George W. Bush's Religious Guru Plans Our Future

By Menendez, Albert J. | The Humanist, September 2000 | Go to article overview

George W. Bush's Religious Guru Plans Our Future


Menendez, Albert J., The Humanist


Marvin Olasky is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas and author of more than a dozen books about history and politics. He is outspoken in his self-identification as a former atheist turned fundamentalist Presbyterian. His previous books have ridiculed twentieth-century welfare policy and the abortion rights movement. He much prefers the harsher, more religion-saturated approach of nineteenth-century evangelicals, who linked "charity" to the "truly needy" and to those who needed moral reformation and conversion to evangelical Christianity. Like many romantic conservatives or pseudoconservatives, Olasky glamorizes previous eras of history, which he sees as a golden age.

His skewed framework of values can be discerned in a 1999 book The American Leadership Tradition: Moral Vision from Washington to Clinton, in which he argues that the greatness of U.S. presidents depends almost solely on "religious beliefs and sexual morality"--a crabbed vision rejected by most historians. Does any rational person actually think that Rutherford B. Hayes and Calvin Coolidge were better presidents than Franklin Delano Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy just because the pious Republicans were teetotalers and faithful to their wives?

Olasky recently labeled journalists as soulless and godless individuals. He disparages women in the journal Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, writing:

   God does not forbid women to be leaders in society ... but when that occurs
   it's usually because of the abdication of men, as in the situation of
   Deborah and Barak, there's a certain shame attached to it.

Perhaps Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meier would dissent from that view.

These quirky views would hardly cause a ripple of interest if it weren't for the fact that Olasky's greatest fan is Texas Governor George W. Bush, the GOP's presidential candidate for the 2000 elections. Bush's entire political philosophy--such as it is--is, by his definition, something he calls compassionate conservatism. What he means by this murky concept is largely spelled out in Marvin Olasky's new book, Compassionate Conservatism (The Free Press, $24.00).

Bush's foreword hails the idea that only religion-based charities can provide meaningful change in people's lives and thus can and should be supported by government funds. Bush calls for "a government that helps organizations of all faiths."

Olasky's book is mostly the recollections of a journey he and his fourteen-year-old son Daniel took to investigate "faith-based" enterprises around the country. Since Olasky doesn't believe in the Constitution's First Amendment, he thinks it is perfectly acceptable for government to fund religious charities and "life-changing" groups, even if proselytism and evangelism are carried out on the premises. …

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