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Faith and the PresidencyFrom George Washington to George W. Bush$
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Gary Scott Smith

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195300604

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195300604.001.0001

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 George W. Bush

 George W. Bush

A Faith‐Based Presidency

(p.365) Chapter Eleven George W. Bush
Faith and the Presidency

Gary Scott Smith (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Although George W. Bush is not more personally devout than Woodrow Wilson or Jimmy Carter, religious issues have played an even more important role in his presidency than for any of his predecessors. The impact of Bush’s faith is evident in his personality, rhetoric, campaigns, appointments, and policies. It has helped shape his electoral strategy, his political agenda, and his relationship with domestic constituencies and leaders of other nations. The nature of his personal faith, the many religious factors involved in his campaigns, and the influence of his religious convictions on his policies have provoked an immense amount of discussion, debate, and disagreement. More than that of any other president, his White House is filled with individuals who have strong faith commitments. Bush has been frequently accused of being a Christian zealot who wants to remake America in accordance with his own religious views, as evident in his domestic agenda, political appointments, and approach to international relations. Detractors also protest that many of Bush’s policies and his belief that he is God’s instrument violate First Amendment guarantees of church-state separation and are extremely dangerous. Bush faithfully reads the Bible and stresses the power of prayer. The support Bush received from evangelicals and conservative Catholics contributed significantly to his narrow victories in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Bush’s faith played a major role in his promotion of compassionate conservatism and faith-based initiatives. The war on terrorism and the invasion and occupation of Iraq have provoked substantial debate among America’s religious communities. Critics and supporters reach dramatically different conclusions about Bush’s faith and its effect on his presidency. Some argue that Bush’s faith is insincere, hypocritical, and a political cover for his right-wing agenda. Others counter that his faith has sustained him during crises, strengthened his resolve, increased his courage, confidence, and compassion, and shaped his policies in many positive ways.

Keywords:   Bible, compassionate conservatism, evangelicals, faith-based initiatives, Iraq, prayer, separation of church and state, 2000 election, 2004 election, war on terrorism

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