May 10, 2015


Bush courts evangelicals, defends religion in public life (LESLEY CLARK, May 9, 2015, McClatchy)

 Looking to win over skeptical evangelical voters, Jeb Bush pushed back Saturday against what he said are modern intrusions on religion as he lauded graduates and their families at Liberty University, a Christian college popular on the path to the Republican presidential nomination.

"Fashionable ideas and opinions - which these days can be a religion all by itself - have got a problem with Christians and their right of conscience," Bush told an audience of 34,000 in the school's football stadium.

"That makes it our problem, and the proper response is a forthright defense of the first freedom in our Constitution." [...]

[T]he convert to Catholicism pledged that he would not apologize for allowing faith to influence his decision making.

"The simple and safe reply is, 'No. Never. Of course not,' " Bush said. "If the game is political correctness, that's the answer that moves you to the next round."

He defended the role of religion in contemporary life arguing that religious Americans are being cast as "intolerant scolds, running around trying to impose their views on everyone."

He declared "our friends on the left like to view themselves as the agents of change and reform, and you and I are supposed to just get with the program."

He cited Houston Mayor Annise Parker's controversial decision to subpoena pastors in connection with a lawsuit over the city's equal rights ordinance.

And he got applause slamming the Obama's administration's health agency for "dictating" to the Catholic charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor, what goes into their health plan.

"I'm betting that when it comes to doing the right and good thing, the Little Sisters of the Poor know better than the regulators at the Department of Health and Human Services," Bush said. "From the standpoint of religious freedom, you might even say it's a choice between the Little Sisters and Big Brother - and I'm going with the Little Sisters."

A Lesson in How Faith Improves Politics (Peter Wehner, 05.10.2015, Commentary)

Jeb Bush delivered the commencement address at Liberty University on Saturday. It's a beautifully written speech, and it constitutes the kind of thoughtful and balanced reflection on Christian faith that is unusual to find, especially among political leaders. To do justice to it requires me to quote extensively from it, so I shall. [...]

[T]o me the most interesting parts of the address were those in which Governor Bush described how many critics of Christianity perceive it as a "backward and oppressive force... something static, narrow, and outdated... some obstacle to enlightened thought, some ancient, irrelevant creed wearing out its welcome in the modern world."

Governor Bush described Christianity in a very different, and much truer and more textured, way. Faith doesn't give answers to every question, he said, and it doesn't spare us from doubt or difficulties in life. But if often awakens the conscience. "One of the great things about this faith of ours is its daring, untamed quality, which is underrated," Bush said, adding:

As moral wisdom goes, for example, loving our neighbors seems kind of an easy call - especially if we already like them. But how about loving our enemies, too, as a bold challenge to leave our comfort zone and lift our sights to larger purposes?

As for the suggestion that Christianity is a static faith, that sure isn't how it reads in the original. Offhand, I cannot think of any more subversive moral idea ever loosed on the world than "the last shall be first, and the first last."

Governor Bush also spoke about how, whether we acknowledge it or not, the Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament still provide the moral vocabulary we use in America. He quoted C.S. Lewis, who said that trying to separate ideals from the source of ideals is like "a rebellion of the branches against the tree", and added this:

Justice, equality, the worth of every life, the dignity of every person, and rights that no authority can take away - these are founding moral ideals in America, and they didn't come out of nowhere.

"Whatever the need, the affliction, or the injustice," Bush said, "there is no more powerful or liberating influence on this earth than the Christian conscience in action."

In their unwillingness to bend to elite opinion, many people of the Christian faith believe thus: "Wherever there is a child waiting to be born, we say choose life, and we say it with love. Wherever women and girls in other countries are brutally exploited, or treated as possessions without rights and dignity, we Christians see that arrogance for what it is. Wherever Jews are subjected to the oldest bigotry, we reject that sin against our brothers and sisters, and we defend them." The former Florida governor also spoke about a generation of Christians who are "striving to be protectors of creation, instead of just users, good shepherds instead of just hirelings - and that moral vision can make all the difference."

When you read the speech in whole, what stands out, I think, is that Governor Bush is articulating his understanding of the Christian faith in a way that is principled but not harsh, in a manner that is persuasive rather than aggressive, unapologetic and not offensive. He cares very much about the state of the culture, but he's no culture warrior. This speech was his effort to unwind some fairly widespread caricatures, to represent his faith in a way that invites understanding rather than promotes division and distrust.

Posted by at May 10, 2015 9:21 AM

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