January 31, 2006

Redeemed by Faith

While finally getting around to reading an article in Newsweek on Bush's tendency to surround himself with like-minded individuals and avoid dissenting opinions, a particular sentence caught my attention. "His character was forged by hard-won struggles with drink and more shadowy demons, and he has been redeemed by faith." The phrase "redeemed by faith" stuck in my head.

What does it mean to say that Bush - or anyone else - was redeemed by faith? First, we need to make sure that we agree on the meaning of these terms. "Faith" has many meanings, but I think we can agree that when the term is used in this context, it refers to a strong belief in supernatural beings for which one has no evidence. In reference to Bush, it seems likely that this use of "faith" describes his belief in the Christian god. The idea of redemption seems easier to grasp, given the context of the sentence. The most suitable definition of "redeemed" here appears to be something like "rescued" or "saved (from sin)."

Now that we have clarified the most likely meanings of these terms, we can consider the meaning of the phrase. Does Bush's belief in the supernatural somehow save or protect him? In his own mind, maybe. Believing in nonexistent entities may provide him some measure of psychological comfort. In reality, his communication of his belief may lead people with similar beliefs to experience a sense of connectedness with him. This can be useful even if the belief itself confers no benefit.

Thus, I think the statement can best be interpreted as follows: Bush's willingness to loudly proclaim his "salvation" through a mythical figure in whom many Americans still believe rescued his image in the eyes of the public. Otherwise, he might have been perceived as a moron with a drinking problem instead of a Christian moron. In this meaning, his actual belief is irrelevant; it is only his communication of it which matters. Love him or hate him, he (or his advisors) is skilled when it comes to manipulating the American people. And we are so damn eager to be manipulated.

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