[Marxism] The Jesus Factor
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Thu Apr 29 11:51:44 MDT 2004
NY Times, April 29, 2004
TV REVIEW | 'THE JESUS FACTOR'
Understanding the President and His God
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
The question is not, When did George W. Bush accept Jesus as his
personal savior? The "Frontline" documentary "The Jesus Factor," on PBS
tonight, raises a different issue: Do most Americans realize just how
fervent the president's evangelical faith really is?
"The Jesus Factor" is a little like those illustrated anatomy books
where transparent plastic pages can be flipped to reveal the muscle,
bone and organs beneath the skin. Stripping off the layers of patrician
pedigree, Yale and his Texas business pursuits, the documentary lays
bare Mr. Bush's spiritual conversion and its consequences.
It is not a disrespectful look. Yet by pulling together well-known and
long forgotten incidents and remarks, the program reminds viewers that
this "faith-based" president has blurred the line between religion and
state more than any of his recent predecessors: a vision that affects
the Iraq conflict as well as domestic policy.
In the wake of Sept. 11 of course the religious influence seems obvious,
since Mr. Bush has invoked a higher authority who has led him to battle
And at a time when Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" is one
of the top-earning movies, and the "Left Behind" series of books,
apocalyptic Christian thrillers by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (the
Antichrist heads the United Nations), has outsold John Grisham, the
evangelical Christian movement is highly visible even in places like New
York and Los Angeles.
But like the evangelical movement, the president's born-again faith was
not as striking to outsiders in 1987, when he moved to Washington to
work on his father's presidential campaign. At the time reporters mostly
saw him as the Bush family bouncer, someone who kept an eye on disloyal
Nor were his born-again evangelical beliefs much more than a
biographical footnote in Mr. Bush's gubernatorial campaigns. Even in his
2000 presidential race most journalists placed Mr. Bush's religious
beliefs behind his family lineage, career and political ideology. His
faith was mostly examined in the context of a midlife crisis: a black
sheep's self-styled 12-step program that helped him stop drinking and
focus on a political career in Texas.
"The Jesus Factor" examines Mr. Bush's faith by mingling his public
pronouncements with interviews with friends; fellow members of the
Community Bible Study group in Midland, Tex.; evangelical leaders; and
Texas journalists who covered him.
Doug Wead, who was George H. W. Bush's liaison to the religious right
during the 1988 presidential campaign, says that the younger Mr. Bush
was his ally, serving as a behind-the-scenes link between his father, an
Episcopalian moderate, and the evangelical movement, which is a critical
base for the Republican Party. Mr. Wead says his memorandums to the vice
president came back to him annotated by someone who seemed very
knowledgeable about evangelical Christians; Mr. Wead says he thought the
candidate was handing them over to the Rev. Billy Graham, a Bush family
friend. "But it turned out he was vetting them with his son," Mr. Wead
Once the younger Mr. Bush's faith took hold, it spread to his political
ambitions. "I believe that God wants me to be president," is what
Richard Land, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, recalls
hearing Mr. Bush say in a meeting with close associates on the day of
his second inaugural as governor of Texas. Once elected president, Mr.
Bush went to work. "We need common-sense judges who understand our
rights were derived from God," he says in a 2002 clip. "And those are
the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench."
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