It's been nearly twenty years since I traveled to Israel with an ecumenical collection of pilgrims from Tennessee. The varied influences in my youth enabled me to appreciate all sides of the Biblical story. One afternoon, we found ourselves about five miles outside of Jerusalem on a grassy hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. A little church at the top of the hill commemorates the spot many archaeologists believe to be the location of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. One of our Christian travelers produced a New Testament and read the opening portion of the Sermon known as the "Beatitudes," a description of the blessed. As a Jew in Catholic school, I was very familiar with these verses from Catholic liturgy, but their significance seemed as basic to Catholicism as to mainstream Protestantism, and became, in my eyes, the Bill of Rights for Christianity. These sentiments, expressed by Jesus to His disciples and the gathering crowd, laid the groundwork for the common bonds of humankind and the duties of His followers toward the suffering and the poor. On that hilltop, hearing the words spoken from a Jesus eye-view, was moving to Christians and Jews alike. Lately, however, a sect of Charismatic Evangelicals, who must account for the 29% of the population who still think Bush is doing a good job, has had to provide a new translation for the Sermon on the Mount to accommodate their Faith-Based President in the troubling days of His spiritual wilderness. I offer first a quote from the actual Sermon, and then the translation; known as Bush's Beatitudes
"'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
BB: Blessed are the wealthy campaign donors to the Republican Party, who by giving generously to the Party of God, help to insure themselves a reserved seat at the right hand of the Lord.
"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
BB: Not by me, of course. I don't attend the funerals of our soldiers, but I talk to families who die. Better to let the military deal with that sort of thing. I make sure the flags are folded correctly.
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
BB: Those hippies can have the damn thing as soon as my deregulations allow my corporate friends to drain the earth's remaining natural resources and sell them back to you at steep prices for gargantuan profits.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
BB: Unless the righteousness for which you hunger includes government assistance, in which case, you ain't fillin' nothin' around here except forms in triplicate. We're working hard to put food on your family. The righteousness is free, but the food's gonna' cost ya.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
BB: Maybe I should have rethought that express lane in the Texas death chamber.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
BB: Just take my word for it. God wants me to be president and rise up against Babylon. God's busy; He'll see you later.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."
BB: Just as soon as we win this war.
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
BB: Alberto Gonzales died for your sins.
"Blessed are ye, when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
BB: Ronald Reagan was John the Baptist; Republicans equal life, Democrats equal death; Stay the course; I 'preciate your sacrifice; God bless America.