NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–President George W. Bush is not shy about referring to his deep faith in God in public or private — and that has news commentators’ tongues wagging.
The president concluded his State of the Union address in January by saying, “We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know — we do not claim to know — all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life and all of history.”
Increasing interest in the president’s spiritual life was capped by a Newsweek cover story Feb. 27 titled, “Bush and God,” which called the Bush presidency the “most resolutely ‘faith-based’ in modern times.”
MSNBC weekday anchor John Seigenthaler took time out from that network’s nonstop coverage of developments at the United Nations and the United States’ preparations for war to focus on the president’s faith March 11, interviewing Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land.
“Like all evangelical Christians and many others who are not evangelical Christians, he [Bush] seeks God’s guidance in his daily life,” Land told Seigenthaler, adding that the president “seeks to do God’s will as he understands it.”
Yet Land hastened to note the president recognizes the presidency is a secular job.
“I have been around the president enough to see that he understands the difference between his personal faith and his performance in his job as president of the United States,” said Land, whom Bush appointed to the International Commission on Religious Freedom in September 2001.
When Seigenthaler asked Land if Bush felt God was giving him the go-ahead to pursue military action against the Iraqi government, Land said that was a question the newsman would have to direct to Bush for a definitive answer. “But I suspect like many other leaders, he seeks the guidance of God in moments of crisis and asks that God would give him direction,” Land said.
“As Abraham Lincoln put it in one of the most critical moments of the Civil War when one of his cabinet ministers asked him, ‘God is on our side, isn’t he?’ Lincoln responded, ‘I am more concerned that we be on God’s side,'” Land said.
“That’s the whole posture I get from the president,” Land explained. “He is seeking to determine how God would have him act and perform his duties as well as to give him wisdom, guidance, strength and compassion.
“I don’t think the president or any evangelical Christian would say God is on our side,” Land continued. “We are far more concerned about doing what God would have us to do, which is a far different thing and a much more humble approach.”
War is always the last resort, Land said. “Most Christians in most places at most times have felt that ‘just war’ theory is the way to guide them.
“Many evangelical Christians, and many Americans who aren’t particularly religious, would agree that we are approaching that last resort,” Land said, noting the Iraqi leader has had 12 years to comply with the United Nations’ directives following the end of the Gulf War.
“It is time now to disarm Saddam Hussein and take away his weapons of mass destruction,” Land concluded.