Bush and Hitler??

Writer and columnist Andrew Greeley, a Catholic priest from Chicago, has been visiting Berlin—a trip which provoked this column comparing the US to Germany in the 1930s when Hitler came to power.
Though Greeley takes pains to say that he doesn’t think President Bush is a Nazi, he comes often close to making the comparison. Why—because the events of September 11, and the way in Iraq, have unleashed “a dark side” of America.
He writes:

What is this dark side? I would suggest that it is the mix of Calvinist religious righteousness and
“my-country-right-or-wrong” patriotism that dominated our treatment of blacks and American Indians for most of the country’s history. It revealed itself in the American history of imperialism in Mexico and after the Spanish-American War in the Philippines. The “manifest destiny” of America was to do whatever it wanted to do, because it was strong and virtuous and chosen by God.

Today many Americans celebrate a “strong” leader who, like Woodrow Wilson, never wavers, never apologizes, never admits a mistake, never changes his mind, a leader with a firm “Christian” faith in his own righteousness. These Americans are delighted that he ignores the rest of the world and punishes the World Trade Center terrorism in Iraq. Mr. Bush is our kind of guy.

The column was the subject of an angry discussion between some co-workers over coffee this morning, who thought it went too far. If it's no too far, it's certainly close.

Here's one other point that Greeley made:

This is a time of great peril in American history because a phony patriotism and an America-worshipping religion threaten the authentic American genius of tolerance and respect for other people.

Greeley piece evoked a lot of support at the Smirking Chimp and got hammered at

I think he's in the right church, but maybe the wrong pew as they say. The Hitler comparison just never works. But the questions behind the Greeley piece are crucial.

Here's a few of them:

  • Does God love America best?
  • Does God want to bless America?
  • Is America the "new Israel" as some of the early Pilgrims saw it, or a city of a hill with a special destiny as Presidents Bush and Reagan see it?
  • What's the role of religion in critiquing the state?
  • How does Christianity, which originated as a subversive faith whose leader was executed for causing trouble, balance its allegiance to both its state and its God?

I've not read this week's Time cover story yet but I hope it at least gets into the way Americans answer these questions.


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