At first I tried to argue with them, pointing out that I saw nothing different in Bush's behavior or speech about religion than previous presidents. They would just respond, "Wait and see."
The truth is that they were convinced--almost to the point of paranoia--that a religious theocracy was about to be imposed by the Republicans. They would point to the "faith-based" initiative and to the Terry Schiavo case with great glee, as if somehow this proved their point.
They always had remarkably little to say about the real threat of an imposed theocracy by Islam--a religion, which unlike the Christian (or Jewish) religions stated unabashedly on a daily basis all over the world that they intended to impose their religion everywhere by either peaceful or violent means. This did not seem to worry my friends very much, because they were so intently focused on Bush.
Nowadays, when they state this fear (still with a straight face), I merely comment rather mildly, "Well, he better get on with it because he only has three years left in office."
I just recently read this article at American Thinker, about attending the White House Hanukkah Party; and it occurred to me that my paranoid friends might be reassured about the President and his perceived "excessive religiosity" and theocratic leanings.
A second thing that I came away with this night had to do with the role of prayer and study and the respect for religion in the White House. Many of those who hate the President do so because they are very uncomfortable with the role of religion in his life - that he is a born again Christian, and that he is not afraid to speak about his faith. Since President Bush’s belief system is very different from the secular progressive vision (that of the New York Times editorial page), and that of the elites who pledge allegiance to that vision, an increasing emphasis on religion by the President is seen as a very dangerous thing by these secular elites.
Some prominent rabbis have grown nervous that a new Christian tide emanating from the White House and the President’s supporters in the evangelical community will sweep over and change America (for the worse of course), since serious devout Christians are very dangerous people.
On line to get into the White House, I spoke to a rabbi from Maryland who has for several years conducted Torah study groups in the White House for Jewish employees. I suspect that the fact that this goes on is not widely known, and that it is a new phenomenon in the White House. The President has brought to the White House a respect for those who believe and pray and study, rather than a secularist’s scorn for religious observance. And this respect is not limited to Christian believers. The President held a one hour session with Jewish educators the day of the Hanukkah party. This was not just to light the White House menorah, but included a serious discussion of education issues, as well as Israel and the situation in the Middle East. As Scott Johnson related, the attendees were very heartened by what they heard. For the first time ever, the White House kitchen was officially certified as kosher for an event.
Great respect for ceremony and tradition, whether military or religious, is apparent in this White House.
I have never heard the President attack those who are not religious believers. He understands that this too is a belief system. And those who are not religious believers nor observant are not under pressure to become more religious in the White House. I doubt, though, that there is a New York Times study group in the White House just yet, though it really takes a lot of faith to believe what is in that paper. (NOTE: Read the entire article. The gratuitous jab at the NY Times is solely the author's, but I happen to agree wholeheartedly)
Sadly, though, it is very likely that even these observations would not reassure those who are already miles and miles down the paranoid path. They undoubtedly will continue to see what they want to see to the bitter end; because their distorted vision of Bush (and Christianity) is actually more comforting to them than truth (or reality) ever could be.