Evangelical Bush?

GENERIC Bush 10 ten commandments AP / CBS

This column was written by William F. Buckley, Jr..
It is becoming an article of faith that President Bush not only is himself an evangelical conservative, but owes his election victory to evangelical conservatives. I'd guess that the psephologists have not done their homework on this latter point, and I doubt that they have materials at hand that would permit them to announce, say, that it was evangelical conservatives who gave the state of Ohio to Bush. How would you establish that Bush's appeal to evangelicals was critical? And how are you going to define evangelicals? A sophisticated author at work on a book on the subject of the rise in the past ten years of U.S. Christianity lists as tests of acceptable Christian positions in the evangelical community abortion and gay rights. "I am not an acceptable Christian," he concludes ruefully, "by applying those two standards."

Wilfred McClay who is a learned senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., gave an arresting lecture in February called "The Evangelical Conservatism of George W. Bush; Or, How the Republicans Became Red." By this last crack McClay means to associate Red with corporate political idealism. For instance, the socialists and the Communists (and the 1848 progressives, who chose the color red to distinguish themselves from the partisans of the existing orders, bland Whiters more or less content with the status quo).

And so to George Bush. McClay lists the energizing discontents of President Bush. "His 'compassionate conservatism,' his relatively favorable view of many Federal social and educational programs, his sensitivity to issues of racial injustice and reconciliation, his softness on immigration issues, his promotion of the faith-based initiative, his concern with issues of international religious liberty, his African AIDS initiative, and above all, his enormously ambitious, even seemingly utopian, foreign-policy objectives — [these] are positions that are best explained by the effects of his evangelical Christian convictions, and by his willingness to allow those convictions to trump more conventional conservative positions. "Mr. McClay darts off here to make different points, entirely engrossing: "It is strange that, of all the things liberals loathe about Bush, his religiousness seems to be at the top of the list. For it is precisely the seriousness of Bush's commitment to his evangelical faith that has made him more 'liberal,' in a certain sense, than many of his party brethren."

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