So somebody in Ohio asked Bush yesterday,

Thank you for coming to Cleveland, Mr. President, and to the City Club. My question is that author and former Nixon administration official Kevin Phillips, in his latest book, American Theocracy, discusses what has been called radical Christianity and its growing involvement into government and politics. He makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse? And if not, why not?

Here is Bush’s response:

The answer is — I haven’t really thought of it that way. (Laughter.) Here’s how I think of it. The first I’ve heard of that, by the way. I guess I’m more of a practical fellow. I vowed after September the 11th, that I would do everything I could to protect the American people.

He goes on for a bit on the theme of the last sentence. You can read the entire speech and question and answer period here. I of course realize that good politicians do not answer questions, but one wonders if President Bush has ever really considered his eschatology. Ah yes, decorum forces us to hesitate in answering this one. Here was a good chance for the President to say something like, ‘Christians tend to follow the words of Jesus, who said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6, RSV).’ (Not that he should proof-text or anything.) Or something more profound like, “I do not believe that the United States of America is capable of ushering in the apocalypse. God will take care of that himself.” I guess that kind of nuanced theology is bit more than we should expect from someone who hangs with Pat Robertson.

I have vowed to myself that I will never again allow a candidate to gain my sympathy in any way by his claiming to be a believer. Our president is helpful in that he has a way of saying things that often remind me of this vow.

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