However, it was always a fair question of who was being used. Was the administration being used to advance the causes of the religious right, or were the politicians using the churches to get elected. It, of course, was some of both but the religious leaders did not realize how much the politicians held them in contempt and really didn’t care about their agenda.
David Kuo was the deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. He has just written a book, Tempting Faith, about his experience. The excerpt below is from his new book:
[The practice was] to make grand announcements and then do nothing to
implement them. Nowhere was this clearer than in compassion announcements. In
May 2001, for instance, the president announced a new $3 billion drug treatment
initiative. By December 2003 not a dime had been spent. I had been around
politics long enough not to be shocked. The announcements were smart politics
because absolutely no one called them on anything. . George W. Bush loves Jesus.
He is a good man. But he is a politician; a very smart and shrewd politician.
And if the faith-based initiative was teaching me anything, it was about the
presidents' capacity to care about perception more than reality. He wanted it to
look good. He cared less about it being good.
Christian leaders, Christian media, and Christian writers, however, didn't
dare question or challenge him or the White House. He wasn't a political leader
to them, he was a brother in Christ – precisely what the White House wanted them
to believe. What they didn't get to see was what the White House thought of
them. For most of the rest of the White House staff, evangelical leaders were
people to be tolerated, not people who were truly welcomed. No group was more
eye-rolling about Christians than the political affairs shop. They knew "the
nuts" were politically invaluable, but that was the extent of their usefulness.
Sadly, the political affairs folks complained most often and most loudly about
how boorish many politically involved Christians were. They didn't see much of
the love of Jesus in their lives.
There is also an excerpt in Time magazine.
Kuo is not the Washington editor of Beliefnet, a web site devoted to the variety of religious experience. He has a blog at that site. He is scheduled to appear tomorrow (Wednesday, October 18th) on the Terry Gross’ Fresh Air program on NPR. It should be interesting.