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Sunday, October 3, 2004

Mr. Bush, why don't you go to church?

Amy Sullivan wonders why reporters won't ask about the president's non-church-going ways. After all, he's banking on the public's perception of his piety. She reports that David Aikman, author of A Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush, couldn't exactly pin down many specifics about Bush's faith:

Aikman, who had significant access to Bush confidantes while writing his book, has said that he "could not get from anybody a sort of credo of what [Bush] believes." Nevertheless, Aikman pressed on by "intuit[ing]" Bush's faith and presenting as evidence of the president's deep spiritual commitment his fondness for carrots and jogging (apparently a response to the scriptural admonition to treat the body as a temple for God) and the politeness of White House staffers ("though manners are not specifically connected to George W.'s personal religious faith, it was as though the discipline he brought to his own life of prayer and Bible study filtered down into the work habits of everyone who worked with him"). 

Sounds like one mighty committed Christian. ("Empty Pew," Amy Sullivan, New Republic 10.11.04, sub req'd; link courtesy of the Washington Monthly)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 3 October 2004 at 8:45 AM

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October 3, 2004 05:50 PM | Permalink for this comment

Belonging to a congregation means being accountable to others. "Religion"'s Latin roots mean "to bind or fasten again" and Bush isn't bound to anything but his own desires and plans. He is the ultimate narcissist. His pseudo-Christianity makes no demands.

That's not religion, it's an addiction to ego.

Brian Duffin:

October 4, 2004 10:50 AM | Permalink for this comment

Personally, I am not comfortable calling into question the faith of another--especially noting my own frailties of faith.

For many, faith does not require unity with any particular organized religion. Nor does their faith require attending worship services.

As for so-called congregational accountability, I am inclined to believe that accountability to God is far greater.

Just my $0.02.


October 4, 2004 11:51 AM | Permalink for this comment

Brian, agreed! But tell it to the Republican Party, which has explicitly and consistently portrayed Bush's "faith" as a reason to vote for the man — and which has consistently presented the Democratic Party as an enemy of church-going Americans. I'd prefer to judge him on his record, but he keeps insisting that we judge his beliefs. At the same time, the Republican National Committee has paid for, produced, and mailed ads to voters in Arkansas and West Virginia that say that liberals want to ban the Bible. No we don't! And top Republicans turned John Kerry's communion-taking into a news story declaring that Kerry is a bad Catholic because a tiny minority of U.S. bishops would refuse to welcome him to communion. You're right: How dare they call his faith into question!

The rules of this game aren't fair, and it's the Republicans who are cheating. I'm calling them on it. Kerry has asked that voters judge him on his actions, but Bush wants us to judge him on his beliefs — and his Party is going all out to portray Bush as the candidate for Christians. There's a bit of hypocrisy here, and I think if Kerry taking communion is a news story, Bush's church-of-himself is a story, too.

Brian Duffin:

October 4, 2004 03:30 PM | Permalink for this comment

Amen, Chris! I am shocked that religion has become a tool used to divide Americans. Faith is deeply personal and should not be injected into politics...for any reason.

While the RNC may have 'cast the first stone', that shouldn't mean that others should be casting stones...especially stones of similar weight (questioning faith, etc).

Moreover, fault the media for running with a story about Kerry that lacked any merit. Obviously, journalistic standards and what qualifies as 'newsworthy' has degraded since I earned my degree.


October 4, 2004 05:29 PM | Permalink for this comment

Actually, I disagree. Since Bush has made such a huge deal about his faith, how much it means to him, how much he relies upon it, how much it guides him and his policies, we have every right to make a public evaluation of it. He brought it into the public, and he should expect to be judged upon indicators of its importance. George Bush's faith is just the sort that requires unity and attendance, and he's pretty short on these measures.

Since one of the precepts of the Christian faith is regular meeting together with other believers, and it appears that Bush does not regularly do so, I think we can be quite safe in making an evaluation of the import of that faith. Bush never claimed to be unsure about his faith, to experience doubt, to question it. It's been surety all the way. But the evidence here demands a verdict. And Bush's faith -- based on what he does over what he says -- lacks.


October 7, 2004 10:06 AM | Permalink for this comment

I agree, Bush made this an issue. He does it every time he weaves a hymn into a speech or drops that he is praying for someone.

I have challenged my evangelical friends to show me any proof that Bush acts out his faith. Beyond him telling us that he is Christian, would you know?

I am not suggesting that we can "know" if he is truly saved (in evangelical language) but would contend that it is perfectly legitimate to question whether his supposed faith actually changes the way he deals with people. Does he bring more charity, understanding, or humility to the table? Or any? This led me to write a blog entry myself on why Bush is the worst thing for Evangelicals in some time. He has forced his conservative evangelical supporters to make excuses for him and to define their faith in extremely superficial ways.


October 20, 2004 05:52 PM | Permalink for this comment

Ayelish McGarvey asks an even more probing question of the President: Is Bush a Christian at all? Best two passages in the article:

Ironically for a man who once famously named Jesus as his favorite political philosopher during a campaign debate, it is remarkably difficult to pinpoint a single instance wherein Christian teaching has won out over partisan politics in the Bush White House. Though Bush easily weaves Christian language and themes into his political communication, empty religious jargon is no substitute for a bedrock faith. Even little children in Sunday school know that Jesus taught his disciples to live according to his commandments, not simply to talk about them a lot. In Bush’s case, faith without works is not just dead faith -- it’s evangelical agitprop . . .

The president’s storied faith journey began at the bottom of a bottle and led him all the way to the White House. But though these accounts ramble on for hundreds of pages about his steadfast leadership and prayerfulness, they all curiously rely on one single event to confirm that Bush is a man transformed by a deep Christian faith: He quit drinking and took up running instead. “I would not be president today," Bush himself told a group of pastoral social workers in 2003, "if I hadn't stopped drinking 17 years ago. And I could only do that with the grace of God."

But Christianity is more than teetotalism and physical fitness.

Indeed it is! But when have Bush's deeds matched his words (which are written by a devout Evangelical, Michael Gerson)? Almost never.

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