Jeb Bush the Fundamentalist

I’m really not concerned with what Jeb Bush was like in high school. We all did stupid stuff when we were young and many of us learned from those mistakes.

What disturbs me about the former governor has more to do with how he governed. For example:

Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.

For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.

“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”

That’s the result. Here’s one of Governor Bush’s former colleagues explaining the cause:

“If you want to understand Jeb Bush, he’s guided by principle over convenience,” said Dennis Baxley, a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives during Bush’s governorship and still. “He may be wrong about something, but he knows what he believes.”

As someone who is a recovering Christian fundamentalist, I came to believe that this kind of approach to life is characteristic of the fundamentalists in any religion. It prioritizes rules, laws, principles over the welfare of people. At its best, that belief system is benign. But at its worst, it results in a complete lack of empathy for human suffering because the true North Star becomes adherence to the principles/rules. Notice how Baxley implies that responding to Michael Shaivo with compassion would have been “convenience.”

Interestingly enough, the Jesus worshipped by Christian fundamentalists had something to say about this. As the story is told in Mark 2:23-27, Jesus and his disciples were walking through the fields on the Sabbath and began picking grains because they were hungry. The Pharisees (the Jewish fundamentalists of Jesus’ days) confronted them with the rule that it was unlawful to pick grains on the Sabbath. Jesus’ response was: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, he was saying that empathy for human suffering takes precedence over principles/rules.

That last sentence from Baxley about Gov. Bush is particularly disturbing. He seems to be indicating that Jeb would cling to his “beliefs,” even if they led him to be wrong about something. That is an attachment to rules/laws/principles that is hard to comprehend. And it’s downright scary to imagine in a United States president.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.