Religion and the presidency

On his website, Andrew Sullivan takes President George W. Bush to task for some comments he made during an interview with the Washington Times, in which the President discussed his reliance on faith in discharging his duties in office. Sullivan cites the phrase in which the President says he cannot 'see how you can be President without a relationship with the Lord.' Sullivan calls this 'a new level of religio—political fusion in this administration' and demands that President Bush retract the statement. The President will do nothing of the kind.

To his credit, Sullivan does actually link to the entire article in the Times, yet he leaves out the critical context of the President's remarks, to whit:

'I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit. That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit. On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord."

Sullivan's reaction reflects an attitude that is amplified by a media wishing and hoping to nail President Bush for any transgression, real or perceived, and by some evangelicals shouting from the rooftops claiming credit for re—electing the President. The extreme left has a nightmare: that George W. Bush is hell—bent on establishing a theocracy in place of a democratic republic. Those who live in inordinate fear of this prospect have convinced themselves, or let themselves be persuaded by others, that the President will instruct his staff to begin immediately raising revival tents on the South Lawn and cutting off federal aid to citizens who do not walk with Jesus.

This particular attitude reveals the general ignorance of American history and the faith of Presidents among leftists and the media. Many Americans consider Abraham Lincoln the greatest chief executive of them all, and he was never shy about professing his faith in the teachings of the Bible, and his deep belief that divine providence smiled upon his efforts and the efforts of 'this favored land' in war and peace. Every single President of the United States has invoked God on the occasion of his inauguration.

Can you imagine the reaction of the leftist media have been if, on the eve of the Iraq invasion in 2003, President Bush took to the airwaves and led the nation in this prayer:

'Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest—until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. And for us at home —— fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas —— whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them——help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.'

These were just some of the words addressed to the American people by Franklin D. Roosevelt on the eve of the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944.

It would be tempting to caution the President to temper his remarks, to think that any utterance he happens to make regarding his personal faith, and his reliance upon that faith, further alienates him from a media that conveys his message to the public, feeds the conspiracy—minded who are convinced that our government is in the hands of an unreasonable religious fanatic, and even perplexes or bothers supporters who do not happen to share his faith. Perhaps it might be better to temper his thoughts about faith and save them for the memoirs. Better to let discretion be the better part of valor on this one issue.

This would be folly.

Part of President Bush's appeal — and a large part of his sincerity of leadership — is that he simply is who he is. When asked about his faith and the office, he will give an honest answer. He will not shy away from the question, or text message Karl Rove to see how the approval ratings might sink or swim based on his answer. President Bush's faith is nothing new in the presidency and it is not necessary for him to apologize for it, nor run from it because of the baseless fears of the ignorant, uninformed, and religiously intolerant. Carry on, Mr. President.

Matt May can be reached at matthewtmay@yahoo.com; his blog is mattymay.blogspot.com

On his website, Andrew Sullivan takes President George W. Bush to task for some comments he made during an interview with the Washington Times, in which the President discussed his reliance on faith in discharging his duties in office. Sullivan cites the phrase in which the President says he cannot 'see how you can be President without a relationship with the Lord.' Sullivan calls this 'a new level of religio—political fusion in this administration' and demands that President Bush retract the statement. The President will do nothing of the kind.

To his credit, Sullivan does actually link to the entire article in the Times, yet he leaves out the critical context of the President's remarks, to whit:

'I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit. That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit. On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord."

Sullivan's reaction reflects an attitude that is amplified by a media wishing and hoping to nail President Bush for any transgression, real or perceived, and by some evangelicals shouting from the rooftops claiming credit for re—electing the President. The extreme left has a nightmare: that George W. Bush is hell—bent on establishing a theocracy in place of a democratic republic. Those who live in inordinate fear of this prospect have convinced themselves, or let themselves be persuaded by others, that the President will instruct his staff to begin immediately raising revival tents on the South Lawn and cutting off federal aid to citizens who do not walk with Jesus.

This particular attitude reveals the general ignorance of American history and the faith of Presidents among leftists and the media. Many Americans consider Abraham Lincoln the greatest chief executive of them all, and he was never shy about professing his faith in the teachings of the Bible, and his deep belief that divine providence smiled upon his efforts and the efforts of 'this favored land' in war and peace. Every single President of the United States has invoked God on the occasion of his inauguration.

Can you imagine the reaction of the leftist media have been if, on the eve of the Iraq invasion in 2003, President Bush took to the airwaves and led the nation in this prayer:

'Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest—until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. And for us at home —— fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas —— whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them——help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.'

These were just some of the words addressed to the American people by Franklin D. Roosevelt on the eve of the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944.

It would be tempting to caution the President to temper his remarks, to think that any utterance he happens to make regarding his personal faith, and his reliance upon that faith, further alienates him from a media that conveys his message to the public, feeds the conspiracy—minded who are convinced that our government is in the hands of an unreasonable religious fanatic, and even perplexes or bothers supporters who do not happen to share his faith. Perhaps it might be better to temper his thoughts about faith and save them for the memoirs. Better to let discretion be the better part of valor on this one issue.

This would be folly.

Part of President Bush's appeal — and a large part of his sincerity of leadership — is that he simply is who he is. When asked about his faith and the office, he will give an honest answer. He will not shy away from the question, or text message Karl Rove to see how the approval ratings might sink or swim based on his answer. President Bush's faith is nothing new in the presidency and it is not necessary for him to apologize for it, nor run from it because of the baseless fears of the ignorant, uninformed, and religiously intolerant. Carry on, Mr. President.

Matt May can be reached at matthewtmay@yahoo.com; his blog is mattymay.blogspot.com