As a United Methodist clergy/campus minister, I found Jim Wallis' essay on George W. Bush's "self-help Methodism" poignant, truthful, and quite unsettling ("Dangerous Religion," September-October 2003). Because Methodism seeks always to be a "connectional" church movement, the aloofness and rude disregard shown by our Methodist president toward his denomination's episcopal leadership (and dismissal of their letter of non-support for the war against Iraq) reveals how his brand of self-help piety is ultimately antithetical to Wesleyan theology.
Just as the Emperor Constantine sought to conquer the world under the sign of the cross, so now we face a crossroad wherein American Christianity will either embrace, or denounce, the merging of nationalism with the worst sort of theological triumphalism known to humankind. Both John and Charles Wesley summoned their contemporaries to exhibit a form of "vital piety" that seeks the mind and purposes of God through scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. May God's grace summon our self-help president to rely upon a collective, connectional discernment that presses beyond easy answers, half- truths, and self-fulfilling prophecies.