"Christ, because he changed my heart," George W. Bush, governor of Texas and presidential candidate, declared before an Iowa debate audience late last year. That response answered a reporter's question about which philosopher had most influenced the candidates' lives. But far from being the glib reply of an aspiring politician, Bush's telegraphic disclosure about his relationship with Jesus packed a powerful punch among conservative Christians:

Did they finally have a presidential candidate who shared their faith experience and their conservative values, and—importantly—who could win in November?

"Wow" was Southern Baptist Richard Land's one-word reaction on hearing Bush's comments in Iowa. Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is among a broad spectrum of Christian conservatives who support Bush's candidacy, although many are not free to endorse a candidate formally.

Acting out his faith

Despite Bush's certitude about Christ, he has yet to fully describe in public his own spiritual development. During that Iowa debate, Bush was asked a follow-up question about his Christian commitment. But Bush declined to elaborate his views of how Christ changes an individual's heart:

"Well, if they [voters] don't know, it's going to be hard to explain."
"I'm getting a little nervous about writers snooping around my heart," he said on another occasion.

The content of candidate Bush's faith is not easily discerned. But close associates of Bush, interviewed by Christianity Today, paint a complex spiritual portrait. That picture reveals a man who not only wrestled with the legacy of his famous father (former president George Bush) but also overcame personal and professional failures. Emerging ...

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October 2, 2000

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