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Bush interview touches on marriage amendment, prayer, faith

WASHINGTON (BP)–In a wide-ranging interview with religion journalists May 26, President Bush said that more public support is needed to pass a constitutional marriage amendment, that he prays “all the time” and that the war on terrorism involves a “clash of ideologies.”

The interview involved some 10 religion writers and editors from such publications as Christianity Today and World Magazine and touched on everything from his faith to his view on the nation of Israel.

Regarding the issue of same-sex “marriage,” Bush said he backs a Federal Marriage Amendment because he fears that the Defense of Marriage Act –- the law that prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriage” and allows states to do the same -– will be struck down in court.

But Bush said he believes that few people understand the nationwide threat being posed by legalized same-sex “marriage” in Massachusetts.

“[I]n order for a constitutional amendment to go forward people have to speak,” he said, according to a transcript posted on Christianity Today’s website. “Now I’ll be glad to lend my voice, but it’s going to require more than one voice. It’s going to require people from around the country to insist to members of Congress, for starters, that a constitutional amendment process is necessary for the country.

“… I will tell you the prairie fire necessary to get an amendment passed is simmering at best. I think it’s an accurate way of describing it. Father Richard [Neuhaus] and I had a long discussion during my decision-making process, and I’m not sure people quite understand the issue yet.”

Bush said that same-sex couples will be able to use their marriage licenses from Massachusetts to sue and have them recognized in other states.

“… I think people need to understand that if DOMA — the Defense of Marriage Act — was to crater that people could take a marriage license from one state and use it in another state and all of a sudden you now have de facto [same-sex] marriage,” he said. “And my judgment is the American people don’t want that. But I don’t think they quite understand that which is happening in Massachusetts. … It can affect their life.”

The president reiterated his belief that the amendment debate should be civil and not politicized.

“You don’t want people making up their mind whether or not this benefits a candidate or not,” he said. “You want people making up their mind on this issue about whether it benefits America….”

On the issue of prayer, Bush said he estimates that one-third to one-half of every person he shakes hands with in public gatherings says, “Mr. President, my family prays for you.”

“And that is an incredibly sustaining part of the job of president,” he said. “… And it matters a lot. It has made being the president of the United States a heck of a lot easier to be sustained by the prayers of the people and my own personal prayers.”

As for his own spiritual life, Bush said he reads Oswald Chambers every morning and also reads a devotional by former Senate chaplain Lloyd Ogilvie.

“People say, ‘When do you pray?’ I pray all the time. All the time,” Bush said. “You don’t need a chapel to pray, I don’t think. Whether it be in the Oval Office, I mean, you just do it. That’s just me. I don’t say that to try to get votes. I’m just sharing that experience with you.”

He also said he realizes the position he is in to be a good influence.

“I just think that I have a fantastic opportunity to let the light shine, and will do so however, as a secular politician,” he said. “It’s really important that you know — I say to our fellow countrymen that my job is not to promote a religion but to promote the ability of people to worship as they see fit.”

Emphasizing a theme of his 2000 campaign, Bush said his goal is to change the culture by building a culture of responsibility. That change, he said, extends to changing peoples’ views about life.

“Father Richard [Neuhaus] helped me craft what is still the integral part of my position on abortion, which is: Every child welcomed to life and protected by law,” he said. “That is the goal of this administration.”

Concerning the war on terror, Bush said America is facing opponents that have an opposing system of beliefs.

“I believe there’s a clash of ideologies and I think — I just know — that America must be firm in our resolve and confident in our belief that freedom is the mightiest gift to everybody in the world and that free societies will be peaceful societies,” he said.

On the issue of Islam, Bush was asked if he believes there is “anything inherently evil” in the way “some practice Islam” that “stands in the way of the pursuit of democracy.”

“I think what we’re dealing with,” Bush said, “are people — extreme, radical people — who’ve got a deep desire to spread an ideology that is anti-women, anti-free thought, anti-art and science, you know, that couch their language in religious terms. But that doesn’t make them religious people. I think they conveniently use religion to kill. The religion I know is not one that encourages killing. I think that they want to drive us out of parts of the world so they’re better able to have a base from which to operate.”

Bush also was asked if his view on Israel and the Holy Land was similar to that of conservative Christians such as Pat Robertson.

“I view it a little differently,” he said. “I view Israel as a friend and ally in democracy who is in a rough neighborhood and therefore, step one, I’ve made the commitment — a firm commitment of our government — that we will stand side by side with Israel if anybody tries to annihilate her. Secondly, I believe the best solution for peace in that part of the world is for there to be a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state on her border run by men and women who hold the aspirations and hopes of the Palestinian people dear to their hearts –not their own corrupt aspirations. And I believe it’s possible.”

Bush also reflected on his first few years as president, saying that a president “shouldn’t worry about how history will judge him.”

“And so when you hear this thing about, ‘Well, he’s worried about his standing in history.’ I’m not,” he said. “And most short-term history will be written by people who didn’t particularly want me to be president to begin with.”
An edited transcript of the interview is available online at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/121/51.0.html

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  • Michael Foust