Feeble Knees

Friday, January 21, 2005

It's Not Just Me

Peggy Noonan and I must be on the same wavelength. In today's Wall Street Journal opinion piece, she hit the nail on the head and explains why yesterday's Inauguration bugged me so much.

There are several things about yesterday's inauguration which the former Reagan Administration speechwriter and I agree about wholeheartedly.
But whoever picked the music for the inaugural ceremony itself--modern megachurch hymns, music that sounds like what they'd use for the quiet middle section of a Pixar animated film--was . . . lame. The downbeat orchestral arrangement that followed the president's speech was no doubt an attempt to avoid charges that the ceremony had a triumphalist air. But I wound up thinking: This is America. We have a lot of good songs. And we watch inaugurals in part to hear them.

Never be defensive in your choice of music.
I was wincing all through the singing of "Bless this House". While I understand the intent was to invoke a blessing on the Capitol/government (I think that was the intent!) the lyrics were just not befitting a state occasion.

Read for yourself, then tell me if you think I'm off my nut:

Bless this house O Lord we pray; Make it safe by night and day;
Bless these walls so firm and stout, Keeping want and trouble out:
Bless the roof and chimneys tall, Let thy peace lie over all;
Bless this door, that it may prove ever open to joy and love.

Bless these windows shining bright, Letting in God's heav'nly light;
Bless the hearth a'blazing there, with smoke ascending like a prayer;
Bless the folk who dwell within, keep them pure and free from sin;
Bless us all that we may be Fit O Lord to dwell with thee;
Bless us all that one day we May dwell O Lord with thee.

It's a lovely song. I have no trouble at all with the song itself, it's a very sweet sentiment. But it is not appropriate for a presidential inauguration!

There, I said it!

Ms. Noonan and I apparently also had the same reaction to the President's ambitious vision of America's role in the overthrow of tyranny.
The inaugural address itself was startling. It left me with a bad feeling, and reluctant dislike. Rhetorically, it veered from high-class boilerplate to strong and simple sentences, but it was not pedestrian. George W. Bush's second inaugural will no doubt prove historic because it carried a punch, asserting an agenda so sweeping that an observer quipped that by the end he would not have been surprised if the president had announced we were going to colonize Mars.

As I wrote in yesterday's post, I had that same bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. It troubled me greatly. Why is this soaring rhetoric about human dignity and freedom not uplifting me? Why do I get the sense I'm not at all going to like what happens next?

I am a Christian; raised in a Christian home where our thoughts and conversations were dominated by God, Jesus and the Bible. We deplore the ever increasing godlessness of society today, and thought police out there who try to drive Jesus and God altogether out of the public square. But here's the thing: even for me, there was too much brazen mentioning of God in that speech. As Ms. Noonan points out: this ain't heaven:

The president's speech seemed rather heavenish. It was a God-drenched speech. This president, who has been accused of giving too much attention to religious imagery and religious thought, has not let the criticism enter him. God was invoked relentlessly. "The Author of Liberty." "God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind . . . the longing of the soul."

I support those who choose to make no secret of their faith. I admire people who make public declaration of their faith, knowing it may gain them ridicule and scorn. What I am most definitely not into is a swaggering kind of "here's my God IN-YO'-FACE" type of witness. That is how Bush's speech came across to me.

Granted, our God can very definitely be an IN-YO'-FACE type of God. I don't ever put it past Him to manifest himself in ways that truly do put the fear of Him into us. That's great - I'll leave it up to him to do that. But if Bush thinks he's going to help the cause along by flaunting God to the masses, well, I have a feeling that might backfire on ya there buddy.

All I can do is continue to pray that God steers our President, if almost despite himself. What concerns me most is whether or not he already believes he has a clear mandate from the Almighty to make good on his ultimatums to undemocratic and oppressive regimes.

It almost makes me long for another hard-drinking Winston Churchill:
Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. ~Sir Winston Churchill

They don't make them like Sir Winston anymore...

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