George Bush the Religious Moderate?

December 10, 2008 at 8:25 am Leave a comment

george-bush.1.jpgWhile being a committed Christian, Tony Blair did not, in Alistair Campbell’s famous phrase, “do God”. George Bush is different. Famously born again from his dissolute, hard drinking ways, the soon-to-depart US president’s fervent faith helped make America’s large evangelical community the bedrock of his election victories.

With his time in office running out, Bush has been discussing what religion means to him. Here’s the prĂ©cis: he does not believe in the literal truth of the Bible, did not invade Iraq because of his Christianity and does not believe his faith is incompatible with evolution. Bush will not even assert that the Almighty – who, he believes, is much the same one as is worshipped by other religions – chose him to become president.
The insights came last night in a pre-recorded interview for ABC’s Nightline show. Here are some of the key quotes:

I think evolution can – you’re getting me way out of my lane here. I’m just a simple president. But it’s, I think that God created the earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty and I don’t think it’s incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution.

No, I’m not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from [the Bible].

When asked if the God he prays to is the same as those worshipped by other faiths:

I do believe there is an almighty that is broad and big enough and loving enough that can encompass a lot of people.

On whether he was chosen by God to be president:

I just, I can’t go there. I’m not that confident in knowing, you know, the Almighty, to be able to say, ‘Yeah, God wanted me of all the other people.’

On Iraq:

You can’t look at the decision to go into Iraq apart from, you know, what happened on September 11. It was not a religious decision.

What’s notable about this, apart from the faux modesty (“I’m just a simple president”) is the relative moderation of Bush’s views compared with those of many ordinary US citizens.
According to opinion polls, around a third of Americans believe the Bible should be taken as a literal history, while almost half say God created humankind “as is” during the past 10,000 years.
Of course, Bush’s tolerance for evolution is not necessarily surprising given his background. The polls also show that the more educated you are as an American, the less literal your religious view. Fully three-quarters of those with a postgraduate degree (stand up, George Bush MBA) believe in evolution.
And while the Texas-raised Dubya might style himself a simple-thinking cowboy, let’s not forget he was born amid the liberal east coast money of New Haven, Connecticut, to a father whose Episcopalian faith was notably less evangelical than his son’s future Methodism.
Is there a sense, perhaps, that Bush junior’s faith, while clearly pivotal in his life, has been overplayed in the narrative of his presidency?
Source: Guardian
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