Column/A president who prays

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 11, 2007

Some in the media paint a picture of George W. Bush as being the most religious president in the history of the United States. At the very least, they say, he is the most expressive about his faith.

The latter statement may be true, but the jury is still out on whether other presidents were more religious, according to the book, “A Man of Faith,” by David Aikman.

Aikman writes that Bush dropped a political bombshell while campaigning for his first term in Iowa in 1999.

Email newsletter signup

The answer Bush gave during a debate sparked a lot of conversation on cable news stations, and many pundits consider it the turning point that placed Bush as the frontrunner in the Republican primary.

The question asked was “What political philosopher do you most identify with and why?”

The question was directed to candidate Steve Forbes, who answered, “John Locke … because he had set the stage for what became the revolution.”

When it came Bush’s time to answer, he replied, “Christ. Because he changed my heart.”

Since that statement made during the 1999 primary campaign, Bush has been labeled by many as “too religious” or, at the least, of allowing his religious beliefs to direct his actions.

Just last week, Congressman Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, was sworn into office using a Koran for the ceremony. According to an Associated Press article, it was a Koran formerly owned by founding father Thomas Jefferson.

In fact, throughout the more than 200-year history of our country, faith has been an important aspect of the lives of our elected leaders, including our presidents, according to Aikman.

Our first president, George Washington, was by all accounts a man of faith. He had his army officers begin each day with prayer, and placed chaplains in the units.

But he was quiet about his personal faith, and many of his peers believed him to be a deist, or even an atheist. There is little doubt, however, according to Aikman, that Washington believed “absolutely in a God who created the world and held its future in his hands.”

Many of the founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Adams, held unorthodox views of Christianity, but in their writings, they all held firm to a faith in God.

Like George W. Bush, John Quincy Adams, read three chapters of the Bible every day. Andrew Jackson was another diligent Bible reader.

There are some who say one of our most beloved presidents was not a Christian. Though Abraham Lincoln was never vocal about his faith, Aikman writes, he did pray that the nation “should be on the Lord’s side.” There are many biblical references in his speeches, and in his writings as well – enough to provide evidence of his faith.

Aikman’s book details many of our other presidents and their religious convictions.

And so now we have a vocal Christian in the White House. One who admits he prays, and asks God for guidance.

With the many challenges faced by our nation, that seems like a pretty wise thing for a president to do.

Tammy Leytham is editor of The Selma Times-Journal.