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NEWS STORY: Spiritual Adviser, White House Official Speak on Bush’s Faith

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ President Bush doesn’t believe he received divine direction to run for the nation’s highest office or to wage war, a man who has acted as his spiritual adviser told religion reporters Friday (Sept. 10). The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of a Houston church, was a surprise guest accompanying […]

c. 2004 Religion News Service

WASHINGTON _ President Bush doesn’t believe he received divine direction to run for the nation’s highest office or to wage war, a man who has acted as his spiritual adviser told religion reporters Friday (Sept. 10).

The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of a Houston church, was a surprise guest accompanying Jim Towey, head of Bush’s faith-based initiatives office, at the annual meeting of the Religion Newswriters Association.

Both Caldwell and Towey defended the president as a man whose faith has been misrepresented and misunderstood and said they consider him to be a “mainstream” American when it comes to his religion.

“He does not believe that God told him to run,” Caldwell declared. “He does not believe God told him he would win. And he surely does not believe God told him to drop any bombs anywhere in the world.”

Caldwell, who said he calls Bush “Brother President,” said he generally refuses to disclose what he’s discussed with the country’s chief executive.

“From time to time the president, he shares some stuff with me,” he said. “I’m not going to tell a soul. I don’t even talk about what he says I can talk about.”

The Texas preacher has visited the president in the Oval Office and traveled with him to Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 attacks. In response to questions from reporters, he affirmed the president’s personal use of faith.

“When you get hit with bad news every daggum day you walk into the office … you better have something that just helps you to calibrate or maintain your equilibrium,” he said.

Caldwell, an independent who introduced Bush four years ago at the Republican National Convention, noted that his relationship with the president has not always been easy for his congregation, Windsor Village United Methodist Church.

“Some of the members … they caught hell because I introduced the governor at the Republican National Convention,” he said.

Although the president has spoken about how his faith has changed his life, Towey said that doesn’t mean dramatic religious rituals occur in the Oval Office.

“He’s commander in chief, not chaplain in chief,” said Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.

“I haven’t seen him … lost in prayer or levitating. If he had healing powers, he’d fix his knees.”

Bush injured his knees last year, halting his routine jogging schedule.

In his keynote speech, Towey defended the president’s position supporting government funding of faith-based organizations as sound policy.

“The separation of church and state is very important but we also recognize that that wall separating the poor from effective programs had to come down,” he said.

Towey said he thinks there’s a double standard in reactions to Bush’s religious speech since other presidents such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt have referred to matters of faith in their addresses.

“The reality is I think he’s no different from his predecessors and I think he connects with most Americans,” he said.

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