This line also delves into the controversial debate over whether God is specifically on America's side. In truth, most presidents have claimed God for the home team. Kerry took a different approach in his speech by quoting Lincoln: "I don't want to claim that God is on our side. 'As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side.'"

Cheney on Evil


Cheney had only one faith-related line but it was an important one. He said Bush exhibited "a moral seriousness that calls evil by its name." I've long believed that, politically speaking, Bush's faith has strong appeal even among many people who aren't religious--because it seems to drive him toward moral clarity.

Billy Graham Shouldn't Get All the Credit


Campaign biographies, official and unofficial, say it was Bush's walk on the beach with Billy Graham that set him on the right path. Stephen Mansfield's book, "The Faith of George W. Bush," says that was an important moment but that actually it was another preacher who had already done the heavier spiritual lifting. Arthur Blessitt was an evangelist who achieved renown by carrying a 12-foot cross on long walks around the world. In April of 1982 he was in Midland, Texas. He got a call from Jim Sale, an oilman and Baptist Church member asking him to visit George W. Bush at Midland's Holiday Inn. According to Mansfield's account, which he attributes to both Blessitt and Sale, this is what happened next:

"After a brief greeting, Bush looked at Blessitt and said, 'Arthur, I did not feel comfortable attending the meeting, but I want to talk to you about how to know Jesus Christ and how to follow Him.'

"The evangelist reflected for a moment and asked, 'What is your relationship with Jesus?'

"'I'm not sure,' Bush replied.

"'Let me ask you this question,' Blessitt probed. 'If you died this moment, do you have the assurance you would go to heaven?'

"Bush did not hesitate. 'No,' he answered.

"The evangelist then began to explain what it meant to know and follow Jesus. He quoted Scripture after Scripture, commenting as he went, and making application to Bush's life. After he had outlined the Christian message, he said, 'The call of Jesus is for us to repent and believe. The choice is like this. Would you rather live with Jesus in your life, or live without Him?'

"'With Him,' Bush replied.

"'Jesus changes us from the inside out,' Blessitt continued. "The world tries to change us from the outside in. Jesus is not condemning you. He wants to save you and cleanse your heart and change your desires. He wants to write your name in the Book of Life and welcome you into his family, now and forever.' Blessitt then asked Jim Sale to tell of his own changed life, believing that Bush would relate to the testimony of a fellow oilman.

"When Sale was done, Blessitt said, 'Mr. Bush, I would like to pray a prayer for you, and then lead you in a prayer of commitment and salvation. You can become a follower of Jesus now.'

"Bush had some questions, though, and the two men took time to answer each one until he seemed satisfied.

"The evangelist pressed again: 'I want to pray with you now.'

"'I'd like that,' Bush said.

"Blessitt then prayed, asking Bush to repeat each phrase after him. The evangelist remembers the prayer as follows.

Dear God, I believe in You, and I need You in my life. Have mercy on me a sinner.

Lord Jesus, as best as I know how, I want to follow You. Cleanse me from my sins, and come into my life as my Savior and Lord.

I believe You lived without sin, died on the cross for my sins, and arose again on the third day, and have now ascended unto the Father.

I love You, Lord; take control of my life. I believe You hear my prayer. I welcome the Holy Spirit of God to lead me in Your way.

I forgive everyone, and I ask You to fill me with Your Holy Spirit and give me love for all people. Lead me to care for the needs of others. Make my home in heaven, and write my name in Your book in heaven.

I accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior and desire to be a true believer in and follower of Jesus. Thank You, God, for hearing my prayer. In Jesus' name, I pray."When the prayer ended, Bush was smiling, and Blessitt began 'rejoicing.' It was 'an awesome and glorious moment.'"

Republicans: The Secular Party?


Just when you think you've got it all figured out. The Democrats were supposed to be uncomfortable with religion and yet speaker after speaker in Boston got up and quoted the Bible and praised the Lord. Since Republicans actually love God-talk, it stood to reason that their convention would be a veritable revival meeting.

Instead, it's been more like an ACLU retreat, at least in terms of the use of religious rhetoric from the top speakers. None of the marquee acts on the first two nights so much as threw in a Bible passage. Democrats Bill Clinton and Barak Obama were downright Pentecostal compared to John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Laura Bush didn't even talk about her husband as a person of strong faith. Given that today's theme was "compassion," I thought they'd surely hit hard the President's "faith based initiative." None of the prime time speakers did so.