There have been many very committed Christians in the White House in the 228 years of our nation's history. Some presidents, like Lincoln, appear to have come to faith under the enormous pressures of the office. Others, like Jefferson, were probably not Christians by belief--they may have been Unitarians, like Taft--but nevertheless held the conviction that the person who occupies the Oval Office should be not only a man of profoundly honorable personal ethics and preferably a person of deep personal faith, but also aware of this nation's unwritten covenant with the Almighty.

George W. Bush fits all three of Jefferson's requirements for the presidency. He also fits a fourth, that Jefferson did not allude to. He personally would never have been elected had not faith profoundly altered his character and prepared him morally for the task.

Bush is unusual in that he came to faith, or as he chooses to term it, a renewal of his faith, as an adult. He became closely involved in a church from a denomination, the Methodists, that has traditionally been deeply involved in social action. His effort to introduce faith-based programs more deeply into the social reform life of the nation was based on a simple observation: in general, they work better than secular programs when it comes to changing personal behavior in matters like drug and alcohol dependency or prisoner rehabilitation. As governor of Texas, he was courageous in introducing the InnerChange program pioneered by Prison Fellowship into the state's penal system.

But as often occurs with presidents in office, events transformed his presidency from one that primarily had a domestic agenda to one whose highest priority was defending the United States under the most vicious foreign onslaught since Pearl Harbor. That onslaught, moreover, was more treacherous, for it targeted primarily civilians and it used American instruments--hijacked commercial airliners--as the means to carry out its murderous task. President Bush understood instantly that the attack was not a mere law-and-order issue, but a moral assault on our nation's very fibre. His response was articulated in moral terms and its forcefulness reflected great moral clarity. Americans respond especially well to leadership that speaks with moral clarity in a time of national crisis.

That moral clarity has demonstrated itself in interesting ways during his presidency. One example is his relationship with a close American ally, Israel. Though he became the first president in office to call publicly for a Palestinian state, he made it clear that the Palestinians would have first to organize their society responsibly. Meanwhile, he did not try to second-guess Israel's government on that country's complex and high-pressure security priorities. Many Israelis have said, in fact, "He is the best American president we have ever had." Similarly, on global anti-Semitism, President Bush has responded strongly, sending his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to a conference in Europe to discuss the problem.

Bush's faith conviction has had two other important foreign policy consequences. The first of these to emerge was the strong support from President Putin during the U.S. attack on the Taliban despite advice from his advisors not to help America too closely. Bush had shared his faith with Putin at their first meeting in 2001, and Putin had responded with great warmth. The second was the unity Bush established with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had also come to Christian faith as an adult at Oxford University.

In his domestic policies, Bush has been a champion of pro-life moral issues. He signed the Congressional bill banning partial birth abortion, he stopped U.S. taxpayer funding of international organizations that actively promote abortion, he set moral limits for stem-cell research, he banned human cloning and he funded sex education programs that promote abstinence. (The only African country to reduce the instance of AIDS, Uganda, includes abstinence education in its campaign.) He supports a constitutional amendment to defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

President Bush makes no secret of his Christian convictions, but he is very welcoming of all faiths (and non-faiths) in the life of the nation. He is much more accepting both of Christian dissent and of other faith traditions than some strict evangelicals are comfortable with, yet he has been known to set aside time to pray with White House visitors facing deep personal challenges. Visiting wounded U.S. veterans in military hospitals, he has repeatedly displayed a deep sense of compassion.

He is described by some White House aides as "evangelical, but by others as a "mere Chistian" in the C.S. Lewis definition of "Mere Christianity." He is humble and he is unassuming. He reads the Bible daily and he prays intensely many times a day. He is, quite simply, one of the godliest chief executives ever to occupy the Oval Office. He is human, and he would be the first to admit he is fallible. But he is, very clearly, a follower of Christ.

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