Praise for President Bush as a person, mixed with ambivalence about his ideas, described the way some Christians responded to his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
David Wheeler, pastor of First Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Calif. said he thought Bush’s communication skills had improved since Sept. 11. But Wheeler wasn’t as impressed with Bush’s take on the issues.
“[Bush’s] vision of an unlimited campaign against nations that may harbor terrorists amounts to licensing the United States to commit its own terrorist acts,” Wheeler told EthicsDaily.com. “This belligerent unilateralism makes us less, rather than more, secure in the long run.”
Bush’s concern for homeland security resonated with Suzii Paynter, director of citizenship education and public policy for the Christian Life Commission in Texas.
“Because the federal building is across the street from our church, the street in front of our church has been closed since Sept. 11,” Paynter told EthicsDaily.com. “In addition to the inconvenience of interrupted one-way streets, we are reminded every time we come to church that our security is not to be taken for granted.”
Paynter also said her Texas church has been touched personally by the Enron collapse, and she called on Bush and Congress to act with more integrity on the issue.
“Bush called for general corporate citizenship and made an appeal for protection of retirement funds,” she said. “I think people will begin to feel secure when presidential and congressional action backs up this appeal.”
Some conservative groups focused more on what Bush didn’t say.
Michael Schwartz, vice president of government relations at Concerned Women for America, said the speech was what he expected to hear. But he also said Bush left out “critically important issues.”
Schwartz told CitizenLink that talk about the ban on human cloning, partial-birth abortion, judicial confirmations, protection of marriage and education tax credits were noticeably absent from the speech. In fact, the CitizenLink article noted, “Bush was silent on virtually the entire conservative agenda.”
So what themes hit home?
Wheeler said the theme was twofold. First, Bush relayed that he could be trusted to work towards security.
Second, Wheeler said, “You can have your cake and eat it too, as in massive spending for the military and domestic security, ‘permanent’ tax cuts and increased attention to education and other domestic spending.”
Paynter’s assessment took a different turn: “To celebrate the beginning successes and provide a sense of direction regarding the war on terrorism and to provide the outline of a plan for coping with domestic issues.”
As far as what’s on the horizon, Paynter said Bush left her wondering.
On her list of concerns: living wages, jobs, childcare, healthcare and retirement.
Wheeler said Bush’s “economic stimulus” plan left him unsure. He said it created a “freeway for more and future Enrons and undermines rather than enhances the economic security of ordinary Americans.”
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.