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God and Governing

From the December 17, 2003 Wall Street Journal: What George W. Bush's faith means to his presidency.

11:00 PM, Dec 21, 2003 • By TERRY EASTLAND
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Bush hasn't used the word "evangelical" to describe his religious convictions, but in some ways it fits. Evangelicalism has a focus on conversion that can be traced back to the Great Awakening--the revivals that began in New England in the 1740s and spread down through the Middle Colonies and the South. The preachers at these revivals (and at later ones) stressed the importance of a "new birth," i.e., a commitment to Christ. The great New England theologian Jonathan Edwards called it a new "sense of the heart."

For almost two centuries, such Protestantism did much to shape the American character. But it lost its unified force in the 1920s, when various forms of theological liberalism captured the mainline churches. Evangelicalism re-emerged in the 1950s and has since assumed a higher profile in American society. Billy Graham, whom the president heard that day at a family gathering, has been its leading figure.

So it is that you may draw a line in American history from the Great Awakening to that day four years ago when candidate George W. Bush, asked by a reporter to name his favorite philosopher, replied, "Christ, because he changed my heart." Bush did not say that Christ was his favorite political adviser. Ye who live in Blue States, please take note.

Terry Eastland is publisher of The Weekly Standard.