The Constitution defines America as ‘united under God’. And with 76% of its 312million population identifying themselves as Christian, no US president would dare take office without a personal pastor. Here's a few of the spiritual mentors who tried to keep the man in the White House firmly on God's side.
Doubtless, the spiritual mentor most associated with the US presidency is Billy Graham. A White House regular, the great evangelist shared the confidence of American leaders from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama, and almost certainly influenced Dwight D. Eisenhower's moves to admit black students to public schools.
Criticised for being too close to power, Graham supported Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy, though their relationship was stretched to breaking point when he censured Nixon over the Watergate affair in 1973, achieving reconciliation only after Nixon resigned.
Read about Billy Graham's influence on political power, and the impact of political power on him, in Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy’s The Preacher and the Presidents, or watch the DVD documentary: Billy Graham God’s Ambassador.
Clinton, Lewisnky and Tony Campolo
Popular speaker and founder of the Red-Letter Movement, Baptist minister Tony Campolo aligned his politics with the Democrats “because,” he said, “there are over 2,000 verses of Scripture that deal with responding to the needs of the poor.” He was among the advisers called to the White House by President Bill Clinton in relation to the ‘Monica Lewinsky Affair’.
The liberal Baptist’s most enduring quote is his regret that: “After the Lewinsky scandal, everything changed, and we moved from using the Bible to address the moral issues of our time, which were social, to moral issues of our time that were very personal.”
Barak Obama, T. D. Jakes and Jim Wallis
Choosing your pastor is as much a political as a personal decision. In 2008, newly elected President Obama had to cut his 20 year ties with the pastor who performed his marriage ceremony and baptised his two daughters.
America’s First Family left Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ, after a White House aide described the preacher’s claim that the US brought the 9/11 attacks on itself as "inflammatory rhetoric". Read about the political 'firestorm' in Carl & Shelby Grant’s book, The Moment.
The president now seeks counsel from not one but a number of advisers across the theological spectrum; though all of the president’s own liberalising social and political hue.
“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side” – Abraham Lincoln
Surprisingly, for a Democrat president, Obama’s spiritual inner circle includes church leaders and advisers of the former, Republican president, George W Bush. These include T.D. Jakes, author of T.D. Jakes Speaks to Men.
Most outspoken among Obama’s advisers is, perhaps, Jim Wallis. A combination of Bible evangelical and progressive social liberalist, Wallis calls on every level of the political process – voters, party activists, local and central government ministers and heads of state, to get their actions in line with the words of scripture.
Married to Rev. Joy Carroll, one of the first female Anglican priests, he’s also prominent in the Red-Letter Christian movement. His books, God’s Politics and On God’s Side, readably analyse the faults - left and right, of political power.
Politics: Common Ground for the Common Good
In leading you through the search for that common ground where the common good is paramount, Wallis shows how Christianity – and other faiths, can and must rediscover what organised religion has forgotten or abandoned, and what organised politics simply hasn’t learned.
Reinserting faith into politics, and reuniting all sides ‘under God’ is western culture’s only chance of surviving and serving the needs of an increasingly diverse society. It’s essential that every Christian - from voter to president understands the problems, opportunities and the solution of making sure that you are on God’s side.
April 12th, 2013 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison