George Bush’s Second Coming – Dubya on a Christian mission to convert Jews
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Friday 08 November 2013
If George W Bush thought he was done being controversial, it appears he was mistaken. Next week, the 43rd US president will deliver the keynote address at a fundraising event for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MBJI), a global organisation that trains its members to convert Jews to Christianity, in the hope of bringing about the Second Coming of Christ.
Messianic Judaism first emerged as an evangelical force in the 1960s. Its adherents are made up of Christians who have adopted Jewish ritual and customs, and Jewish people who believe that Jesus is the Messiah and the son of God. The sect is frequently criticised by Jews of other denominations for its claim that Christian beliefs are consistent with Jewish theology.
In 2010, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum spoke at the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America’s annual conference. Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League, which is devoted to battling anti-Semitism, described Santorum’s decision to appear as “insensitive and offensive”.
According to a report by Mother Jones, the MBJI is based in Dallas but has Bible schools in 12 countries as well as an online “Messianic theology” school and training programmes for aspiring Messianic rabbis or pastors.
Mr Bush is scheduled to recount his White House experiences to MBJI supporters on 14 November at the Irving Convention Centre in Texas. Tickets for the fundraising event range from $100 (£63) to $100,000. The guest speaker at the MBJI’s 2012 fundraiser was the right-wing television personality Glenn Beck.
Last month, former President Bush made a surprise appearance in New York at a 50th anniversary event for umbrella group the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations, where he warned that the Iranian government could not be trusted to pursue a peaceful nuclear programme.
Yet Mr Bush, now 67 and living in Dallas, has for the most part steered clear of political commentary or intervention since he left office in early 2009, speaking out only sporadically on issues close to his heart, such as relations with Iran and immigration reform. The George W Bush Institute, based in Dallas, works to promote causes related to education, the military and “human freedom”, and he has travelled to Africa with a programme to combat cervical cancer.
Mr Bush reportedly plays golf regularly, as is the wont of every president and ex-president besides Jimmy Carter. He has a season ticket close to the dugout at the home of his baseball team, the Texas Rangers. A keen painter, he is also said to have begun working on a series of 19 portraits of the foreign leaders with whom he dealt while US president.
Meanwhile, his reputation has benefited by his absence from the public eye. A recent Gallup poll founded that 49 per cent of Americans now view Mr Bush favourably, as opposed to 46 per cent who view him unfavourably – his first positive approval ratings since before his administration’s bungled response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
According to Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House, a new book by New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker, one of the 43rd president’s associates likes to describe his post-presidential life by comparing it to his predecessor’s. “Clinton is a citizen of the world,” the friend says, “and Bush is a citizen of Dallas.”
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