Bush and the Ten Commandments

Bush and the Ten Commandments

No President in living memory is as overtly religious as George W. Bush. But just how well have the President and his henchmen kept the commandments?


The Bush presidency is the most overtly religious in living memory, probably in all of American history. The President has stated his belief that he has been called by God and acts as if Americans are God’s new chosen people, successors to the ancient Israelites.

Some evangelical Christians claim to base their moral code on Mosaic law, and last year the Supreme Court even allowed a six-foot granite monument engraved with the Ten Commandments to be displayed on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol, advancing the historically debatable proposition that our national legal system is based on biblical sources. But just how good has the Bush Administration’s record been when it comes to following the Ten Commandments?

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…

These two commandments are of course in direct opposition to our First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of a national religion and insures full religious freedom for American citizens. But even supposing that we accept Moses’s proscriptions, Bush and his colleagues have blatantly broken these laws. Under their aegis, Yahweh’s interests have consistently taken a back seat to those of Mammon.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

This translates roughly into a proscription against giving false testimony in God’s name. When George W. Bush took the oath of office, he elected to add the optional phrase “So help me God” to the formulaic oath each President must take to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” So, too, did subsequently disgraced Congress members like Tom DeLay and Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

In fact, all these men held the Constitution and its principles in contempt and did everything they could to undermine it. Their success is demonstrated by the fact that the Center for Constitutional Rights has called for Bush’s impeachment and has prepared and published a detailed list of articles supporting such an action.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

There is no guaranteed Sabbath observance for on-duty American military personnel in Iraq, where military expedience necessarily comes before religious observance. Neither is there any Sabbath, or for that matter any rest whatsoever, for the millions of Iraqi civilians who live in what has effectively become a full-scale war zone. These people can no longer go to work or to school or to their houses of worship without fearing for their lives and those of their loved ones.

Honor thy father and thy mother.

If we consider Bush’s widely unpopular senior healthcare plan and his sustained attempt to eviscerate Medicare, need any more be said on this subject? The president of the AFL-CIO, no less, has called the new Medicare drug plan “costly, confusing and corrupt,” “a special-interest law that puts drug companies and HMOs first” and leaves seniors “without so much as a life preserver.” As for Bush’s push to deprive Medicare of the legal right to negotiate on prices with the drug companies, this is surely one of the more obvious cases where the interests of Mammon have taken precedence over common decency.

Thou shalt not kill.

This is the King James version; the New International Version of the Bible, which has replaced the King James translation almost everywhere, reads “You shall not murder”–a difference so significant that one suspects the Pentagon hawks of having supervised the translation. But the injunction against killing is a time-honored one. The Administration’s record in Iraq alone? More than 2,500 US servicemen and -women, and many, many more Iraqis: The estimate of civilian deaths is now at well over 50,000.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Two military contractors, Mitchell Wade and Brent Wilkes, are at the center of a scandal that involved paying out millions of dollars in bribes to a group of mainly Republican Congressmen. Wade also alleges that Wilkes played a role procuring hookers for these public servants’ delectation at rowdy Washington parties. This is only one of the scandalous fruits of a political culture that has allowed such contractors to gorge on our taxpayer dollars like hogs at a trough.

Thou shalt not steal.

Biblical scholars point out that Moses would have included kidnapping in his use of the word “steal.” This leads us to one of the Administration’s most terrifying and lawless innovations: the practice they have oh-so-euphemistically dubbed “rendition.” Even though Congress approved the President’s Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 it has allowed the Administration to abduct whomsoever they please and to “render” them out of the country to so-called “black sites,” secret detention facilities outside of the United States where they are detained indefinitely, denied trial and tortured. This, of course, is also in flagrant violation of the Constitution.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

It might be a stretch of the imagination to think of Saddam Hussein as a neighbor to Bush and Cheney, but they undoubtedly bore false witness against him. The Administration’s phony claims that the Iraqi leader was allied with Al Qaeda and that he possessed weapons of mass destruction were deliberately cooked up, via the bogus Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, to justify an aggressive and illegal war.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

What about thy neighbor’s oilfield? What about thy neighbor’s country?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Bush’s “Christian” values, like his “compassionate” conservatism, have proved to be nothing but a rhetorical smokescreen for grotesquely un-Christian and uncompassionate policies.

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