The Canadian Evangelical Left has blocked former President George W. Bush from speaking at evangelical Tyndale University in Toronto, deriding him as a virtual war criminal.
An online petition by faculty and students, fueled by reporting by the Toronto Star, evidently ensured the event’s cancellation last month. One Tyndale professor, in his own anti-Bush op-ed, implicitly accused the former president of “blasphemy” and “heresy’ for daring to have employed scriptural language in citations of dreaded American exceptionalism during his administration.
“As no one has been convicted, I do not label anyone a war criminal,” disingenuously wrote Professor Arthur Paul Boers through clenched teeth. “Yet George W. Bush ought to be investigated and held to account for: wrongful abduction and imprisonment without trial; employment of torture; tens of thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq (conservative estimates total 100,000); other civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan; invading Iraq on mistaken if not fraudulently deceptive grounds; gross human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere; and greater instability around the globe.”
Having himself lived in the U.S. shortly after 9-11, Professor Boers experienced first –hand America’s “fear and hatred” that was “couched in Christian terms” under Bush. The poor professor even toned down his Canadian accent, apparently lest all the American hate turn against him. It’s likelier that nobody minded his accent but quite a few Americans were offended by his snotty tone towards their country, if his op-ed is any example.
“I saw during the Bush years in the U.S. that most Christians chose to remain silent in the face of pretty serious abuses of power and distortions of faith,” Boers afterwards told The Huffington Post. “For me silence is not an option.”
But Boers’ snottiness evidently is not isolated at Tyndale. A petition demanded a “full apology” from the university’s president, who admitted Bush is a “lightning rod figure,” for the effrontery in having invited Bush. The petitioners intemperately indignantly explained: “We believe that no amount of new money can justify profiting from a former figurehead whose policies led to the murder of thousands of innocent civilians while invoking the name of Jesus.”
The Bush event was not even to have been on campus but at the Toronto Hilton and sponsored by a billionaire patron of the school. Apparently Bush went ahead and spoke at another event, at the same hotel, sponsored by the same billionaire, and attended by some school employees. But Tyndale University College and Seminary itself seemingly was preserved from direct tarnish by the angel of death from America.
Hopefully Professor Boers will recover from the trauma of the possible Bush visit. He clearly has not recovered from his nightmare years in the U.S., where he taught at a Mennonite school in Indiana. Seemingly Boers represents the new breed of neo-Anabaptists who, unlike earlier generations, don’t simply embrace pacifism for themselves but angrily denounce other Christians as heretics for not also renouncing all force with equal vigor. He was “heartsick over how the term ‘evangelical’ came in the U.S. to be understood as automatically implying right-wing militarism.” He struggled to explain how Canadian evangelicalism is “different,” i.e. superior. He rehashed old complaints about Bush’s “crusade” terminology and occasional use of scriptural language in speeches, which “conflated the light of Christ with pompous American pretensions” and which “distorted sacred texts into words of mass deception.” He was stunned when few American Christians dissented, instead hypocritically complaining about “militant Islamic rhetoric.” He remains “heartbroken” over Bush’s “arrogant theological actions.” He still grieves over how American Christian faith was “discredited” under Bush. And he feared that Tyndale’s hosting Bush would fuel “popular perceptions that Canadian and American evangelicalism are equivalent.”
Boers moved back to Canada from Indiana, “naively [heaving] a huge sigh of relief” as he crossed the border, not wanting “to think any more about George W. Bush, the world’s most controversial Christian.” He had “never dreamed” that Bush would follow him right back into the Tyndale. He is still “struggling to figure out how to speak up and to sing the songs of Zion.” Hopefully the professor will never again be subjected to exposure to America’s militaristic culture or its jihadist evangelicals.
One of Professor Boers’ colleagues opined differently about the Bush episode at Tyndale, regretting the “frenzy of hate stoked by the Left” with its “tone of smug, self-righteousness, judgmental, condemnation of a fellow Christian” by critics “blinded by Utopian ideology.” Professor Craig Carter further noted: “The angry, secular Left hates George Bush because he is not a socialist,” observing that President Obama has also waged warfare for America but has not earned the same condemnation. “There are a hundred campuses in Canada that would refuse to listen to George Bush,” Carter wrote. “If one or two gave him a hearing, would the sky fall?” He regretted that the “tactics of the angry, secular Left,” owing more to “Saul Alinsky than to the Sermon on the Mount,” came to evangelical Tyndale University.
For many on the Evangelical Left, whether in Canada or the U.S., Saul Alinsky is indeed a seeming greater influence than the Sermon on the Mount. Presumably most evangelicals in both countries, unlike a few angry professors at Tyndale, understand that equating Bush with Darth Vader is more deranged than spiritually discerning.
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