George W. Bush and Religious Belief

August 6, 2000

Source: The Times-Picayune

On August 6, 2000, The Times-Picayune reported that George W. Bush's religious views "could have an impact on all Americans if he is elected come November...For Bush, faith and politics are intertwined, and favorite phrases like "armies of compassion" are rooted in a Christian lexicon that comes easily to a man who talks more openly and fervently about his Christian faith than any other presidential nominee since Jimmy Carter...This "compassionate conservatism" that Bush repeats like a mantra is a catch-all phrase that is as much an attitude of governing as it is a detailed program. "In brief, it is a philosophy that encourages volunteerism and private charity while providing direct government aid to "faith-based" organizations, mainly churches, to carry out social welfare programs that would be relinquished by state and federal governments."

Bush gets his religious philosophy from University of Texas professor, Marvin Olasky. Olasky is an "idiosyncratic thinker who was raised as a Jew, once agitated as a communist, and then 15 years ago rejected atheism and Judaism to become a conservative born-again Christian and one of the most influential GOP intellectuals of the past five years -- as well as a close Bush adviser...'Compassionate conservatism is clearly tied to one particular faith, indeed, to one specific vision of God,' said the Rev. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist and head of the Interfaith Alliance, which promotes religious participation in the public square but which is leery of Bush's approach." While Olasky argues that the principles he and Bush share are those in common with other faith traditions, some members of the Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish community are not so sure. "I would certainly not see much of a reflection of Catholic social principles in there," said the Rev. Thomas Bokenkotter, a Cincinnati priest and author who is the nation's "leading authority on the Catholic social justice tradition." And while she says "she admires Olasky's earnest faith", Azizah Y. Al-Hibri, a Muslim scholar at the University of Richmond, said that his philosophy "comes from his own beliefs without recognizing the consequences."