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Baptists are responding to President Bush’s second State of the Union address, delivered Tuesday night amid complaints about the economy and unrest over a potential war with Iraq.

The president, in a speech lasting just over an hour, spoke first about numerous domestic issues. He then turned his attention to the war on terror and, especially, Saddam Hussein.

Dwight Moody, dean of the chapel at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky., said President Bush took on more than he can handle.

“It is quite a messianic agenda the president has described: fight a war, combat AIDS, resurrect the economy, defeat evil, redeem education, rescue the addicted, create a new defense and lower taxes, not to mention lead the world,” Moody said.

“If we took him as seriously as he takes himself, we would be ready to inaugurate the millennium,” he continued. “If he accomplishes just one of these, I will be surprised.”

“The good news for me was sandwiched between the bad,” said Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance. “The first bad news was that the rich are going to receive more tax breaks in the hope that this will help the poor. Trickle down economics don’t work and are no good for the poor.”

“The second bad news was that the U.S. seems determined to go to war come what may,” Montacute said.

Montacute liked what he heard, however, about the president’s plans to deal with the AIDS crisis.

“The good news was that U.S. taxpayers, through the U.S. government, are going to do more to prevent AIDS and assist those living with AIDS, particularly in Africa and the Caribbean,” he said. “Already Christians are working with those suffering from AIDS, and these additional resources would be welcomed.”

Montacute was energized, having just received a report, he said, from a BWA-sponsored AIDS education program run by the Baptist Union of Uganda. The program trains volunteers to help educate others on how to reduce the spread of AIDS and how to care for those suffering from the disease.

“We need to thank President Bush for highlighting this need and providing new resources,” Montacute said.

Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, likewise gave Bush some credit.

“President Bush’s address offered concrete hope at several points—funding efforts to turn the tide against AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean; funding research for clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles; and fighting addiction to drugs,” he said.

The policy on Iraq that Bush outlined, however, drew Parham’s criticism.

“While he reinforced the widespread view that Saddam Hussein is a brutal tyrant, Bush failed to make the case of a just war against Iraq,” Parham said. “He fanned the flames for war without showing the American public the ‘smoking gun,’ which would help to speak to the principle of just cause.”

Parham also said Bush’s speech failed to deal with another criterion for a just war.

“The president did not address the principle of reasonable hope of success,” Parham said. “That is, how the American military’s prolonged occupation of Iraq would make America safer from further acts of terrorism. On the contrary, military occupation would likely breed even more terrorism.”

Click here to read a transcript of President Bush’s speech.

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