Everybody talkin’ ’bout heaven ain’t a goin’ there. ~ Johnny Cash, “I Got Shoes” F**k Saddam. We’re taking him out! ~ George W. Bush Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. ~ Matthew 7:20
It would be presumptuous on the part of any man to pass judgment on the genuineness of President Bush’s Christianity: “For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). But as a Christian, I would be remiss if I did not point out the seriously defective nature of the president’s Christianity.
It is not just that the Christianity of George Bush is very ecumenical and inclusive — that is characteristic of much of what passes for Christianity nowadays. The Christianity of George WMD Bush is warped and unorthodox.
I am not condemning Bush’s Christianity because of the manifold inconsistencies that exist between his words and his actions. Thus, I am not going to criticize the president for preaching “family values” and then using foul language, inviting rocker Ozzy Osbourne to the White House, having a wife who delivers off-color jokes, and raising daughters who have used fake IDs so they could get a drink. And neither am I going to criticize the president for saying he is “pro-family” and then appointing an openly homosexual ambassador to Romania, Michael Guest, who moved into the U.S. Embassy compound in Bucharest with his “partner.” I am not even going to criticize the president for claiming to be “anti-abortion” and “pro-life” and then demonstrating that he is neither. I am condemning Bush’s Christianity because of his theology.
There is no question that Bush is the darling of the Religious Right; however, his spiritual journey to that position is somewhat convoluted. He was born in New Haven, Connecticut, as an Episcopalian. When his parents moved to Midland, Texas, they attended the First Presbyterian Church. But when they moved to Houston, the family switched to St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, returning to “the denomination my dad was raised in.” It was here that young George served communion as an altar boy and “felt the first stirrings of a faith that would be years in the shaping.” When he was sent to school in Andover at the age of fifteen, Bush was required to attend a Congregationalist-style chapel service five times a week. After his graduation from Harvard in 1975, he returned to Midland, Texas, and attended the Presbyterian church of his youth. Although he taught Sunday School and served on the finance committee, Bush smoked, drank heavily, chewed tobacco, and “cursed harder than a grease-stained roustabout.” In 1977, Bush met a member of the First United Methodist Church in Midland and married Laura at that church just a few months later. He thereafter became a Methodist, teaching Sunday School at the church and serving on the finance committee. Bush and his family would later attend Highland Park Methodist Church in Dallas and, when he became governor of Texas, Tarrytown United Methodist Church in Austin.
Enter Evangelist Arthur Blessitt. Blessitt is listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as taking the world’s longest walk. Since 1969, he has carried a twelve-foot cross as he walked around every nation in the world, logging over 36,000 miles. In 1984, the evangelist came to Midland, Texas, the home of George W. Bush. Blessitt and Bush met in a hotel room where, according to Blessitt, Bush accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. The two would not meet again until 1999, when, during his first presidential campaign, Bush spoke to and was photographed with Blessitt at a political fundraiser.
But Bush has never spoken publicly about his first meeting with Blessitt. He never told any of his close political acquaintances. And he never wrote about it in his autobiography, A Charge to Keep. What Bush has mentioned is his meeting in 1985 with Evangelist Billy Graham on a beach in Kennebunkport, Maine. According to Bush:
Graham planted a mustard seed in my soul, a seed that grew over the next year. He led me to the path, and I began walking. And it was the beginning of a change in my life. I had always been a religious person, had regularly attended church, even taught Sunday school and served as an altar boy. But that weekend my faith took on a new meaning. It was the beginning of a new walk where I would recommit my heart to Jesus Christ.
In 1986, after waking up with a hangover and trying to perform his “usual run,” Bush abruptly quit drinking. Sometime in the early 1990s, he also gave up smoking and tobacco chewing, but, in the words of one of his biographers, “his language could still be what is charitably called u2018colorful,’ and even on the presidential campaign trail, he sometimes let out expletives when someone displeased him.”
During his second gubernatorial inauguration in 1999, Bush attended a special service at the First United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas, led by his old friend, Mark Craig, from Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas. Bush claims it was through Craig’s sermon that God called him to run for president. He then sought guidance from Texas evangelist James Robison. Bush told the evangelist: “I can’t explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen, and, at that time, my country is going to need me. I know it won’t be easy, on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.”
In addition to Graham, Craig, and Robison, Bush counts among his friends Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas; Kirbyjon Caldwell of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas; and Ed Young of Houston’s Second Baptist Church. He supposedly reads his Bible every day along with daily passages from devotional books. His favorite authors are said to be Oswald Chambers, Charles Stanley, and Charles Spurgeon, although Bush obviously does not heed Spurgeon’s advice when it comes to war.
So what could possibly be wrong with Bush’s theology?
Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush has gone out of his way to maintain that Islam is a religion of peace that is not much different than other religions. Indeed, our “Christian” president has gone overboard, not just in his tolerance of, but in his promotion of Islam.
On November 19, 2001, Bush hosted a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner (an Iftar) at the White House for fifty Muslim ambassadors. The president said in his opening remarks that the United States is “made better by millions of Muslim citizens.”
On October 11, 2002, when commenting on U.S. humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Bush stated about Islam: “Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions.”
On November 7, 2002, Bush hosted another Iftar at the White House “to help usher in the holy month of Ramadan.”
On October 24, 2003, Bush released an official presidential message on Ramadan in which he said that “people who practice the Islamic faith have made great contributions to our Nation and the world.”
On October 28, 2003, Bush hosted yet another Iftar at the White House with ambassadors and Muslim leaders. During this dinner he had a Muslim Imam lead in prayer.
On October 15, 2004, Bush released another official presidential message on Ramadan in which he said that “Americans who practice the Islamic faith enrich our society and help our Nation build a better future.”
Some Christians will excuse Bush’s attempts to placate Muslims by saying that since Bush is the president he has to participate in certain functions as the head of state. True, but when did Nixon, Reagan, or even Bush’s father promote Ramadan? Ah, we are told, this is necessary because the world is different since the September 11th attacks! I wonder how many years will have to pass before we cease to hear that trite cliché? Other Christians will dismiss Bush’s actions by saying that, after all, he is just a politician, and politicians say and do a lot of things that they really don’t believe and don’t want to do. But I thought Bush was a Christian? Aren’t Christians supposed to “provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17)? Okay, still other Christians say, Bush means well, he is just naïve about Islam — but his Christianity is genuine. The first part of that statement is certainly true, but what of the second?
The disturbing thing about Bush’s Christianity is not his naïveté, his hosting of Ramadan dinners, or his statements about Islam. What is so troubling about Bush’s Christianity is his anti-Christian theology. He told the leader of Turkey (a Muslim) that they both believe in “the Almighty.” When questioned by a British reporter about the God of Islam being the same as the God of Christianity, Bush replied: “I believe we worship the same God.” In an October 26, 2004, Good Morning American interview with Charles Gibson, Bush was asked: “Do we all worship the same God, Christian and Muslim?” His reply: “I think we do.”
It is impossible that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and for one simple reason: Allah had no son. The Koran teaches that Allah had no son (4:171, 6:101, 9:30, 10:68, 17:111, 18:4,19:35, 19:88-92, 23:91, 25:2, 39:4, 72:3, 112:1-3); the Bible teaches that God had a son, Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:54, Mark 1:1, Luke 1:35, John 3:18, Acts 9:20, Romans 1:4, 2 Corinthians 1:19, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 4:13, Hebrews 4:14, 1 John 5:20, Revelation 2:18). It doesn’t matter if you believe that the Koran is right and the Bible is wrong or that the Bible is right and the Koran is wrong; the result is still the same: Christians and Muslims couldn’t possibly worship the same God.
But it is not just Islam that Bush is confused about. Evangelical Christians who rejoice when they hear Bush talk about faith ought to do a little investigating before they get so ecstatic. When I talk about faith, says the president:
I don’t talk about a particular faith. I believe the Lord can work through many faiths, whether it be the Christian faith, the Jewish faith, Muslim faith, Hindu faith. When I speak of faith, I speak of all faiths, because there is a universal call, and that main universal call is to love your neighbor. It extends throughout all faith.
So, it is not just Christians and Muslims that Bush thinks worship the same God. The god worshipped by any “faith” and the God of Christianity are one and the same. How can “the Lord work through many faiths” unless he is the God of all faiths?
In his Good Morning American interview, Bush was also asked by Charles Gibson: “Do Christians and non-Christians and Muslims go to heaven in your mind?” His reply: “Yes, they do. We have different routes of getting there. But I will, I, I want you to understand, I want your listeners to understand, I don’t get to decide who goes to heaven. The almighty God decides who goes to heaven. And I am on my personal walk.”
So according to President Bush, one religion is just as good as another. It doesn’t matter what “faith” a person holds to — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu — as long as you have “faith.” But even that is probably saying too much, for the question put to Bush about who is going to heaven included “non-Christians.” That could mean adherents of any non-Christian religion — Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Animism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Scientology, Rosicrucianism, Islam, or Hinduism — or adherents of no religion — atheists and agnostics.
According to the Bible that Bush professes to read and believe, one religion is not just as good as another. Christianity is an exclusive religion:
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins (John 8:24). Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me (John 14:6). Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
It doesn’t matter if you are an atheist, an agnostic, or an adherent of some Eastern religion and object vehemently to the truth of these statements from the New Testament. A Christian is supposed to believe that salvation is through the Lord Jesus Christ only and the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
To reject the uniqueness of Christianity is to question the purpose of the Incarnation and Atonement of Christ. It was widely reported during Bush’s first campaign for the presidency that when the six Republican Party presidential candidates met for a debate in Des Moines, Iowa, on December 13, 1999, the then Governor Bush stunned the audience by answering “Christ, because he changed my heart” when the local news anchor asked each of the aspirants to name the political philosopher they most identified with and why. Bush’s denial of the uniqueness of Christianity means that Christ was just that — a philosopher — not “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Because of the defective view of his Christianity, Bush would not be qualified to teach a Sunday School class or even a Vacation Bible School class in an orthodox Christian church. And yet, Bush has on at least one occasion delivered a sermon in a church. On March 6, 1999, Bush “preached” the sermon, “Faith Can Change Lives,” at the Second Baptist Church of Houston, Texas. He talks a lot about faith in his sermon, but it rings hollow in light of his statement about God working through many faiths. And the strangest thing about Bush’s “sermon” — and something that the congregation should have picked up on immediately — is its total absence of any Scripture. It is not based on any text of Scripture. There are no quotations from Scripture. The only specific reference to the Scripture is when Bush recounted to the congregation about his trip to Israel with three other governors. As his party was standing beside the Sea of Galilee, someone suggested that the four governors each read a portion of Scripture. According to Bush, “Three governors went first. And, that finally finished, I decided not to read Scripture. I decided to read u2018Amazing Grace,’ which is my favorite hymn.”
If one is looking for a president to serve as a Christian role model, there are other examples besides President Bush. Jimmy Carter, who professed to be “born again” and taught Sunday School at a Baptist church, is one such individual, although I certainly don’t agree with his Democratic Party politics (not that I agree with Bush’s Republican Party politics either). In an interview for the History Channel, former president Carter succinctly stated his differences with the current president over the war in Iraq: “I worship the prince of peace, not the prince of war. And to launch a war that might take 50,000 Iraqi lives and so forth, I think 1,300 American lives, unnecessarily, I believe still unnecessarily, based completely on false premises, does contradict my own standard of religious faith.” Carter also realized that Christian “just war” principles prohibited such a war: “As a Christian and as a president who was severely provoked by international crises, I became thoroughly familiar with the principles of a just war, and it is clear that a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet these standards.”
So why doesn’t the Religious Right follow Carter on the war issue instead of Bush? Simple: Carter is a Democrat and Bush is a Republican. The Religious Right is in bed with the Republican Party, and is enjoying the affair. But what is this but a case of spiritual adultery?
God deliver us from the defective Christianity of George WMD Bush!
[Unless stated otherwise, all quotations by the president are from Stephen Mansfield’s The Faith of George Bush, David Aikman’s A Man Of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush, or the president’s own book, A Charge to Keep. For another look at Bush that is not so favorable, see Kitty Kelley’s The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty.]