President George W. Bush is at home in conservative Christian circles. He speaks the language of conversion — though one story relates to the influence of Arthur Blessitt and the other to Billy Graham.
He credits God for releasing him from the bonds of alcohol and freely evokes God’s name in formal speeches and casual conversations. That comfort with church language and the consistent support of conservative political causes have secured his closeness to many evangelicals.
Over his two terms as president, he has engaged the fundamentalist-controlled Southern Baptist Convention — inviting SBC presidents to the Oval Office and addressing convention messengers via video or an administrative representative.
In turn, messengers have heartily applauded the president. He is their man.
As his presidency winds down, few Americans approve of the job President Bush has done. His popularity fluctuates on the low end of the scale between one-quarter and one-third of the population.
However, as a recent Pew Research Center poll revealed, many conservative Christians are still in his corner. Thirty-five percent of the small pool of remaining supporters of the president identified themselves as “white evangelical Protestants” — the largest religious subgroup, by far.
Why? Do they like the economy? Are they pleased with his handling of the war in Iraq?
That is doubtful. Two other reasons seem more likely.
First, some Christian conservatives see all politics solely in terms of the emotional issue of abortion. Pres. Bush’s appointments to the Supreme Court give them hope.
That hope, of course, is rooted in the naive notion that the Court will one day overturn Roe v. Wade, making abortion illegal. In response, abortions in America will cease.
They ignore the more likely course that would follow the unlikely overturn of that judicial decision. That is, regulation of abortion would shift to the states.
Some states (like Massachusetts) would likely ensure that abortion procedures are legal. Others (like Mississippi) would likely outlaw all or most procedures.
In turn, those with unwanted pregnancies in Mississippi would go to Massachusetts — if they could afford it. Poorer persons would likely look to illegal and possibly unsafe sources nearby. Abortion would not end with a Supreme Court decision.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was wrong when he said during the Saddleback Forum that abortion has not declined in recent years. It has declined as an apparent result of education, birth control and ease of adoption.
It seems that those most concerned with ending abortion would stick with — and enhance — the methods that work. Their answer is more likely found in these widespread responses than in the marble buildings of Washington.
And what is the second reason so many Southern Baptists and other very conservative Christians still support Pres. Bush despite his overall unpopularity? They must do so or confess that God was wrong in picking him — or that they were wrong in saying he was God’s choice.