Bush Use Of Term 'The
Evil One' Raises Eyebrows
By Alan Elsner
National Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush's frequent description of Osama bin Laden as "the evil one" is raising eyebrows in theological as well as political circles.
Bush first used the phrase in a news conference on Oct. 11, one month after the suicide hijacking attacks on New York and Washington that killed around 5,000 people.
Referring to a video by Saudi-born militant bin Laden praising the attacks, Bush said: "On our TV screens the other day, we saw the evil one threatening, calling for more destruction and death in America."
Since then, Bush has repeated the phrase many times. But in historical and cultural terms, who is "the evil one?"
In Christian theology, he is The Devil. That's the way many Americans, especially conservative and evangelical Christians, immediately understood the reference. Bush was literally "demonizing" his enemy.
"As I understood the statement, he was using a theological term. In Christianity, the term is used to refer to Satan. Bush, as a conservative Christian, appeared to be asserting that Satan was behind the Sept. 11 attacks," said Lynn Mitchell, who teaches Christianity and Christian ethics at the University of Houston.
"Bush views the world in Christian terms. He didn't leave Christianity at the door when he entered the White House," Mitchell said.
In his presidential campaign last year, Bush often asserted his Christian belief and at one point said that the thinker who had influenced him the most was Jesus.
In some modern translations of the Lord's Prayer (Matthew, chapter 6), possibly the most familiar prayer in the Christian liturgy which millions know by heart, one line is rendered, "Deliver us from the Evil One."
Daniel Dreisbach, a professor of religion at the American University in Washington said an interpretation of Bush's words depended on whether the term "evil one" took capital letters.
If Bush intended to speak of bin Laden as "the Evil One", then he was referring to Satan. If he merely intended "the evil one", he probably just meant that he was evil. Unfortunately, Bush has not submitted a written text clarifying the point.
"To me, his use of the phrase evoked (former) President Reagan's description of the Soviet Union as 'the evil empire'," Dreisbach said.
By using the phrase, Bush was not only assuming the mantle of Reagan, who is revered by many Americans, but also suggesting that, like the Cold War, the battle against terrorism was likely to last for a generation or more.
"In general, Sept. 11 has forced intellectuals to confront and debate this concept of evil in the world. Since the attacks, it's been almost impossible to escape that discussion and Bush may be trying to nudge it along," Dreisbach said.
In more secular American circles, the term "the evil one" seems less potent. In the popular Austin Powers movies, the jokey arch-villain was called Dr. Evil. At, one of many Internet sites devoted to the character, one can download sound bites and video clips and buy "evil merchandise."
There is another, more prosaic explanation of Bush's use of the term -- that he was simply fed up of mentioning bin Laden by name and possibly adding to his stature and repute. Bin Laden is widely admired in sections of the Islamic world.
Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan caught both interpretations in a TV interview immediately after the Oct. 11 news conference.
"As you know, it is the phrase that is used by many orthodox Christians and conservative Christians and born again Christians and all the houses of Christianity. The evil one is the little phrase that is used for the devil," she said.
"So I was struck by it, too. That seems to be his almost gentle-sounding and yet quite deadly label for this person whose name he's apparently tired of saying. So why not just sum up who the heck he is and let it go?" she said.
The theological roots of Satan, the Devil, the Evil One, Lucifer, Beelzebub and all his other personifications is obscure. In the Old Testament, Satan is the Hebrew word meaning "adversary" and does not necessarily imply supernatural powers.
But in Matthew 4, Jesus is "sent by the Spirit into the wasteland to be tested by the Evil One."
The western picture of the Devil was considerably expanded by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) in his Divine Comedy. But perhaps the most abiding image of "the Evil One" was created by John Milton (1608-1674) in his Paradise Lost, where the Evil One becomes a fallen angel, cast out of heaven for daring to challenge God.
In Paradise Lost, Book Two, Milton describes him:
"Incensd with indignation Satan stood Unterrify'd, and like a comet burn'd... In th' arctic sky, and from his horrid hair Shakes pestilence and war."
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.


This Site Served by TheHostPros