Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Faith of Presidents

Two Christmases ago, I wrote the following:
What our President Said on December 24th.... a radio address to our troops:
“Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way because of its deep spiritual meaning to us; because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives; and because we want our youngest generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and Good Will.”
My question to you is: Was the President of the United States out of line by including such a blatant invocation of God and religion into his address? Did he somehow "offend" those non-religious, American souls? Was he being exclusive? Was he in violation of the establishment clause in the First Amendment?

[...] the above address was delivered by the President... 1944! You see, President Bush never said these words. President Franklin D. Roosevelt did, 60 years ago in a radio address to the troops serving in WWII.
This ruse was taken from Michael Medved's radio program in 2004. My point (and Mr. Medved's) was that President Bush is in the mainstream when it comes to religious expression of a U.S. president. The fact is, presidents throughout our entire history have referenced the Creator. Their public speeches and addresses are littered with the Name of the Almighty.

I do believe President Bush is a devout Methodist. But he is not the "Christian crazy" that the secularist left and the kool-aid drinkers in the media press have made him out to be. They have successfully duped many into the notion that President Bush and his Administration is turning America into a theocracy of sorts; that there is some sort of diabolical "rise of the religious right", taking us into a crusade against the Muslims, when this President has done more (much to the consternation of many conservatives) to be welcoming toward Muslims and those of all religious faiths than any other president I can recall.

The myth that President Bush is a religious nutcase comes from taking a few statements of his, spinning the context, then creating the caricature. It is the same media perception that has created the image of Bush is stupid, Bush is dyslexic, Bush is a chimpanzee, etc.

In the original post, I went on to compare former President Clinton's public references to God to President Bush's.

Yesterday, Hugh Hewitt interviewed Jon Meachum. I only caught a portion of it; but it must have been the important portion, because Hewitt excerpted it here:
HH: Now Jon Meacham, do you think the reason that’s been forgotten is that it was little noticed at the time, so unexceptional was the language, or that simply it was obscured by the brouhaha? I think it’s the former, really, that only in recent times has the nerve ending begun to tingle, collectively, when presidents use God talk. I think it was very common up through Ford’s presidency. Your thinking on that?

JM: I agree with you mostly, I think. I think it’s been from…I think Carter did it, I think Reagan did it, George Herbert Walker Bush opened his inaugural address in 1989 with a prayer. Didn’t close it, didn’t just say God Bless America, he said let us bow our heads in prayer. And because he was an Episcopalian, and I sometimes joke, perhaps badly, that George H.W. Bush thinks of being born again as a mulligan on a golf course. You know, he’s not intensely interested in these matters. And Clinton…you know, the best speech Bill Clinton ever gave was that extemporaneous talk in Memphis in 1993, when he talked about what would Martin Luther King say about black America today if he came back, did it in a Church to a group…I think it was a gathering of AME bishops. So I think President Bush the second, I think the 43rd president, is completely within the mainstream of presidential religious expression, and I think people who attack him, and say he’s overly religious, or too much God talk, I think are wrong.

HH: Now you do have the line in here, which I agree with, it’s a very sound observation, that such an understanding, such as Ford had, naturally has hardly been unanimous, and many Americans are reasonably uncomfortable with the idea that our leaders think they are either communing with the Divine, or carrying out God’s mission. Do you think Bush has given off more indications of that? Or is that simply being layered on to him by political opponents?

JM: I think the latter. I really do. I have asked people who have been in conversations where he might have said something like ‘I feel God put me here’, or ‘I feel ordained for this’, and no one’s ever said they’ve heard him say it. So I think there’s a kind of urban legend about Bush feeling…at least being explicit about being God’s agent. Now he did say to Bob Woodward that he would not appeal to his own father in terms of strength, but to a higher Father. I actually think that’s more about paging Dr. Phil about a very odd family dynamic within the Bush clan, than it is about George Bush wandering the Rose Garden, thinking God is telling them what to do. That’s my personal view.

HH: Whenever anyone tells President Bush that they’re praying for him, he always says thank you, I appreciate that. He refers to it a lot. I think he’s sincere when he says that.

JM: I’m not saying he’s not sincere. I’m saying that his opponents who think that he is some kind of religious nut, who’s on a holy mission, are wrong. I think President Bush is completely serious about his faith. I have no reason to doubt that whatever. And in fact, one of the most moving notes I ever got was I had asked President Bush 41 for an interview right after September 11th, about the coming crisis, and the crisis we were in. And he wrote me a very kind note saying that he wouldn’t do it. And the last line was please say a prayer for our beloved son, the President. And it was…I got it maybe on the Tuesday or Wednesday after the attacks, and it just grabbed my guts in a way, because you realized at once that these are human beings who are fathers and sons, who are believers, who do have moments of doubt and moments of great faith, and they have the destinies of nations in their hands. And I think that in the American experience, we have done very well at striking a balance between our sense that we are on a journey, in an Augustinian sense, a national journey, in Jefferson’s phrase, as Israel of old, heading toward something, you know, whereas Ford once said, and Reagan used to always say, we never become, we’re always in the act of becoming. Well, that’s a theological idea, and I think it’s effused the presidency from the very beginning.
The entire transcript here.

Listen to the program here.

I believe that the movement of our country toward an intolerance of any form of religious expression in government (and even in the public arena in general) is as wrong as any movement toward the establishment of a "Christian caliphate". It is misguided and deeply harmful to extract and "throw away" a part of our identity: that of a secular government with a rich tradition of values founded upon what is referred to as our "Judeo-Christian" heritage. We should remain the most religiously tolerant and the most religiously diverse nation in the world by embracing the values that made this possible: values that stem from our Judeo-Christian culture.

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Blogger Gayle said...

Thank you, Wordsmith. This is a very interesting post. You asked: "Did he somehow "offend" those non-religious, American souls?" I wish that President Bush had made that radio address, but whether he ever offends those non-religious American souls out there, my only question is: who cares? I sure don't! When they begin to worry about offending Christians then I might have a change of heart, but that will probably never happen as they will never care whether they offend us or not.

Excellent post. I like the picture at the bottom!

Thursday, January 04, 2007 6:36:00 AM  
Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

G'mornin Word!..the only religion that will be tolerated and even subtly indocrinated now is Musssslim and we all know it.........excellent read Word!

Thursday, January 04, 2007 6:37:00 AM  
Blogger The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Great post. Even the Congress opens each session with prayer. The left has pushed the Constitutional freedom of religion to a freedom FROM religion if that religion happens to be Judeo-Christian. Additionally the establishment clause was to prevent a state church not a seperation which is NOT Constitutonal at all. The left has used the words of Jefferson in a letter to a New Hampshire Baptist Convention in I believe 1804 about his idea of seperation so much that most of the country believes it is actually in the Constitution. Freedom of religion also means that those who wish not to practice religion have that right also. Christainity has become a religion that is no longer politically correct therefore it has become the blunt of the liberal attack dogs. The Founders never intended this. If their thoughts were to be expressed today they would be vilified has spreading religious right wing hate speech for expressing their Judeo-Christian beliefs. Sorry for the length of the comment but this blatant leftist attack against what is a central part of our founding principles hits a huge nerve with me!

Thursday, January 04, 2007 7:57:00 AM  
Blogger Old Soldier said...

Without the "separation" issue, the ACLU would lose half its income!

Thursday, January 04, 2007 9:35:00 AM  
Blogger Marie's Two Cents said...

The crazies that think Bush is TOO religious are the same ones that sit on HuffPo and degrade the man all day long.

You're right President Bush goes out of his way to embrace Muslim's he just appointed one to be the UN Ambassador. !@#$%^%$#@!

President Bush has never once tried to cram his religion down anyone's throat, he just acknowleges he is a religious man period.

But the far left believe every single move he make's is hand delivered to him in a message from God himself!

Thursday, January 04, 2007 4:54:00 PM  
Blogger Marie's Two Cents said...


Beautiful picture

Thursday, January 04, 2007 4:55:00 PM  
Blogger Little Miss Chatterbox said...

I loooooooove that pic. I bought my dad a t-shirt with that picture on it and seriously considered getting one for myself as well.

Thursday, January 04, 2007 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger The Angry American said...

I've never understood the whole Bush is a religous nut argument. I've never once felt that he pushed it down people's throats,and I'm someone who gets easily ticked off by people who do. He mentions god in some of his speaches,and has come out many,many times,and talked about peace between all religions.

Thursday, January 04, 2007 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

so much that most of the country believes it is actually in the Constitution.

I believe the words of separation first appeared in use in the Supreme Court in 1948 under Hugo Black.

The separation that Jefferson spoke of had less to do with the prudential and constitutional relationship between religion and state and more to do with the separation of federal and state government on deciding religious matters.

Jefferson's interpretation of the First Amendment is that it applies to restricting the federal government from interference.

Looking through Dreisbach's Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation between Church and State, it says

The phrase "wall of separation" entered the lexicon of American constitutional law in the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Reynolds vs. United States (1879).


Nearly seven decades later, in the landmark case of Everson vs. Board of Education (1947), the Supreme Court "rediscovered" the metaphor and elevated it to constitutional doctrine. Citing no source other than Reynolds, Justice Hugo L. Black, writing for the majority, invoked the Danbury letter's "wall of separation" passage in support of his strict separationist construction of the First Amendment prohibition on laws "respecting an establishment of religion." "In the words of Jefferson," the Court famously declared, the First Amendment has erected "'a wall of separation between church and State'...That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not apporve the slightest breach." Like Reynolds, the Everson ruling was replete with references to history, especially the roles played by Jefferson an Madison in the Virginia disestablishment struggles. Jefferson was depicted as a leading architect of the First Amendment, despite the fact that he was in France when the measure was drafted by the First Federal Congress in 1789.

Black and his judicial brethren also encountered the metaphor in briefs filed in Everson. In a lengthy discussion of history supporting the proposition that "separation of church and state is a fundamental American principle," an amicus brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union quoted the clause in the Danbury letter containing the "wall of separation." The ACLU ominously concluded that the challenged state statute, which provided state reimbursements for the transporation of students to and from parochial schools, "constitutes a definite crack in the wall of separation between church and state. Such cracks have a tendency to widen beyond repair unless promptly sealed up."

And from there, it's only gotten worse, because of the rediscovery of this metaphor by the Everson Court.

Thursday, January 04, 2007 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Yup, old George has shoved that stuff down my throat quite a bit lately, I chew on it slowly, swallow, and mosey on. Tasty stuff that, (walks off into the distance), tasty.

Friday, January 05, 2007 1:27:00 AM  
Blogger Frank Staheli said...

FDR said a lot of impressive things in his career. That was one of them.

It seems like as he got more involved in the political machine, he stopped saying such impressive things, though.

Friday, January 05, 2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch Two said...

You might find THIS of interest. The included link to one of Prager's columns is not to be missed!

Friday, January 05, 2007 7:59:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


I heard Prager talking about his recent article, but hadn't had time to check it out. Thanks for the reminder.

I checked out Seth's post. Nothing I disagree with, over there.

Friday, January 05, 2007 8:24:00 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

Great post, WS.

And interesting comments.

I like this quote from lib icon FDR:

"I hope that you have reread the Constitution of the United States. Like the Bible, it ought to be read again and again."

I've never heard Bush tell people in his weekly radio address that they ought to read the Bible again and again.

So was FDR a dangerous religious nut compared to Bush?

Saturday, January 06, 2007 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Indigo Red said...

I can guarantee I was not offended by FDR's words, neither have I been offended when G. Bush talks about God or makes religiouos reference. The ACLU thinks I should be offended because I am a non-theist. However, I totally understand religiousity is at the heart of the American lexicon.

The language of the Judeo-Christian religions is the language of American politics, nationalism, and patriotism. Without an understanding of this very basic American precept, one cannot possibly hope to understand America and can effectively communicate even less.

There is a sweeping emotional grandeur inherent in religion that translates easily and effectively to the quasi-sectarian institutions of America. Except for Israel, the Biblical proportions of the Judeo-Christian ethos fits nowhere better than the Biblical proportions of America.

Saturday, January 06, 2007 7:55:00 PM  

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