Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Bush and God-Talk: Presidential Language Puts off Some in Religious Community. (Nation)

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Bush and God-Talk: Presidential Language Puts off Some in Religious Community. (Nation)

Article excerpt

President or preacher?

That's the question some in the religious community are asking as President Bush continues to regularly weave religious references into his speeches and public comments.

"It's become a matter of style, rather than an exception," said the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance, a nonpartisan, grass-roots organization with members from more than 50 religious groups.

At a news conference Feb. 11, Gaddy and Elaine Pagels criticized Bush's use of religious language that reflects his evangelical Christian faith, saying it discourages political discourse, disenfranchises members of other faiths and puts the country at greater risk of attack by non-Christian militants. Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton University, said that while religious language can be unifying, it can also be very divisive.

But some Christian leaders find Bush's religious rhetoric perfectly appropriate.

"Americans not only expect this [religious] language of their presidents, but they respect it," the Rev. Rich Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, told the PBS program "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly." "It was G.K. Chesterton who said this is a `nation with the soul of a church.' ... And our people are a religious people, and our president has not transcended the boundaries of what is appropriate in the public arena."

But Pagels and Gaddy said Bush's use of religious language to define his positions as morally correct quashes the expression of dissenting opinions.

"If you've got people who disagree with public policy, and as the leader, you tell them this is not just a political issue, [but] this is an issue of morality," Gaddy said, "that's like the trump card." The only way for Americans to be "morally right" is to agree with Bush, making opponents reluctant to voice their opinions, Pagels added.

She said Bush's language breaks down political discourse with other countries, as well, particularly when it invokes references to good and evil. She said using such language to refer to whole blocks of people or countries has a dehumanizing effect.

Pagels compared the resulting mindset to the movie trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings," where annihilation of the other side is the only way out.

The theologians also noted that Bush's religious references reflect his own faith tradition, to the exclusion of the numerous other faiths practiced in the United States. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.