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Denison Journal of Religion

Abstract

Clark examines George W. Bush's transformation of the Jeremiad as an internal critique to a self-promoting form that characterizes an "other" as the enemy, and not the self. The Jeremiad is a rhetorical form that is originally taken from the biblical prophet Jeremiah. The form consists of four primary steps: (1) painting a picture of the ideal of the community, (2) clarifying how things currently stand, (3) warning against what will happen if the community does not change, (4) offering hope for a future in which the community does change its behavior. In its original form, all of these steps are a part of self-reflection. Clark argues, however, that when President Bush adopted this rhetorical form after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, he altered the form so that instead of serving as self-reflection, it served to draw battle lines against exterior enemies. Clark describes Bush's use of the form: (1) a typical drawing of the American dream, (2) a list of the transgressions of the terrorist against the United States, (3) threats against the others unless they comply with the United States' demands, (4) the triumphant United States returning the world to peace, justice, and democracy. Clark makes it clear that Bush deviates from the original form of the Jeremiad and in doing so the form loses its power. It is no longer an inspirational call to action within a community that has fallen into corruption or immorality, but rather it claims a perfect ideal for one community while making an unqualified enemy of another.

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