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Public Theology: The Uncertain Faith of George W. Bush
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The Uncertain Faith of George W. Bush
The president prays to God for wisdom but won't meet with faith leaders who disagree with him.

In a helpful but incomplete article on the personal faith of George W. Bush, Alan Cooperman of the Washington Post on September 16, 2004, says the personal faith of the president is not as certain as many have thought it to be. Bush talks about faith quite a lot in his speeches but he does not refer to it very much in his private relations with people including his staff and associates. People around him can't really say what he believes, how much he shares the key beliefs of conservative evangelical Christianity. He does not claim to have had a real "born-again" experience in the way necessary to be accepted in the conservative evangelical community.

Even on such issues as abortion Bush's position is uncertain. Bush uses the term "culture of life" affirmatively but he has never made clear exactly under what circumstances he would support or oppose abortion.

But Alan Cooperman left certain facts out of his article that expose the political use that Bush has made of faith communities. While Bush meets regularly with conservative Christian groups and addresses their conventions, he has refused to meet with the bishop of his own United Methodist church body which opposes the war in Iraq. When Bush met recently with a group of religion reporters and editors only those associated with conservative Christian media were invited. The heads of the mainline Christian denominations have repeatedly asked for a meeting with President Bush and have been denied each time.

So George Bush wants to hear from religious leaders who he knows will be helpful to him politically. If it is true, as he says, that he prays to God for wisdom in making public decisions then he should be willing to listen to those who stand in the orthodox heritage of Christian faith.

And he should listen to someone who comes out of the evangelical tradition with a deep understanding of both the faith and contemporary politics. Jim Wallis of SoJourners Magazine has said Bush has adopted a "theology of empire" that suggests God is on the side of the United States and makes the nation into a church. The language of evil that Bush uses constantly creates the image that we're good and "they" are evil. This is used to justify use of the military to do God's work in the world, a very dangerous type of religious thinking.

It appears from this article that Bush is uncertain about his private faith. But the article unfortunately does not tell us the whole picture. Bush has been clear about his use of public faith and language. He is willing to use it to motivate the country to go to war, a war we now know could not be justified by rational anaylsis. Without the religious overtones on the war it is doubtful the American people would support it. So George Bush, like too many political figures are tempted to do, has used religious language for his own political purposes and therefore also abused the authentic witness of the Christian faith in the process.

Now that is something that George Bush should get down on his knees and pray about.

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Date Added: 9/16/2004 Date Revised: 9/16/2004 12:03:33 PM

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