The World Wide Web is such a heavily-connected thing, and my interests are so few, that I’m sometimes surprised to see them dovetail. It’s almost like living in a town so small that all your friends are your friends’ friends as well. Here’s an interesting quip from SBC/LifeWay researcher Ed Stetzer’s Facebook page from a couple of months ago, regarding the question of the current President’s religious affiliation:
Ergun Caner said that he was going to cast his vote in the last presidential election for the Christian, and there was only one Christian running. I think he knew something that the majority of other Americans didn’t [link].
I’d love to see this sourced; it seems pretty clear from the context that the author is implying that Senator John McCain would have been the solitary Christian in question (as opposed to Senator Barack Obama and I guess some number of minor party candidates and independents). Alternately, I’d settle for video of Senator McCain discussing the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. Those are probably so abundant that you can’t swing a search term without hitting one on C-SPAN or YouTube.
The other quotes from Doug Wead in Jacob Weisberg’s Slate article [link] shed some light on Wead’s view of Bush’s faith:
But [Bush] was so anxious to avoid any whiff or rumor of infidelity that he asked Wead to stay in his hotel room one night when he thought a young woman working on the campaign might knock on his door. “I tried to read to him from the Bible, because by that time he was sending me these signals,” Wead told me. “But he wasn’t interested. He just rolled over and went to sleep.”
But Bush resisted religious overtures as firmly as sexual ones. “He has absolutely zero interest in anything theological—nothing,” Wead said. “We spent hours talking about sex … who on the campaign was doing what to whom—but nothing about God. And I tried many, many times.”
But the experience left Wead troubled about the sincerity of Bush’s beliefs. “I’m almost certain that a lot of it was calculated,” he says. “If you really believed that there’s some accountability to life, wouldn’t you have Billy Graham come down and have a magic moment with your daughters? Are you just going to let them go to hell? You have all these religious leaders coming through. If it changed your life, wouldn’t you invite them to sit down in the living room and have a talk with your daughters? Or is it all political?”
Wead’s case against Bush basically boils down to two points:
- Bush had no interest in the Bible or anything theological.
- Bush’s daughters aren’t born again.
The other stuff about Bush’s interest in other people’s sex lives is nothing new to anyone who’s seen e.g. Alexandra Pelosi’s 2002 campaign travelogue Travels With George. All things considered I don’t consider that sort of boundary-issue problem a big deal; I’ve seen comparable from more than one authority figure, and it’s rude etc. but not necessarily a fatal flaw.
The other questions about Bush’s spirituality and that of his daughters are more pertinent; I’m tempted to discount Wead’s comments as those of someone who grabbed for the proverbial brass ring and missed (Weisberg suggests he was originally on par with Karl Rove and Dick Cheney) and understandably bitter. But I do wonder what it says about Evangelical Christians that we don’t know more about Bush’s faith and that of his family. Did nobody ask? Did someone ask and get well-crafted answers? Or do we believe on some level that moderates like John McCain are right, and personal faith really is too personal and private to be a sticking point? Did anything we would want to know about his faith vanish in the glare of a terrorist attack and two foreign wars?
Or worse, do we really think that a couple of soundbites about Jesus and Oswald Chambers are sufficient to make someone a Christian President?
There’s a discussion going on among Liberty alumni on LinkedIn about who should be the 2011 graduation speaker at Liberty. In summary, most of the nominations are either Fox News personalities, politicians (mostly right of center, natch), or Christian authors. My suggestion that former Moral Majority lieutenant and Liberty dean and professor Ed Dobson would make a good selection did not meet with universal approval, partly because of Dobson’s appearance on Good Morning America in 2008:
Here’s a list of Liberty graduation speakers from 1985 on; I’d appreciate any help in filling gaps
- 1985 Senator Bill Armstrong, R-Colorado
- 1986 Donald Hodel, Secretary of the Interior
- 1988 Lt. Col. (Ret.) Oliver North
- 1989 W. A. Criswell
- 1990 President George H. W. Bush
- 1991 Rep. Newt Gingrich
- 1992 Pat Buchanan
- 1993 Dr. James Dobson
- 1995 Sen. Phil Gramm
- 1996 Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
- 1997 Billy Graham
- 1998 Dr. John Borek Jr. (outgoing President of the school)
- 2004 Karl Rove
- 2005 Sean Hannity
- 2006 Sen. John McCain
- 2007 Rep. Newt Gingrich
- 2008 Chuck Norris
- 2009 Ben Stein
- 2010 Glen Beck
I think it’s interesting to note that during the heyday of Moral Majority the speakers were relatively minor figures; it’s important to note that during those days Liberty was still a school of less than 6000 students. Resident enrollment has doubled since then, and total enrollment has increased eight-or-nine-fold. It’s also interesting to note that the three speakers selected since Jerry Sr. died have all been commentators and entertainers. I have no idea what that means.
Among the names above only two are preachers: Criswell and Graham, so I’d be really surprised to see Liberty select another high-profile Christian preacher or author who isn’t also involved in politics somehow for 2011.
Video for the 1996, 2004, and 2006 addresses are available at C-SPAN [search].
Finally: it’s interesting to note that of the twenty or so names commonly mentioned as possible 2012 Republican Presidential nominees, only Newt Gingrich is listed above. That may or may not be significant; I do think it’s interesting that Mike Huckabee isn’t on that list. Mitt Romney not so much.
I had never heard of Doug Wead until a few days ago, when I heard Russ Baker, the author of Family of Secrets, suggest that Wead was the man who pitched to George W. Bush what became his literal come-to-Jesus story, complete with Alcoholics Anonymous overtones. Baker did not clarify whether Wead also suggested the Billy-Graham-on-a-beach part of the story. I’ve long been fascinated with the way politicians appear to promise so much to evangelical Christians, deliver so little, and still get their support election after election, so I found the story interesting even though I have no way of knowing whether it’s true or not.
A little digging online and I found this article from Wead’s on blog, from 2008, on how to court the evangelical vote and how Mike Huckabee blew it.
When seeking to establish a base among evangelical voters, presidential contender, Governor Mike Huckabee, made a big mistake. It is one that many presidential wannabes have made before him. He went over the heads of the evangelical leaders of influence and talked directly to the people. It works well with most constituencies, Catholics, Labor, Jews, Hispanics, Women but it never works with Blacks and it never works with evangelicals either. It cost Mike Huckabee the presidential primary in South Carolina and it will probably cost him the nomination.
I recommend the entire article; it makes for unpleasant reading, but it’s helpful for understanding e.g. why voting instructions go from politicians through Richard Land to Southern Baptist voters and not the other way around.
Oh yeah: Mike Huckabee. For Huckabee to become a viable candidate he needs to get past Sarah Palin among evangelicals and past Newt Gingrich (and Sarah Palin again) among Fox News viewers. And he has to rid himself of the stink of failure from his loss to McCain and Romney in 2008. And he has to explain to law and order non-evangelical voters why they should trust him as head of the Executive Branch after he pardoned Maurice Clemmons, who went on to shoot four police officers in Washington state. The phrase “Huckabee’s Willie Horton” doesn’t just alliterate; it’s just too good to pass up.
Intrade has Huckabee at about 7% chance of winning the 2012 nomination. That strikes me as a bit high.