'We Are All Sinners'

In the final weeks of the 2000 election, George W. Bush discussed his faith and policies with Editor-in-Chief, Steve Waldman.

This interview first ran in Fall 2000.

BELIEFNET: In what ways did your personal faith affect your notion of what it means to be a compassionate conservative?

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: A lot. A genuine philosophy reflects the experiences of a person. And in my case, I was raised a Christian, recommitted myself to Christ. Got into the Bible. My life changed in many ways. An outward manifestation is I quit drinking. I was a more dedicated, more focused person. Not to say I wasn't a dedicated person beforehand, but it was a life-changing moment.

I also recognize that a walk is a walk, I mean, it's a never-ending journey. And I've got a lot of imperfections like anybody else. And the more I got into the Bible, the more that admonition "Don't try to take a speck out of your neighbor's eye when you've got a log in your own" becomes more and more true, particularly for those of us in public life. And so my style, my focus, and many of the issues that I talk about, you know, are reinforced by my religion.

You see, if you believe that we're all sinners, as opposed to you're a sinner and I'm not, then I think it helps you, at least for me. It's made me a better governor. It helps bring people together, and that's what is needed on some very practical issues that the country faces. A classic example is Medicare and prescription drugs.

BELIEFNET: Obviously, we both agree that it's certainly not impossible for a person who is very secular to lead a moral life, but do you think it's harder for a very secular person to lead a moral life?

BUSH: I think it is for me, it would be for me. It's hard for me to put myself in anybody else's shoes about their personal lives. All I can tell you is it's made my life better and easier to understand, and clearer. It's made my walk clearer. And I emphasize the walk because life's journey is, you know, there's pitfalls and there's challenges.

Heck, I'm going through one of the greatest challenges of all. And yet I'm sustained by my faith.

When people walk up to me, like they did here in Tennessee, east Tennessee, and the number of people on the rope lines said, "I'm praying for you," I know what that means, and I feel supported by the thousands of people who pray, because I understand prayer.

BELIEFNET: I've seen that in the past when you've been asked how people could pray for you, you've said to ask people to pray that God will protect your children because people are going to say ugly and hurtful things about their father during the campaign. What do you mean by that?

BUSH: I want them to understand, as best as they can, at the age of 18 years old, what the run for the presidency means, from their perspective. I guess, I hope that intercessory prayers will help ease their mind and calm their fears.

BELIEFNET: About what?

BUSH: Well it's about what they hear and, you know, about people saying ugly things about their daddy. We're a family of love, and I know what it means to have somebody criticize my dad. I didn't like it at all, and it's hurtful.

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