All’s Right With the World ?

by John Quiggin on February 1, 2006

While we’re on the subject of religion, I happened (via Charles Dodgson at Through the Looking Glass) to discover that George Bush rarely goes to church (behind paywall, but the intro gives you the basics).

NTTAWWT – I’m sure he goes more often than I do. But it struck me as a blogworthy factoid.

{ 55 comments }

1

Harald Korneliussen 02.01.06 at 4:05 am

Isn’t he a house church fellowship guy, anyway? Doesn’t seem very blogworthy to me, sorry.

2

bad Jim 02.01.06 at 4:14 am

Not to worry; you probably visit your neighborhood observatory more often.

3

abb1 02.01.06 at 4:17 am

He doesn’t need to go to church for God speaks directly to him and through him. He is a church.

4

John Quiggin 02.01.06 at 4:33 am

“Doesn’t seem very blogworthy to me, sorry”

It’s always struck me as paradoxical that anyone would take the effort to type a comment like this.

It reminds me (not sure why) of the story I was told of a maths lecturer, who wrote a result on the blackboard and said “This is trivial”. This was followed by a pause, which went on and on. After twenty minutes, the lecturer said “Yes. It is trivial” and continued writing.

5

nick s 02.01.06 at 4:34 am

Why use a phone box when you have a direct line?

6

Marc Mulholland 02.01.06 at 6:42 am

When I kept my blog up, I posted stuff on Northern Ireland on a semi-regular basis. This always elicited an immediate response from some bloke who insisted that Ulster is boring, full of atavistic oiks of no interest to the world. I also found it difficult to understand why he bothered.

7

derek 02.01.06 at 7:27 am

I’m sure he goes more often than I do.

But much, much less often than Bill and Hillary Clinton do, and did as President and First Lady. They attended a church near the White House weekly. Yet millions of red state voters will tell you who is the godless man and who the godly. Triumph of propaganda over reality.

8

Z 02.01.06 at 7:41 am

It reminds me (not sure why) of the story I was told of a maths lecturer, who wrote a result on the blackboard and said “This is trivial”. This was followed by a pause, which went on and on. After twenty minutes, the lecturer said “Yes. It is trivial” and continued writing.

By the way, this story is true and its hero is none other that Robert Aumann. In an interview I read, he justified his behavior by blaming the noise in the classroom that prevented him to organize his thoughts.

9

Brendan 02.01.06 at 8:21 am

Ah, but how often does God visit the White House?

(Cue jokes about Burning Bushes etc.)

10

The Unknown Professor 02.01.06 at 8:26 am

Interesting fact. I can see a couple of stories that fit it:

– He’s a “legitimate” christian that gets fellowship other than in an organized church setting (i.e. small groups, home fellowship, etc…)

– he’s a hypocrite that uses faith as a marketing tool

– He doesn’t feel the need for organized, large church worship

– His schedule makes it difficult

Does the article give any indication as to which is which? So far, with the scanty factoid only, I think it’ll be used as confirmation of commentators’ previous biases about the President (good or bad). So far, it seems to already be.

11

John Isbell 02.01.06 at 8:42 am

I’m not sure that the saved have to attend church, from an evangelical viewpoint. Cue Confessions of a Justified Sinner (a great book).

12

Bro. Bartleby 02.01.06 at 8:53 am

And what are the Secret Service logistics for the President to attend a ‘normal’ church service?

13

Matt McGrattan 02.01.06 at 9:02 am

Bor. Bartleby:

The fact that previous Presidents have attended regularly suggests that’s not really an issue, eh?

14

A. 02.01.06 at 9:06 am

The article addresses all of the objections:

1) some say you don’t have to go to church to be religious, but Republicans “have made much political hay…over polls that indicate Democratic voters attend church less frequently than Republicans, so even the most brazen feel compelled to offer explanations for Bush’s absence from church membership rolls.”

2) As to having time to go to church, the article mentions that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton regularly attended, and “For a presidential delegator like Bush–who has freed up enough time to spend approximately one-third of his presidency on vacation–finding a few hours for church should be a snap.” I’d also note all the time Bush spends on the treadmill.

3) As for security measures: “As it happens, I attended Foundry United Methodist Church for several years during the late ’90s when the Clintons were members there. The only imposition was the extra ten seconds it took to walk through a metal detector. Parishioners did not leave the church in droves; on the contrary, many were pleasantly surprised to find that the Clintons played an active role in church life, particularly while Chelsea was involved in the choir and youth group.”

4) She then discusses the interesting claim that *not* going to church shows what a good Christian he is, because he doesn’t need to wear his religion on his sleeve: “”This president has not made an issue of where he goes to church,” says Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “I find it refreshing that we don’t have a president coming out of church with a large Bible under his arm.”” Hmm.

5) She agrees with the you don’t have to go to church line: “He no doubt observes the Sabbath in his own way, as do millions of Americans who identify themselves as religious but don’t attend church. Bush has been shaped by a “small-group” mentality, emphasizing a one-on-one relationship with God over the experience of Christian fellowship in a community.”

6) And also suggests another possibility: “Or it could be that Bush’s faith, while sincere, is not terribly deep. Aikman, who had significant access to Bush confidantes while writing his book, has said that he “could not get from anybody a sort of credo of what [Bush] believes.” Nevertheless, Aikman pressed on by “intuit[ing]” Bush’s faith and presenting as evidence of the president’s deep spiritual commitment his fondness for carrots and jogging (apparently a response to the scriptural admonition to treat the body as a temple for God) and the politeness of White House staffers (“though manners are not specifically connected to George W.’s personal religious faith, it was as though the discipline he brought to his own life of prayer and Bible study filtered down into the work habits of everyone who worked with him”).””

7) And she closes by noting that Kerry’s church habits were scrutinized extensively by the right, and wonders why Bush has gotten a free pass: “It’s not as if political reporters have ignored the church-going habits of Bush’s opponent. During the “John Kerry Wafer Watch,” they have done everything short of inspect the senator’s molars for evidence of any unswallowed Host. Hyperbole? A recent Kerry campaign pool report included this observation: “Both Mr. and Mrs. received communion, taking the host from the priests in their hands (others took direct to mouth). They spent ample time on the kneeler.””

15

Giovanni Ribisi 02.01.06 at 9:39 am

I’m surprised this is still news to anyone on the left. The infrequency of Bush’s church attendance has been reported numerous times in the media, including the Boston Globe and NYT. Like so many other cognitively dissonant facts about Bush (i.e. that he was a cheerleader, a draft dodger, a cocaine abuser, he panicked during 9/11, was an awful businessman, is an elitist who went to the most elite of the elite East Coast schools, was born with a silver spoon and has never done an honest day’s work in his life), the fact that Bush does not appear to actually be very devout is simply ignored by the American people who continue to believe, for whatever reason, that Bush is a strong determined pious leader who understands the common man. When in history has the discrepancy between the actual man and his public image been this large? Can we blame all this on the media? Or is there a segment of the population just so desperate to believe in the myth of Bush that no facts will ever persuade them?

16

abb1 02.01.06 at 9:48 am

Well, at least he doesn’t speak French or go windsurfing or spend Christmas outside Cambodian borders. There’s a choice of two and all you have to do is to pick the lesser evil.

17

yabonn 02.01.06 at 9:48 am

Butbutbut… Isn’t it obvious?

Bush goes less often to the church because he sins less.

C’mon. That’s Wingnutese 101.

18

jacob 02.01.06 at 10:11 am

“NTTAWWT”?

19

Daniel 02.01.06 at 10:26 am

I’m guessing “Not That That’s …” but coming up short on the rest. Google is no help as it seems to turn up page after page of people saying “this is gibberish, what the hell does NTTAWWT mean”.

20

Hogan 02.01.06 at 10:35 am

NTTAWWT=Not that there’s anything wrong with that (from the Seinfeld episode, a tag line attached to Jerry and George’s repeated denials that they’re gay).

Like so many Americans, Bush apparently spends his Sundays worshipping in the Church of the NFL, communing with the sacred pretzels.

21

abb1 02.01.06 at 10:37 am

22

Ray 02.01.06 at 10:38 am

I think it stands for “Not That That’s All Wussy Wombat Tucker”, but I don’t speak fluent Stralian.

23

Mrs Tilton 02.01.06 at 10:40 am

Jacob and Daniel,

does this help?

Jerry: Lots of my friends are gay!
George: My father is gay!

If you haven’t yet given the Seinfeld Season 4 DVD the full attention it deserves, John’s abbreviation seems to refer to the ritual phrase ‘Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That’.

24

Walt Pohl 02.01.06 at 10:48 am

Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

25

yonray 02.01.06 at 10:59 am

Yes, Bush has been good at establishing axioms about himself that go relatively unchallenged. A pal once suggested to me – and I was nearly shocked at the very idea – that in fact he never came off the booze, citing his regular ranching-bike accidents as potentially indicative. So perhaps he feels a touch indisposed on Sabbath morns, and instead sneaks off to worship on other moments of the week when the media aren’t watching. Remember: where there’s a church there’s a pub. (Full disclosure: both pal and I are hard drinkers. TOTKO.)

26

Gene O'Grady 02.01.06 at 10:59 am

Frankly, (and for what it’s worth I do go to church a lot), I’m much more concerned with his disrespect for language and flaunting of his verbal ineptitude. If there’s one book that separates Christians who love it from others whom it leaves cold it’s the one that begins “In the beginning was the word.” From what I know of Protestant and Interdenominational bible study and groups and the verbal skills (not to mention cultivation of humility) developed in them I can’t imagine Bush has put much effort into them. Hand Ashcroft the book, let him open it to the text of the day and read and lead a discussion, and, while I might disagree with much of what he said I’m pretty sure it would a dignified and serious performance. But Bush???

27

C.J.Colucci 02.01.06 at 12:26 pm

It’s fair game to doubt W’s fundamental religious seriousness on the ground that he is not a fundamentally serious person. Not going to church is consistent with some types of serious religiosity, but I suspect that W isn’t one of those.

28

Bro. Bartleby 02.01.06 at 12:50 pm

Bro. Peter just emailed me this point that I tend to agree with:

“I’d also like to argue that the mainstream of Christianity throughout the last 1,500 years, and particularly evident in the last 200 years, has been for the majority of practitioners, not a practice-oriented religion, but a Sunday religion, a religion of ‘do what you want as long as you subscribe to the right things and you show up on Sunday to keep the institution going.’ It has fostered an extraordinarily limited view of human capacity. It has, in a sense, been co-opted by its own attitude and approach, by materialism. I know this is not necessarily a nice thing to say, and as I said in the beginning, I’m not asking you to agree with it. I’m just asking you to consider it.”

29

Bro. Bartleby 02.01.06 at 1:00 pm

Oh my, now Bro. Cosmos pipes in with:

“In many respects, President Bush governs in a Taoist way. For example, the Tao is deeply skeptical of intellectuals and abstract concepts: “The more you know, the less you understand.” “He who tries to shine dims his own light.” “The master doesn’t talk, he acts.” “True words aren’t eloquent; eloquent words aren’t true.” What could be more heretical to the silver-tongued devils at the New York Times? This is one of the main reasons they despise him, because his natural simplicity is a rebuke to their unnatural, convoluted, and “nuanced” complexity.”

30

Steve 02.01.06 at 1:01 pm

BusHitlerMcChimpy goes to church less often because if he did, he’d burst into flames. That’s sophisticated educatese 101.

Oh. And he also says ‘nucular’ (snort, cough chablis out of one’s nose, rationalize one’s fear of enlisting in the military at 18,and lament the redstates while riding home in a Volvo).

Steve

31

abb1 02.01.06 at 1:57 pm

I do believe a Yale University graduate (Bachelor of Arts degree in history) with Masters of Business Administration from Harvard who says ‘nucular’ should indeed be worried about bursting into flames while in church.

32

Slayton I. Mustgo 02.01.06 at 2:06 pm

He is also a Bible-study Christian who claims that Christ never said anything about capital punishment. Now, I don’t want to be the first to cast a stone, but…

33

rollo 02.01.06 at 2:23 pm

32 –
The second stone’s the one.

This all rests on your definition of what religion is.
Or what your definition of “what religion is” is.
The polarity double-whammy triangulation knee-jerk reactionary defense posture is to ridicule and feel smugly superior. To a man whose buffoonish incompetence has seen him through two elections to the most powerful human office the world’s ever known.
Religion that can’t account for that bizarre and unsettling fact isn’t worth much – but then a pragmatic world-view that can’t do anything about it isn’t worth much either.

34

abb1 02.01.06 at 4:08 pm

Yo, smart CT people: is Daniel C. Dennett one of your bad guys, like Steven Pinker or is he a OK guy? Heard him on this program today: Religion’s Evolutionary Origins, it was interesting… He has a new book.

35

Peter 02.01.06 at 4:10 pm

The phrase “Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That” must always be accompanied by a certain symmetric movement of both hands, downwards and outwards from the body, as if parting water in front of the speaker. J. Seinfeld was insistent on this, as can be evidence by the episode mentioned. Simply saying the phrase — or, heaven forfend, merely the acronym — loses the comedic impact.

36

John Quiggin 02.01.06 at 4:12 pm

“rationalize one’s fear of enlisting in the military at 18”

This seems to me an odd point to try and score in a discussion of George W. Bush.

But Steve, having presumably enlisted at 18 yourself, how did you and your fellows feel about people like Bush who got cushy billets in the Reserves while others were at war?

37

nick s 02.01.06 at 4:45 pm

28, 29: have you received a pigeon-posted missive from Bro. Bullshit yet?

Remember, too, the fevered ‘Kerry Communion Watch’ among the press in the autumn of 2004, which neglected to mention whether Bush ever stuck his lying arse on a pew during the same period.

38

Thomas 02.01.06 at 5:05 pm

This comes as a tremendous relief. So much that I’d read tried to convince me that he was some sort of fervent fundamentalist!

Of course, I’d always heard that from his opponents, not his supporters.

39

Henry (not the famous one) 02.01.06 at 5:39 pm

I was going to raise the Seinfeld connection as comment number three, but thought it was too obvious. As is the variant “blogworthy,” which no one else has connected to the original Larry David script. Let us now beat this particular dead horse over the next few comments.

As for the actual issue at hand, I would guess that there is nothing more taxing for Bush than having to sit in a pew, probably an uncomfortable one, and listen to someone for more than an hour. Clinton could do that standing on his head; Bush, whether he has ADD or not, just can’t.

40

John Quiggin 02.01.06 at 5:56 pm

Thomas, a Google search on Bush + “fervent fundamentalist” produces very few hits relevant to your claim (unlike, say, Bush + hypocrite).

41

yabonn 02.01.06 at 6:06 pm

snort, cough chablis out of one’s nose,

Me? Wasting wine? Ridiculous supposition.

Besides i don’t do Chablis, usually.

OK, a good Laroche if i must.

But wait. You know it’s not meant to be snorted, right?

42

Thomas 02.01.06 at 8:10 pm

John, that may have more to do with my word choice than with the substance of my point. (Try Bush + “religious fanatic”, or some other appropriate substitute.)

43

H. e. baber 02.01.06 at 10:35 pm

it depends on what you mean by “religion”–and many Americans seem to mean “values”=socially conservative views on “lifestyle issues” rather than metaphysical commitments or cultic participation.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if someone, in the experimental spirit of L. Ron Hubbard, invested a non-theistic “religion” that promoted socially conservative lifestyle rules (maybe promoting sex roles on secular sociobiological grounds), jingoism and capitalism and opposing sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll without any burdensome theological dogmas or religious obligations.

I think that would be a winner–and a money=maker.

44

Harald Korneliussen 02.02.06 at 3:18 am

Bro. Bartleby wrote: “And what are the Secret Service logistics for the President to attend a ‘normal’ church service?”

Matt McGrattan wrote: “The fact that previous Presidents have attended regularly suggests that’s not really an issue, eh?”

Unless this president is a lot more hated by a lot more people, which seems reasonable to me. (Both the statement and the hatred, actually…)

45

John Quiggin 02.02.06 at 4:17 am

“Unless this president is a lot more hated by a lot more people”

You would think so, but Clinton was hated pretty violently by lots of Republicans. I was always surprised by this; in policy terms he wasn’t notably to the left of Bush I after all. And bin Laden was out to get him too, not surprisingly.

46

Ray 02.02.06 at 4:34 am

Bush “religious fanatic” = about 80,000
Bush hypocrite = about 1,260,000

47

abb1 02.02.06 at 4:59 am

48

Barry 02.02.06 at 7:43 am

Steve, still waiting for your response, giving your feelings for Bush’s not enlisting when he was 18, and securing a nice National Guard post when the draft man was about to come callin’.

49

abb1 02.02.06 at 8:00 am

…many are called by few chosen.

50

abb1 02.02.06 at 8:01 am

but few chosen.

51

Bro. Bartleby 02.02.06 at 9:03 am

Headline: President Waves to crowd after Sunday Service

Story: Not since President Washington has a president been such a common sight inside a church on Sunday mornings, leaving many to quip that perhaps President Bush will purchase the pew that up until now had the nameplate of the Washington family.

OpEd: Again, the President wears his religiousity on his lapel, week after week performing for the right-wing crowd, the perfect photo-op obviously orchestrated by Bishop Carl Rove. Unlike John Kerry, who worships in his private chapel, the President delights in showing his ‘perfect attendance’ lapel button to the unchurched reporters covering what is now referred to as the Sunday ritual.

52

A. 02.02.06 at 9:46 am

Bartleby: Is your point that the press is against Bush? Oddly, although the sentences you write are not anywhere to be found (because Bush doesn’t go to church), if you replaced the word “Bush” with “Clinton” they are everywhere. So can we conclude the press was against Clinton?

Thomas: The point isn’t about religiosity, but about using religion to win votes. I have met many people who vote for Bush for no reason other than “he’s a good Christian.” For this reason it is perfectly appropriate to ask whether evidence indicates that is true or false.

53

Thomas 02.02.06 at 11:35 am

a., I’m more familiar with people who wouldn’t vote for Bush because of his supposed religiosity than with those who did vote for him for the same. I wonder about the circles you travel in. An unusual one for a CT reader, for sure.

54

Bro. Bartleby 02.02.06 at 1:18 pm

a.,
It’s a funny.
BB

55

John Quiggin 02.02.06 at 3:23 pm

Barry, I’m still waiting for Michael Fumento to turn up with his shredder for my last post. Steve can stand in line.

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