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George Bush’s Faith–Private vs. Public Interplay

Sep 16, 2004

There is a very lengthy and insightful article in this morning’s Washington Post by Post staffer Alan Cooperman on the interplay between George W. Bush’s private faith, and how it plays out in public life. Excerpted here are several paragraphs. To read the entire article, click here.

George W. Bush is among the most openly religious presidents in U.S. history. A daily Bible reader, he often talks about how Jesus changed his heart. He has spoken, publicly and privately, of hearing God’s call to run for the presidency and of praying for God’s help since he came into office.

But despite the centrality of Bush’s faith to his presidency, he has revealed only the barest outline of his beliefs, leaving others to sift through the clues and make assumptions about where he stands.

Bush has said many times that he is a Christian, believes in the power of prayer and considers himself a “lowly sinner.” But White House aides said they do not know whether the president believes that: the Bible is without error; the theory of evolution is true; homosexuality is a sinful choice; only Christians will go to heaven; support for Israel is a biblical imperative; or the war in Iraq is part of God’s plan.

Some political analysts think there is a shrewd calculation behind these ambiguities. By using such phrases as the “culture of life,” Bush signals to evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics that he is with them, while he avoids taking explicit stands that might alienate other voters or alarm foreign leaders. Bush and his chief speechwriter, Michael J. Gerson, are “very gifted at crafting references that religious insiders will understand and outsiders may not,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, editor of the evangelical journal Sojourners.