Yesterday, NYT columnist David Brooks wrote about the two-hour session he had with President Bush last Friday on Iraq. He didn’t find the president beleaguered but rather “assertive and good-humored” and “unshakably committed to stabilizing Iraq.” Where does the confidence come from? Brooks writes that it comes from two sources:
Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday: “It’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist.”
Second, Bush remains energized by the power of the presidency. Some presidents complain about the limits of the office. But Bush, despite all the setbacks, retains a capacious view of the job and its possibilities.
Conservatives are supposed to distrust government, but Bush clearly loves the presidency. Or to be more precise, he loves leadership. He’s convinced leaders have the power to change societies. Even in a place as chaotic as Iraq, good leadership makes all the difference.
“I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom,” Bush said. How completely correct and how outrageously wrong he is. God does give us freedom. But that gift of freedom is not a freedom based on a form of government – it is the freedom to live as individuals with total, complete, and utter free will. It is the freedom to choose or to reject God, the freedom to choose or to reject God’s gifts. THAT is God’s gift of freedom. To confuse that gift with a form of government reflects both theological and political naivety.
God has given men and women limitless gifts. He has given the gift of his creation – a world of beauty and wonder. He has given the gift of life and the gift of love and the gift of music and art and wonder and awe. God’s gifts are infinite. To somehow select the gift of free will, the gift of freedom, and say that that is the goal worth staking a nation’s reputation, security, and life upon is folly.
The choice of a democratic form of government is a choice for the best form of government mankind knows. That is my opinion. It is an opinion shared by millions of people. Democracy is better, say, than communism in my estimation. It conveys a dignity and a worthy and a freedom worthy of man. That is not to say, however, that democracy is God’s preferred form of government or that democracy is God’s great gift to man or that democracy works in every part of the world and it is our job to evangelize democracy.