The final essay was all about the Roman Emperor Constantine and his impact on Christianity. Constantine supported the church very strongly, both in financial terms and through giving many church leaders positions of high political office. Whether this all benefited Christianity is, of course, another matter; and this question was the main focus of my essay. So I looked at how Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire in the first two or three centuries since Jesus' time, despite some horrific persecution at points during this period. I also had to write about the modern-day legacy of Constantine's merger of church and state, and it was during this research that I found George W. Bush seeming to equate Jesus Christ with the American Way...
Bush was speaking a year after the World Trade Centre attacks, giving a speech at the harbour of Ellis Island, where many immigrants entered the USA in the first half of the 20th century. Here's the last little section of his speech:
This ideal of America is the hope of all mankind. That hope drew millions to this harbour. That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness will not overcome it. May God bless America.
And for comparison, here are the first five verses of John's Gospel (italics added by me):
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
Now I know it's important to bear in mind the context in which we say things. Bush no doubt wanted to inspire his people to believe that the American way of living is worth defending, and not something to be ashamed of. That's fine, but to equate the American way of living with the true light of the world, Jesus Christ? Too far, Mr President.