President George W. Bush, in a rare on-the-record session with religion editors and writers on Wednesday, said his job as president is to "change cultures."

In wide-ranging comments inside the Roosevelt Room, Bush spoke passionately about his resolve to establish a free Iraq, his desire to promote cultural change in the United States through his faith-based initiative, and his belief in the power of prayer. Appearing relaxed and self-assured, the President also reaffirmed his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment, urging the American people to become more involved.

Taking a firm line on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, Bush said that while he was sorry for those who had been humiliated, and has said so publicly, "I never apologized to the Arab world."

The on-the-record session included a period where the nine Christian editors and writers (including two who have served as Bush advisors) asked questions.

Writers and news executives included CT senior news writer Sheryl Henderson Blunt; James V. Heidinger II, president and publisher of Good News; Deal Hudson, editor of Crisis Magazine; James Kushiner, editor of Touchstone magazine; David L. Mahsman, Director of News and Information and Executive Editor for The Lutheran Witness and Reporter of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod; Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief, First Things;World Magazine editor Marvin Olasky; Catholic writer Russell Shaw; Stephen Strang, founder of Strang Communications.

Following is an edited transcript of the May 26, 2004, session.

President Bush:

Let me just tell you a little bit of what's on my mind. Obviously Iraq's on my mind. We are in the process of transferring full sovereignty and eventual freedom—full sovereignty and freedom—to the Iraqi people as they head towards free elections. It's a historic moment. At least that's how I view it. It's a historic opportunity to bring peace to the world.

I'm giving a speech next Tuesday that will talk about a clash of ideologies. I talked about it … I referred to it a little bit on Monday night. Monday night was a speech to explain to the people that we, you know, that we know where we're going. It's not going to be easy, by the way. People who lived in tyranny, they haven't developed the habits of free people yet. They haven't been free yet. And anyway, I made it clear that the relationship between an occupier and the people of the country will shift to one of free people with the help of a coalition of nations.

I believe there's a clash of ideologies and I think—I just know—that America must be firm in our resolve and confident in our belief that freedom is the mightiest gift to everybody in the world and that free societies will be peaceful societies.

Article continues below

In the short run we will use every asset to prevent an enemy from attacking us again. Which I believe they want to do. I believe they want to do it because I know they want to sow discord, distrust, and fear at home so that we begin to withdraw from parts of the world where they would like to have enormous influence to spread their Taliban-like vision—the corruption of religion—to suit their purposes. And so that's where we use every asset. I mean we just have—I will not yield to them—to their blackmail, to their murder, to their death, to the fear that they try to cause through death.

The long-run solution to terror is freedom. That's what we believe in America. We believe that everybody yearns to be free. We believe everybody can be free. Now I'm getting people to research all the statements of doubt about whether or not Japan could be free after World War II. And I suspect we'll find there was quite a bit of cynicism, and people were just flat dubious that people in the Far East—who had a religion that was foreign to most Americans—could conceivably self-govern in a democratic style. Thank goodness the optimists ruled the day, because I now work with [Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro] Koizumi to deal with problems in world peace 50 years later, such as Korea. And so that's what I'm spending a lot time thinking about.

At home, the job of a president is to help cultures change. The culture needs to be changed. I call it, so people can understand what I'm talking about, changing the culture from one that says, "If it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else," to a culture in which each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life. I call it the responsibility era. … I said that when I was governor of Texas. As a matter of fact, I've been saying that ever since I got into politics. This is one of the reasons I got into politics in the first place. Governments cannot change culture alone. I want you to know I understand that. But I can be a voice of cultural change.

Part of the responsibility era is the responsibility that comes with promoting—taking care of your bodies to the point where we can promote a culture of life. Father Richard [Neuhaus] helped me craft what is still the integral part of my position on abortion, which is: Every child welcomed to life and protected by law. That is the goal of this administration.

Article continues below

Part of government's role is to foster responsibility and hope by standing with those who have heard a call to love a neighbor, which is the second point of the faith-based initiative that I think is one of the most important domestic initiatives that I have pushed, if not the most. It recognizes the rightful relationship between hearts and souls and government. Again, my job is to try to distill things down so that average people can understand it. Here's the way I put it, "Government can hand out money, but it cannot put love in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives."

Or I like to tell people, "If you're a drunk, sometimes a psychologist can talk you out of it, but generally it requires a higher power. If you change your heart, you change your behavior." And government must recognize that those heart changers are an important part of changing society one soul at a time.

So the faith-based initiative recognizes that there is an army of compassion that needs to be nurtured, rallied, called forth, and funded, without causing the army to have to lose the reason it's an army in the first place.

I mean, one of the real challenges we've had, of course, is to say to the faith community, "Come in, the social service money is available for you and oh, by the way, you can keep the cross on the wall or the Star of David in your temple without fear of government retribution." I think we're getting there. I mean, this is a cultural change in government too, by the way. It's been a mighty struggle to convince people of the wisdom of the policy.

In Texas again, my line was, "Look, don't focus on the process, focus on the results." That's how we were able to get the prison ministry into that Sugarland Prison. "See if these people go back into jail or not, that's all I ask. And if they don't, if it works, let's keep it intact."

Finally, government has got a responsibility to support and nurture institutions … foster institutions that provide hope and stability. That's why I took the position I took on the sanctity of marriage. I believe it's a very important issue for America. I think it—marriage—has worked. It's the commitment between a man and a woman. That shared responsibility is the cornerstone—has been the cornerstone—will be the cornerstone for civilization and I think any erosion of that definition by itself will weaken civilization as we have known it, and as we hope to know it.

Article continues below

And I call for a constitutional amendment for two reasons: One, I understand how the process works and why there is some protection against the decisions by a few court judges in one state protecting the definition of marriage in other states. The legal scholars tell me it is not on a very firm foundation because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. And therefore there needs to be an alternative available.

Secondly, I want the American people participating in the process. I don't want this decided by judges. It's too big an issue. And the constitutional process is a sure enough way to get people involved through the amendment process, how we amend the Constitution.

The role of government is to help foster cultural change as well as to protect institutions in our society that are an important part of the culture. And I believe this is an issue in the campaign—how you view the role of government and how individuals view their own role in society. And I look forward to the debate.

I'll be glad to answer some questions. You got to know I want to win. I don't mean to politicize this discussion. It's not a given, by the way. It's not a given. You cannot take on the responsibilities of office unless there's something you want to do. It's too important a moment. I mean it is a historic opportunity to change the world and change the country. And I see an opportunity to do so. I know what I need to do.

And my family life is great. I wouldn't be talking to the American people about seeking the vote if I couldn't say loud and clear that my marriage is really good. I wouldn't want to put a family through what you have to go through. Look, I'm not griping because life in a bubble is pretty comfortable. But there's obviously a lot of pressure, and lot of background noise, and there's a lot of small voices constantly hammering away. The fact that Laura and I are—that we thrive together in this environment—gives me great comfort.

And finally, I say to people all the time, "Thank you for your prayers." Something's happening in America. Although I'm not the perfect guy because the focus groups I tend to be in front of are loud, are large, and you know, pretty well made up their mind. But when I'm walking the rope line people say things different than they did four years ago.

The thing they say different now than four years ago is, "Mr. President, we pray for you." That happens a lot—at least from my perspective, what I'm able to see. When I'm shaking those hands, I bet you every other person or maybe every third person says, "Mr. President, my family prays for you."

Article continues below

It's not, you know, "Good luck, I hope you go tear down your opponent or go do this." It is, "My family prays for you." Now I admit I'm not spending a lot of time when I'm working the rope line. I can only tell you what I hear. And that is an incredibly sustaining part of the job of president. And people say—that's why I need Father Richard [Neuhaus] around more, he helps me articulate these things—I say, "It helps a lot." And people say, "Well how do you know?" I say, "Well if I have to explain it to you how I know then you can't possibly get it. I just know." And it matters a lot. It has made being the President of the United States a heck of a lot easier to be sustained by the prayers of the people and my own personal prayers.

Just as an aside from a personal perspective, if you're interested: I read Oswald Chambers every morning. To me, he is good. He helps me understand how far I am on my walk. I mean if you can figure out everything he's saying, then you got a depth of understanding of the gospel beyond the emotional. He's a great Christian writer. And then I'm reading a devotional by the former chaplain of the Senate, Lloyd Ogilvie. And next year I'll read the One-Year Bible again. I read it every other year and a half.

People say, "When do you pray?" I pray all the time. All the time. You don't need a chapel to pray I don't think. Whether it be in the Oval Office, I mean, you just do it. That's just me. I don't say that to try to get votes. I'm just sharing that experience with you.

What do you think about being criticized for open expressions of faith?

I just think that I have a fantastic opportunity to let the light shine, and will do so however, as a secular politician. It's really important that you know—I say to our fellow countrymen that my job is not to promote a religion but to promote the ability of people to worship as they see fit.

There's nothing more powerful than this country saying you can worship any way you want, or not worship at all. On the other hand, I can't hide the fact that I am influenced personally. I don't give speeches where I mean I talk about love and compassion when it comes to doing one of my jobs which is to rally the spirit of the country and call people to service.

Every day I go to a town, I meet what we call a greeter who has done something in their community to love a neighbor. And every time I get in front of a microphone and one of those people is in the audience, I herald their accomplishment. And it's amazing the public interest on these stories because the person is seen standing in front of Air Force One, the press corps comes over and interviews him or her, and all of a sudden an example shows up in the newspapers of love and compassion. It is an easy way to kind of lift the sights of the country by showing living examples of people who love.

Article continues below

Ariel Sharon and I were talking about his decision to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, which I felt was a brilliant move. Basically he said to the world, "I'm willing to make a move. Now the Palestinians must put forth a peaceful plan. A plan based upon institutions that will enable people to express themselves in a free society. There's a chance for new leadership to emerge as opposed to leadership that has failed in the past." And I told him, I said, "You know, I guess if it was two other people, the world would cheer."

And so I understand people's view. But I'm the kind of person who doesn't change. The best thing I can do is to be myself so that when I finish my job here I will say I was comfortable with who the world saw.

I think others will have to reflect upon what it means where there's a worry that somebody holds the office that also understands there's a higher power. We'll let others reflect upon that for history's sake.

Do you have a particular message for Pope John Paul II, whom you will be meeting with shortly?

No. I'm there to listen. I will respond. If I would even dare give him a message it would be, "Hold the line." … This will be my third visit with the Holy Father and I've been in awe in his presence. He is a strong man. He's got a huge presence and it's an honor to be with him. It truly is. He'll have something to say. Believe me, he'll use this as an opportunity to talk about a world problem or an issue, and he'll do it in a loving way. I mean he's the kind of person that makes you feel good.

Explain your comment "I don't do nuance" in the context of the war.

Well, my job is to speak clearly and when you say something, mean it. And when you're trying to lead the world in a war that I view as really between the forces of good and the forces of evil, you got to speak clearly. There can't be any doubt. And when you say you're going to do something, you've got to do it. Otherwise, particularly given the position of the United States in the world today, there will be confusion. And it is incumbent upon this powerful, rich nation to lead—not only lead in taking on the enemies of freedom, but lead in taking on those elements of life that prevent free people from emerging, like disease and hunger. And we are. We feed the world more than any other country. We're providing more money for HIV/AIDS in the world. We are a compassionate country.

Article continues below

What about your description of the war as a battle between good and evil and statements you made on Egyptian television following the prisoner abuse scandal, which some later called a mistake for appearing to be apologizing in a way that reinforces Pan-Arabism?

No question, that's why I said I am sorry for those people who were humiliated. That's all I said. I also said, "The great thing about our country is that people will now see that we'll deal with this in a transparent way based upon rule of law. And it will serve as a great contrast." But I never apologized to the Arab world.

Do you believe there is anything inherently evil in the way some practice Islam that stands in the way of the pursuit of democracy and freedom?

I think what we're dealing with are people—extreme, radical people—who've got a deep desire to spread an ideology that is anti-women, anti-free thought, anti- art and science, you know, that couch their language in religious terms. But that doesn't make them religious people. I think they conveniently use religion to kill. The religion I know is not one that encourages killing. I think that they want to drive us out of parts of the world so they're better able to have a base from which to operate. I think it's very much more like an … "ism" than a group with territorial ambition.

More like a what?

An "ism" like Communism that knows no boundaries, as opposed to a power that takes land for gold or land for oil or whatever it might be. I don't see their ambition as territorial. I see their ambition as seeking safe haven. And I know they want to create power vacuums into which they are able to flow.

To what final end? The expansion of Islam?

No, I think the expansion of their view of Islam, which would be I guess a fanatical version that—you know, you're trying to lure me down a road [where] … I'm incapable of winning the debate. But I'm smart enough to understand when I'm about to get nuanced out. No, I think they have a perverted view of what religion should be, and it is not based upon peace and love and compassion—quite the opposite. These are people that will kill at the drop of a hat, and they will kill anybody, which means there are no rules. And that is not, at least, my view of religion. And I don't think it's the view of any other scholar's view of religion either.

Article continues below

What are you doing to defend traditional marriage?

Well, first of all, I took a strong stand publicly, laid out a constitutional amendment, which in itself becomes a benchmark for people to rally around—in itself was a statement from the presidency that says the country has an alternative to that which they're seeing on their TV screens. And I will continue to explain why I did what I did. … But in order for a constitutional amendment to go forward people have to speak. Now, I'll be glad to lend my voice, but it's going to require more than one voice. It's going to require people from around the country to insist to members of Congress for starters, that a constitutional amendment process is necessary for the country. The end result is necessary. But the idea of giving people a chance to express themselves is a very important part of the constitutional process. … I will tell you the prairie fire necessary to get an amendment passed is simmering at best. I think it's an accurate way of describing it. Father Richard and I had a long discussion during my decision-making process, and I'm not sure people quite understand the issue yet.

Look, this is like saying, "How do you spread love?" [Or] "Mr. President, what are you relying upon? Are you relying upon government or do you want to rely upon people?" I think, yes, I mean I think people need to understand that if DOMA—the Defense of Marriage Act—was to crater that people could take a marriage license from one state and use it in another state and all of a sudden you now have de facto [gay] marriage. And my judgment is the American people don't want that. But I don't think they quite understand that which is happening in Massachusetts. … It can affect their life. I've explained that several times on camera. It's going to require a lot more than a single voice explaining the issue is the best way to put it.

Let me say one other thing about the issue of marriage. It's essential that those who articulate the position that defends traditional marriage as the only definition of marriage do so in a compassionate way. I like to quote [from the Bible's book of] Matthew, that you know, I'm not going to try to take a speck out of your eye when I've got a log in my own. You know what I'm saying. And therefore, this dialogue needs to be a dialogue worthy of a nation and worthy of a debate over a constitutional amendment. And it's a very important discussion. And it's one that should not be politicized. It should be debated in a very profound way. Politicized means, put it in a context of a real process which to me will change the debate from where it needs to be. You don't want people making up their mind whether or not this benefits a candidate or not. You want people making up their mind on this issue about whether it benefits America—in the long term for America, I think is the best way to put it.

Article continues below

How do you analyze what happened in Florida and the 2000 election debacle in the context of your faith?

I won the Electoral College vote and not the popular vote. And people talk about that and that doesn't bother me because had the election been based upon a popular election vote, I'd have run a different kind of campaign. I'd have spent more time in my state of Texas trying to turn out the vote. …

The truth of the matter is, it's not your focus when you're running for president. Again, if it was pure popular vote, you'd run a completely different campaign. You'd spend TV money for example in neighborhoods where you know you're going to do well to try to find the extra 100,000 votes or whatever it may be. In this kind of campaign, if you're going to do well in a neighborhood, you don't spend resources there but you spend them where you may not do so well.

Secondly, the closeness of the election—what factored in on election night—was an interesting test of patience. It's like a marathon runner who's given it his all, and he's depleted and worn out, and a guy says, "Oh, I forgot to tell you, it's not 26 miles it's 29 miles. And so you never really get to finish. But I did get to finish in a way. Laura and I went to our ranch and just said, "You know, put the best people in place to help on the vote count down there, James Baker and others, and be prepared for the presidency if it happens."

I was quite calm during that period. I really was. I was spending a lot of time outdoors. I was tired, and I was worn out. I had really given it my best shot. Obviously I wanted to win, afterwards just like I did before, but it was a different feeling because you know it was a legal thing at that point in time. It was vote counts and ballots and chads. It was a confusing period for the American people as well. Obviously that's settled out, but it's just a part of my presidency. It'll be an interesting part of history.

Article continues below

Talk to you about history real quick. A president shouldn't worry about how history will judge him. I'll never know. I'll know how short term history will judge me, if I'd ever read the editorial pages I'd figure it out, because they're the ones writing the history. But when we try to do big things—accomplish big objectives—whether it be cultural change, or … the struggle we're in—it's going to take a while for history to really judge the accomplishments of a president and the true impact of a presidency. If you're doing little things, then maybe 20 years from now we'll be able to figure it out … But with big things it's going to take awhile. And so when you hear this thing about, "Well he's worried about his standing in history." I'm not. And most short-term history will be written by people who didn't particularly want me to be President to begin with.

Which presidents do you most admire?

Lincoln. Lincoln because he had a vision of the United States when he could have easily succumbed to pressures and said, "Let's just end this thing quick and we'll have two countries." Lincoln because of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln because he kept—in the midst of a country that was at war with each other—he kept this great vision of hope. You know, I'm reading the Alexander Hamilton book now, and I'm learning more about George Washington. It's very instructive, by the way, to see what it was like during the Articles of Confederation. Here we live in a world where in one year's time you know, democracy is supposed to be flourishing in Iraq and there's those expectations. … We had trouble getting there ourselves that quickly. … You know, I just don't know that much about him. I'd say Lincoln is the one I admire.

You know, I admired Reagan. He was a historic president because he, by sheer force of optimism, personality, and management style, was able to set a better standard for the presidency and lift the spirits of the country. He was a defining President.

Franklin Roosevelt. Here's a guy who, in the face of another "ism," saw the problems clearly and led. He led this country. The lend-lease program was contrary to popular opinion. It was said that it would cause his impeachment. Obviously, it failed. Yet he saw the stakes and led. He did what he felt was right and stood his ground.

It's very interesting, I've got a brilliant guy who works for me and Mike Gerson—writes a lot of my speeches. And this person said, "You know the interesting thing about Franklin Roosevelt"—this is really in regards to the speech I'm going to give Saturday at the World War II memorial—"is that he was a president who, as his energy got drained from his body during his presidency, energy entered into the American body. This is a country that came out of Depression, was isolationist, refused to accept its responsible place in history, and rose up as a giant democracy. And Roosevelt's body went from strong to weak during that period. It's like he gave his soul for the process. … "

Article continues below

I admire presidents who can see where they're going and have the courage to lead—the tenacity and the will to lead.

Do you think there needs to be a greater sense of urgency for the federal marriage amendment?

People have got to understand that the definition of marriage is being changed act by act. And the reason I thought a constitutional amendment was the right avenue on this issue it's because it would prevent the definition—it would reaffirm the current definition of marriage and prevent it from being changed decision by decision or act by act.

Is the idea for vouchers as a way of leveling the playing field still alive?

Mainly through the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Initiative thus far.

Can that be extended to others?

I hope so—workforce training programs, prisoner re-entry, I mean, yes, I think that's the idea. The idea is to fund the person and let the person have the freedom to choose, faith-based or otherwise. But we've got that—for the first time ever—in the drug and—the $100 million drug program. Big Marvin Olasky by the way, is very much involved with development of the faith-based initiative in the state of Texas—the intellectual inspiration for that, unless you want to call me that, which would be somewhat of a stretch.

How can compassionate conservativism be advanced internationally in places like Cuba?

The amazing thing about the faith-based initiative internationally is that it has advanced itself far beyond the government—Catholic Charities, the work in Sudan. … A lot of that has to do with the fact that the faith-based community was in Sudan in the south and supported and nurtured these people, fought off slavery. I mean, it was a monumental effort. I think the faith community is way beyond the U.S. government in terms of interfacing with people in the world, whether that be orphanages, ministries, missionaries. As a matter of fact, I think that the leading edge of compassion for our country is the faith community around the world. And if you've got ideas … because I'm interested in stimulating different thoughts.

Article continues below

Key thing on Cuba is you don't want to prop up a corrupt, tyrannical government through actions that sound generous. You know—tourism. You go to Cuba. He takes your hard dollars and pays people in worthless pesos. … It supports his tyrannical government and it is not right. The kind of notion that capitalism will overwhelm the system hasn't worked. I mean, if you do business there it is a great opportunity for Fidel to … support himself. I mean he's the guy who imprisoned librarians recently because of what they were doing. I mean, this is what he is. He is a tyrant in our neighborhood. Someday it will be free.

I think the idea—my view of foreign policy is never use food as a diplomatic weapon. Quite the contrary. Use food as a way to help starving people. We provide more food for North Korea. Our problem is, we're just not sure if we're feeding generals or feeding people. The faith-based initiative, again, is well established in America. My initiative didn't start the faith-based initiative. My initiative is there to support the faith-based initiative, to cause the faith-based initiative to expand.

One of the interesting things we did was create kind of a start-up laboratory for faith-based programs. We wanted to make sure the grant money didn't just go to the largest, established organizations like Catholic Charities, which has done great work, but to the Fishing School here in Washington—small, little social entrepreneurs that start with one prayer group and end up with 1,000 people over time.

But don't get me wrong, when I say faith-based initiatives some say, "Well, gosh, all of a sudden the government thinks that they've created this." No. Faith-based initiative has existed ever since faith began. We just want to fund it. We just want to kind of urge it down the road without corrupting the mission. And that's the real challenge, isn't it?

How you do balance not promoting a particular religion, while still being influenced by your personal faith?

My job is to make sure that, as President, people understand that in this country you can worship any way you choose. And I'll take that a step further. You can be a patriot if you don't believe in the Almighty. You can honor your country and be as patriotic as your neighbor.

Article continues below

Are your personal convictions regarding Israel and the Holy Land similar to those shared by conservative Christian supporters like Pat Robertson?

I believe that Israel—let me take a step back here. I view it a little differently. I view Israel as a friend and ally in democracy who is in a rough neighborhood and therefore, step one, I've made the commitment—a firm commitment of our government—that we will stand side by side with Israel if anybody tries to annihilate her. Secondly, I believe the best solution for peace in that part of the world, is for there to be a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state on her border run by men and women who hold the aspirations and hopes of the Palestinian people dear to their hearts—not their own corrupt aspirations. And I believe it's possible.

I see that development of a Palestinian state as a major change agent—along with a free Iraq—in the part of the world that desperately needs free societies, out of which will come the ability for people to worship as they see fit, the ability for people to raise their kids as any human parent—any parent desires, the ability for people to realize their hopes. In other words, a hopeful society.

I've been to Israel. I view it as the Holy Land as well. I view it as a precious piece of ground and it's an important part of our world history. I also understand my job is to use the prestige and power of America to try to bring peace. And so I guess it's a combination of both. In my position you can't help but be a practical person when you see the pressures that are put on the world through conflict, violence and terror. So that's why I took the position I took. I took it from the perspective of seizing this moment in history and leaving behind a more peaceful world, for the good of all.

What is the hardest aspect of the war for you personally, and how has your Christian faith affected your perception of the war?

Death. That's the hardest part of any war. Knowing that a mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter is lonely and sad and grieves because of the loss of a loved one. … My faith sustains me because I ask for God's blessings, strength, forgiveness and love. And interestingly enough, I also get sustained by the loved ones. Part of my job is to comfort, as best I can. To walk into a room full of people—maybe a room with one person—who has lost a loved one. And hug them, laugh with them, cry with them, hold them, you know, do whatever I can to add a moment of inspiration.

Interestingly enough, after most of those encounters, I'm the one who gets inspired. The person who's supposed to be inspired does the inspiring. And you can attribute anything you want to it. But I can just tell you the practical effects of being with people of such strength. You know, you hear the amazing statements from the mouths of these grieving souls that many times are inspired by the Almighty. It's a powerful reaffirmation of faith—how the grief comes—such hopeful words and such sustaining words.

Article continues below

I think a person's faith helps keep perspective in the midst of noise, pressure, sound—all the stuff that goes on in Washington. A person's faith helps you keep vision. As a matter of fact, helps clear your vision—is a vision. It is one of the prayers I ask is that God's light shines through me as best as possible, no matter how opaque the window. …

I'm in a world of, sometimes a world of fakery, and obfuscation, political back shots, and so I'm very mindful about the proper use of faith in this process. And you can't fake your faith, nor can you use your faith as a shallow attempt to garner votes, otherwise you will receive the ultimate condemnation. And therefore, the best way for faith to operate in somebody is, as I said, to let the light shine as opposed to trying to defend or alter or get my job mixed up with a preacher's job.

And the only way you can do that is just be yourself, without crossing any lines of politics and religion. Separation of church and state [is] important in America. And by that I mean the people of faith should participate in the state, and there's a difference.

All right! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I've got something else to do today. Thank you for your time.

Sheryl Henderson Blunt is Senior News Writer for Christianity Today

© 2004 Christianity Today

Related Elsewhere:

Related Christianity Today articles include:

Weblog: Can a Government Love Its Neighbor as Itself? | The Weekly Standard examines Bush's Golden Rule (Feb. 23, 2004)
Religious Conservative Leaders Savage Bush | Religious conservative leaders to Bush: Back FMA or lose election (Feb. 20, 2004)
The Bush Doctrine | The moral vision that launched the Iraq war has been quietly growing in the president's inner circle. (Apr. 25, 2003)
Free Speech for Politicians | God-talk in the public square is healthy. A Christianity Today Editorial (Apr. 25, 2003)
What George Bush's Favorite Devotional Writer Says About War | "War is the most damnably bad thing," wrote Oswald Chambers. (March 24, 2003)
Texas Pastor James Robison on the Life-Changing Faith of George W. Bush | The president of Life Outreach International talks about his friend's faith, the moral need of America, and his own conversion. (March 11, 2003)
Article continues below
Scrutiny of Bush's Faith Continues with Newsweek Cover Story (March 3, 2003)
Christian Leaders Respond to Bush's National Security Strategy | The White House outlines foreign policy in a changing world. (September 25, 2002)
Bush's Defining Moment | The President, facing a grief-stricken nation under attack, finds his voice and his mission. (November 2, 2001)
The Minister of 'Good Success' | Meet Kirbyjon Caldwell—megachurch pastor, real-estate whiz, community developer, and the President's spiritual confidant. (October 5, 2001)
A Presidential Hopeful's Progress | The spiritual journey of George W. Bush starts in hardscrabble west Texas. Will the White House be his next stop? (September 5, 2000)