Julian Borger / The London Guardian – 2005-10-07 07:40:07
WASHINGTON (October 7, 2005) —
George Bush was born again as an evangelical Christian in 1985 with the help of Billy Graham. But the veteran preacher had a warning for the future president: “Never play God”.
As Mr Bush went on from that pivotal moment to be elected Texas governor and win the presidency, fears have occasionally been raised that he has forgotten Mr Graham’s admonition.
An account by Palestinian leaders of a 2003 meeting, broadcast by the BBC, reinforces a deepening impression that Mr Bush really does believe himself to be a man of destiny, on “a mission from God”.
A 2003 book, , by a religious author, Stephen Mansfield, recounts several anecdotes about Mr Bush’s sense of divine guidance.
‘God Wants Me to Run for President’
While he was still weighing up whether to run for the presidency, he apparently confided in a Texan evangelist, James Robinson, that he had a premonition of national tragedy. “I feel like God wants me to run for president. I can’t explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen,” Mr Bush said. “I know it won’t be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.”
His personal story of redemption from hard drinking and hell raising was very much part of his 2000 campaign. Asked during a debate to name his favourite “philosopher-thinker”, Mr Bush replied: “Christ, because he changed my heart.”
I Trust God Speaks through Me’
Since taking office, Mr Bush has steered away from claims of being a vehicle for divine power, but there have been lapses. Last year, he reportedly told an Amish group in Pennsylvania: “I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job.”
Soon after the September 11 attacks, Mr Bush spoke of a “crusade” against the country’s enemies. The word was quickly expunged from the presidential vocabulary, but it appeared to echo a religious sense of mission in Mr Bush’s mind.
US Occupation and ‘God’s Gift to the World’
In his state of the union address two years later, he suggested that his pre-emptive foreign policy doctrine was also divinely inspired.
“This call of history has come to the right country,” he said. “The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.’
The comments drew widespread attention. Since the nation’s founding, American politicians have used far more extensive religious vocabulary and imagery than is customary in Europe. In the US, it is not so much tolerated as required.
However, Mr Bush has arguably gone further in both word and deed than any modern president, and his critics have accused him of deliberately blurring the constitutional separation between church and state. Former White House officials have recounted how staff were expected to attend daily prayer meetings.
Billions of dollars have been set aside for “faith-based” groups, which President Bush believes to be more effective for social assistance than government programmes.
Suspicions of a creeping evangelical agenda ignited into outrage with the comments of a US general, William Boykin, responsible for leading the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. The war on terror, Lieut Gen Boykin told Christian groups in 2003, was a war against satan. Of the president, the general asked: “Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. He’s in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this.”
After a brief investigation, the general was not only exonerated for improper remarks, he was promoted to deputy under-secretary of defence for intelligence.
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