The top bishop of the Episcopal Church, in a stinging rebuke of American foreign policy, said the United States is rightly "hated and loathed" around the world for its "reprehensible" rhetoric and blind eye toward poverty and suffering.
"I'd like to be able to go somewhere in the world and not have to apologize for being from the United States," Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold III said Jan. 10 in an interview with Religion News Service.
Griswold, head of the 2.3 million member Episcopal church, blasted the Bush administration for its wartime rhetoric, especially labeling Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil."
"Quite apart from the bombs we drop, words are weapons and we have used our language so unwisely, so intemperately, so thoughtlessly ... that I'm not surprised we are hated and loathed everywhere I go," he said.
Griswold has spoken early and often against war with Iraq, arguing with many other religious leaders that a pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein fails to meet the necessary criteria for a just war.
He said Bush is "inviting" trouble from the other points on the "axis of evil"—Iran and North Korea—with his bellicose rhetoric, although Griswold said Bush is "hardly dealing with paragons of virtue" in either case.
Bush has consulted with religious leaders, including Griswold, throughout his term but has generally enjoyed cozier relations with evangelical Protestants, who tend to be more supportive of the president's domestic and foreign policy.
White House spokeswoman Mercy Viana said the president is committed to humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and North Korea and working with the United Nations to disarm Iraq.
"Our national security depends on success in the war on terrorism, which includes military, judicial, diplomatic, financial and humanitarian actions, both at home and abroad," she said. "Our goal is to protect the American people and shape a future of peace."