Presidential candidates on faith

Washington > Campaign 2004 > Transcript of Debate Between Bush and Kerry, With Domestic Policy the Topic” href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/13/politics/campaign/14DTEXT-FULL.html?pagewanted=print&position=”>The final debate between Bush and Kerry seems to confirm David Domke’s view that Bush uses religious langauge in a unique prophetic way:

Mr. Schieffer Mr. President, let’s go to a new question. You were asked before the invasion or after the invasion of Iraq if you had checked with your dad. And I believe, I don’t remember the quote exactly, but I believe you said you had checked with a higher authority. I would like to ask you what part does your faith play on your policy decisions?

Mr. Bush First, my faith plays a big part in my life. And when I was answering that question what I was really saying to the person was that I pray a lot. And I do. And my faith is a very, it’s very personal. I pray for strength. I pray for wisdom. I pray for our troops in harm’s way. I pray for my family. I pray for my little girls.

But I’m mindful in a free society that people can worship if they want to or not. You’re equally an American if you choose to worship an Almighty and if you choose not to. If you’re a Christian, Jew or Muslim you’re equally an American. That’s the great thing about America is the right to worship the way you see fit. Prayer and religion sustain me. I receive calmness in the storms of the presidency. I love the fact that people pray for me and my family all around the country. Somebody asked me one time, how do you know? I said I just feel it.

Religion is an important part. I never want to impose my religion on anybody else. But when I make decisions I stand on principle. And the principles are derived from who I am. I believe we ought to love our neighbor like we love ourself. That’s manifested in public policy through the faith-based initiative where we’ve unleashed the armies of compassion to help heal people who hurt. I believe that God wants everybody to be free. That’s what I believe. And that’s one part of my foreign policy. In Afghanistan I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty. And I can’t tell you how encouraged how I am to see freedom on the march. And so my principles that I make decisions on are a part of me. And religion is a part of me.

Mr. Schieffer
Senator Kerry?

Mr. Kerry Well, I respect everything that the president has said and certainly respect his faith. I think it’s important and I share it. I think that he just said that freedom is a gift from the Almighty. Everything is a gift from the Almighty. And as I measure the words of the Bible, and we all do, different people measure different things: the Koran, the Torah or, you know, Native Americans who gave me a blessing the other day had their own special sense of connectedness to a higher being. And people all find their ways to express it. I was taught – I went to a church school, and I was taught that the two greatest commandments are: love the Lord your God with all your mind, your body and your soul; and love your neighbor as yourself. And frankly, I think we have a lot more loving of our neighbor to do in this country and on this planet. We have a separate and unequal school system in the United States of America. There’s one for the people who have and there’s one for the people who don’t have. And we’re struggling with that today. The president and I have a difference of opinion about how we live out our sense of our faith. I talked about it earlier when I talked about the works and faith without works being dead. I think we’ve got a lot more work to do. And as president I will always respect everybody’s right to practice religion as they choose or not to practice, because that’s part of America.

The move in this exchnage from Bush’s: “In Afghanistan I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty” (God’s gift comes through the fruits of Bush’s war) to Kerry’s: “Everything is a gift from the Almighty” (general stance of humble greatfulness) is quite stark and revealing.

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