Did God Intervene?
Evangelicals are crediting God with securing re-election victory for George W. Bush.
BY: Deborah Caldwell
Now that God has given America extra time from which to be spared his wrath, evangelicals feel some urgency to buckle down to God's business. That is why, for example, a group called Christian Response has already sent out an email with the subject line "EMERGENCY!" to induce supporters to blast Capitol Hill with faxes condemning Sen. Arlen Specter, the Republican Pennsylvania senator who said last week that judicial nominees who oppose abortion would face difficulty getting Senate confirmation. The
Family Research Council
Focus on the Family
followed within hours with emails entitled "Stop Specter."
Many evangelicals think America is secular and decadent and in cultural decline. Their role, they believe, is to stem that tide and renew the culture. Many of these Christians seem to believe that God will be angry with them-and with the entire nation-if they don't make big legislative changes. And so, they put themselves on a short leash with God, and they hope to convince other Americans to do likewise.
"God is not going to tolerate a nation that thumbs its nose at Him," Colson says. "This whole idea of scrubbing all religious influence out of public life and taking down the Ten Commandments and stopping prayer and not allowing people to talk about their faith for fear of offending someone--I don't think God honors that. God's patience runs out."
Their solution seems to lie in Bush's presidency. "He is one of those men God and fate somehow led to the fore in times of challenge," said New York Gov. George Pataki in the high-profile introduction of Bush at the Republican National Convention, an introduction almost certainly scrubbed if not written by the White House. Pataki and former New York Mayor Rudoph Giuliani both said twice that Americans should "Thank God" that Bush was in office after 9/11.
During the period after 9/11, Bush talked of being chosen by the grace of God to lead at that moment, according to Time magazine. World Magazine, a conservative Christian publication, quoted White House official Tim Goeglein as saying, "I think President Bush is God's man at this hour, and I say this with a great sense of humility." Popular Christian broadcaster Janet Parshall told her listeners: "God picked the right man at the right time for the right purpose." And Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, who got in trouble for derogatory comments he made about Islam, argued that it must have been God who selected Bush in 2000, since a plurality of voters hadn't. "He's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this."
It seems clear that the president himself believes that God is orchestrating American history. At the 2003 National Prayer Breakfast, for instance, Bush said, "we can be confident in the ways of Providence... Behind all of life and all of history, there's a dedication and purpose, set by the hand of a just and faithful God."
, a historian at Baylor University, says these sorts of beliefs arose with the founding of the nation and persist among certain Christians. "There is a strong cultural belief among Protestant Christians that America is a vehicle for God's will," he says. "If you scratch people enough below the surface, there's this belief that Providence has a hand in everything that happens in America. And at times like this it comes out because it's in the back of people's minds or hearts."
The Puritans believed they were establishing the New Israel and that their enterprise was guided by God--that they were God's chosen people headed for the Promised Land. But that metaphorical idea, that America was a beacon, began to mutate by the early 19th Century into the belief that America was the literal instrument to lead a world transformation to Christian democracy.