August 14, 2004
The Faith and Politics of Presidential Candidates
During the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush was
asked who his favorite
political philosopher was, and he answered: "Jesus Christ, because he
changed my life."
No president has been as outspoken about his faith, or
been as inclined to
translate those beliefs into political action as George Bush. In doing so,
he has made both
friends and enemies.
His most committed backers are fellow evangelicals, a
quarter of the electorate, 86% of whom support his re-election. They
know his story. A man born to wealth and political
prominence, whose grandfather was a U.S. Senator, and father, a President. But the fallen-away Episcopalian left the comfort of Connecticut as a young
man to go into the Texas oil business, where he became a hard-drinking,
At his parents' Maine home, Bush took a long walk
with Billy Graham, who
led him to make a fresh commitment to Christ. No other American President
made such a
conversion as an adult. His business and political fortunes changed. Today he reads Scripture daily.
"I am... a lowly sinner who sought redemption and found
it," he told USA Today. "That
doesn't make me better than anybody. It just adds perspective, I hope. I
think people are going to find that in tough times...they're going to see a
steady hand because the rock on which I stand is something other than the
moment, the emotion of the day. Faith can be a
When he considered running for president, he met
evangelist James Robison
and said, he felt "something was going to happen" and that the country would
leadership. The crisis of 9/11 seemed to him evidence that Providence chose
him to lead the country at the time. His faith was undoubtedly a factor in
his characterizing the war against terrorism as a battle between forces of
good and evil. Such language was repugnant to secularists here and in
Like Woodrow Wilson who was the first to propose a
League of Nations, Bush's vision of foreign policy is grand in design. He's said that "Freedom is not America's
gift to the world, but God's gift to mankind." Both visions rest on a
Christian conviction that "changed people and transformed communities are
possible," asserts a National Association of Evangelicals document, "For the
Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility."
However, both Wilson and Bush's visions were flawed in
their execution. The League did not stop Hitler. Bush found it far
easier to topple Saddam than to restore security afterwards.
Jesus proclaimed we are to "love our neighbor as a
ourselves." Therefore Bush supported a $15 billion AIDS initiative to halt
the unnecessary deaths of millions of
Africans and Asians. And he signed a law to fight the trafficking of women
and children for sexual abuse.
Psalm 139 states, "You knit me together in my mother's
womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Therefore
evangelicals believe abortion is an unjust taking of a human life. Bush signed a law to prohibit partial birth abortions, the first
limitation of abortion. For similar reasons, his Administration has opposed
Oregon doctors using drugs for euthanasia.
Sometimes this principle leads Bush to take unpopular
stands, such as his opposition to
embryonic stem cell research, on grounds that it requires the killing of
potential human beings.
Like many politicians, he compromised, however, allowing
federally funded research to continue on a limited number of "stem cell
lines." While only half of them have been used by scientists, and
though there's no evidence embryonic stem cells can cure disease, polls show
opposition to Bush's stand.
Knowing that faith-based programs are freeing people
from drugs and other problems, he has had federal rules re-written so that
churches could compete for federal funds to do such work.
Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 teach that man and woman are both
made in God's image, and they are "to be united" in marriage. Bush was
the first to say in 2002, "My administration will give unprecedented support
to strengthening marriages." He proposed spending $200
million a year to help couples "get married and stay married." However,
Congress did not pass that bill. One of his tax reforms removed tax
incentives for couples to cohabit rather than to marry.
However, three major tax cuts combined with greater
outlays to fight terrorism and to add drug benefits to Medicare - have
created monster deficits that will cost our children trillions.
Although Bush's record is flawed it has been based on
high Biblical ideals.
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