Gerson: Bush doesn't claim he's God's instrument
Chief White House speechwriter Michael Gerson spoke to about 20 reporters last week at a conference organized by the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The talk was off the record, but The Washington Post got permission to hit many of Gerson's points in a Sunday article, which is worth reading all the way through. It begins:

Like many evangelical Christians, President Bush believes that God is at work in his life. But he has avoided claiming that God is behind his presidency or U.S. foreign policy, his chief speechwriter said.
"The important theological principle here, I believe, is to avoid identifying the purposes of an individual or a nation with the purposes of God," Michael Gerson said. "That seems a presumption to me, and we've done our best to avoid the temptation."

Among Gerson's points: Bush, not he, wrote the line, "Freedom is not America's gift to the world, it's the almighty God's gift to all humanity." Gerson says the line proves that Bush doesn't believe that the U.S. is God's special instrument. And, Gerson made clear, "The President is not reading Tim LaHaye for his Middle East policy."

Also, Gerson said, there's no secret code Bush has used to speak to evangelicals. Religious and biblical references, he said, are "not code words; they're our culture. It's not a code word when I put a reference to T.S. Eliot's 'Four Quartets' in our Whitehall speech [in London on Nov. 19, 2003]; it's a literary reference. Just because some people don't get it doesn't mean it's a plot or a secret."

The bottom line: Bush's religious language really isn't anything special.

It's true that Bush's "zealotry" has been overblown in the media, and that accusations that his foreign policy is ...

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Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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