therefore conceive that Mr. Bush would conform schemes of taxation to Jesuine ethical precepts. The historical Jesus, sifted from the mythic figure of triune humbuggery, threatened mammon with eternal damnation. He unremittingly contemned Dives, the exemplar of superfluous riches. The Galilean, sir, as you know, was a paladin for the poor, the destitute, the downtrodden.
Does our people’s president, then, fetter plutocrats in leaden chains of taxation? “Indeed, he must,” you will say. Otherwise, he would be impugned as deficient in rectitude, a Janus-faced Pharisee. Well, sir, hear and perpend. This humble servant of the Lord has engineered leviathan tax cuts, a disproportionate share of which goes to Dives. You hear true, sir. My mental faculties, though wrapped in spectral shroud, perform their wonted function.
Hear a sequel. Impelled by a dubious casus belli, our disciple of the Prince of Peace has sent his puissant armies to a remote rib of earth called Iraq, a hapless remnant of the Ottoman Empire, inhabited by Mussulmen of mutually contentious sects, further evidence, sir, of your prophetic acumen. The earth veritably teems with Mussulman and Christian! In Iraq, I say, officially to sow democracy and strengthen international security, Mr. Bush’s armies lay waste to city and countryside, not invariably punctilious in distinguishing friend and foe. Owing to imprecise engines of war and errant reconnaissance, thousands of citizens die. While in some circles Mr. Bush passes for a savior of the Iraqi masses and a protector of his own people, the war handsomely rewards plutocrats. Through reconstructive projects in the devastated land and access to new resources, plutocratic profiteers flourish while the hoi polloi, as ever, go a-begging. And yet, sir, so has the popular mind of the 21st century prostituted itself to mummeries of piety and patriotism that George W. Bush, confidant of plutocrats, passes for friend of the commoner. Mirabile dictu.
With kindly regards and best wishes, as ever your humble … etc.,