President George W. Bush reads the Bible every morning, along with devotionals written by Charles Stanley, according to an article in the upcoming issue of Ladies’ Home Journal.
Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan interviewed the president and First Lady Laura Bush at the White House in June. Among items in the Q&A interview, coming in the magazine’s October issue due out in a few days, the president said reading the Bible influenced his decision to push for increased funding to fight AIDS in Africa.
Asked what he would say to non-religious people who are put off by his faith, Bush said: “You shouldn’t fear a religious person. The Bible talks about love and compassion and to whom much has been given, much is required. That’s really a lot behind my passion on AIDS policy, for example.”
Bush said it is possible for a person who does not believe in God to be president, and some of his predecessors perhaps didn’t, but he draws strength from his faith. “Just living this life—when you realize that there is an Almighty God on whom you can rely—it provides a great comfort,” he said. “That’s why I read every morning the Bible and scriptures and Charles Stanley devotionals. It matters a lot to me personally.”
Stanley, a television preacher and former Southern Baptist Convention president, is pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Bush is a Methodist by marriage but seldom attends church in Washington, though he attends private chapel services at Camp David, according to another national magazine also profiling the president’s religion.
The September Gentlemen’s Quarterly article describes Bush as “the most overtly and publicly religious leader of the United States in generations,” alluding to his faith often in official speeches, and yet private when describing details of his beliefs.
“The president divorces policymaking from personal faith,” White House adviser Dan Bartlett told GQ. “His personal faith and belief system give him the clarity of mind, personal comfort and freedom from risk in his decisions that allows him to be president. George W. Bush believes in a secular state and tolerance of all religions, even as he believes that faith-based organizations shouldn’t be discriminated against when it comes to government money for social programs. I can tell you that George Bush is not making decisions based on his own personal faith.”
The article names SBC agency head Richard Land as an “adviser to the White House on the intersection of politics and religion.”
“George Bush is an evangelical Christian, there is no doubt about that,” Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is quoted as saying, and that he trusts the younger Bush even more than he trusted Ronald Reagan. “Bush is traditional and religious, and now there is no ‘Nancy factor’—no need to go through a Nancy Reagan-type figure to get to the president.”
Another new detail in the article is a claim by Arthur Blessitt, an evangelist best known for carrying a 12-foot cross in 300 countries around the world, that he led Bush to Christ in a private meeting in a hotel room in Midland, Texas, in 1984. Asked why he thought Bush, who credits Billy Graham with planting seeds for his conversion, didn’t mention it, Blessitt said he didn’t know but it is common for evangelicals not to talk about Jesus to outsiders.
A boyhood friend of Bush’s who attended an interdenominational Bible study group with him years ago said evangelicals fear talking about God with media from outside the Bible belt, who misunderstand and ridicule their beliefs.
For that reason, the article claims, Bush avoids terms like “born again” in describing his religious experience, while still communicating with Christians using carefully chosen words in public speeches. Many non-Christians, for example, might not know that a line from Bush’s State of the Union address “There is power, wonder-working power in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people” is borrowed from a gospel hymn.
The article says the Bush White House is the most religious in generations, mentioning first national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who incidentally also is profiled in a major feature story in a current magazine.
“She’s very close to the Lord,” Rice’s aunt, Genoa Ray McPhatter said of the Presbyterian minister’s daughter in the September issue of Christianity Today.
“Her faith is absolutely fundamental to who she is,” added Randy Bean, a longtime friend. “It’s part of her fiber.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.