Kuo Confused: Fasting Means Giving up Food - not Politics

Former Bush appointee David Kuo says Christians should forego politics for a while - a period of fasting. Why? Because Bush has lied to the Christians and made them look like fools.

David, you are confused. Fasting is a religious act wherein one gives up the life supporting sustenance of FOOD in order to atone for sins or to purify one's soul.

Abstaining from involvement in right-wing conservative politics has nothing to do with "fasting". You seem to be trying to make it seem like your decision to resign from the White House has some religious significance. Well, it does not. You had a job. Now you do not. It has nothing at all to do with the religious ritual of giving up FOOD for a period of purification.

Your confusion is profound. Political jobs are not religious jobs. Politicians are essentially immoral and never tell the truth. Religious leaders are supposed to be truthful and moral exemplars.

How could you not see the difference? Quitting or being fired from a political job at the White House is not a religious event. Your distortion of both religion and politics does no good for anyone. And your misuse of fasting for a metaphor to explain your job change does no good for anyone.

Here is the conclusion of what David Kuo said on the Times Op-Ed page last week:

Beliefnet.com’s post-election online survey of more than 2,000 people revealed that nearly 40 percent of evangelicals support the idea of a two-year Christian “fast” from intense political activism. Instead of directing their energies toward campaigns, evangelicals would spend their time helping the poor.

Why might such an idea get traction among evangelicals? For practical reasons as well as spiritual ones. Evangelicals are beginning to see the effect of their political involvement on those with whom they hope to share Jesus’ eternal message: non-evangelicals. Tellingly, Beliefnet’s poll showed that nearly 60 percent of non-evangelicals have a more negative view of Jesus because of Christian political involvement; almost 40 percent believe that George W. Bush’s faith has had a negative impact on his presidency.

There is also the matter of the record, which I saw being shaped during my time in the White House. Conservative Christians (like me) were promised that having an evangelical like Mr. Bush in office was a dream come true. Well, it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. The administration accomplished little that evangelicals really cared about.

Nowhere was this clearer than on the issue of abortion. Despite strong Republican majorities, and his own pro-life stands, Mr. Bush settled for the largely symbolic partial-birth abortion restriction rather than pursuing more substantial change. Then there were the forgotten commitments to give faith-based charities the resources they needed to care for the poor. Evangelicals are not likely to fall for such promises in the future.

Don’t expect conservative Christians in politics to start to disappear, of course. There are those who find the moral force of issues like abortion and gay marriage equal to that of the abolition of slavery — worth pursuing no matter what the risks of politics are for the soul. But the advocates working these special interests may, I think, be far fewer in coming years than in years past. Gay marriage was a less mobilizing force in 2006 than it was in 2004. In Arizona the ballot measure to outlaw it was defeated. The South Dakota abortion ban failed.

We will have to wait until 2008 to see just how deep this evangelical spiritual re-examination goes, and how seductive politics will continue to be to committed Christians. Meanwhile, evangelicals aren’t flocking to the Democratic Party. If anything, they are becoming more truly conservative in their recognition of the negative spiritual consequences of political obsession and of the limitations of government power.

C. S. Lewis once warned that any Christian who uses his faith as a means to a political end would corrupt both his faith and the faith writ large. A lot of Christians are reading C. S. Lewis these days.

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