The Whole World in His Hands

 

by John Tyler Connoley

May 18, 2004

 

In Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack, he recalls a conversation with President George W. Bush. Woodward asked if Bush consulted with his father on matters of state, and the President responded, "You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to."

 

On another occasion, long before he was in the White House, Bush called a group of Texas pastors to the governor's mansion to pray over him. At that meeting he told them he felt a call from God to run for the presidency. According to a Frontline report, he said, "I believe God wants me to be President." But Dr. Richard Land, a Southern Baptist leader and the source of that quote, says Governor Bush didn't stop there. He went on to say, "but if that doesn't happen, that's OK. I am loved at home, and that's more important." He also said he'd seen enough of the inner workings of the White House "to know that the presidency is a sacrifice, not a reward." Land says he was so struck by the humility and conviction of that statement that he remembered it word-for-word, and later told his wife, "This is the sort of man I want in the White House."

 

In commentaries about the President's faith and how it interacts with his policies, most commentators focus on his beliefs. They speculate on what it means to have a President who most likely thinks all Jews and Muslims are going to hell, how his belief in the inerrancy of the Bible might affect his foreign policy, or how his "born again" experience influenced his decision to push faith-based drug programs. What all these commentators miss is the most important aspect of Bush's faith -- not the beliefs, but the faith itself.

 

In my family, I've known a lot of men like our current president. George W. Bush is someone who believes the words of the old spiritual, "He's got the whole world in His hands." He believes everything happens for a reason. And he trusts that if he does his best, God will do the rest. I believe it's this straightforward trust in God, summed up in time-worn phrases, that drives everything President Bush does.

 

It takes a lot of guts to run for the presidency, and most people find the experience soul-sapping. But, even during all the wrangling in Florida, Candidate Bush never faltered. He knew in his gut that he was supposed to run for President, and whatever happened after that was up to God. As things played out, he was handed the presidency. Perhaps not by popular vote but, as Bush saw it, God worked it out according to His plan.

 

So, when 9/11 happened, Bush had the confidence to believe that God must have intended him to be President at that time. God had a long-term plan for the United States, and Bush was merely the instrument of the moment. In Bush's worldview, God's got the whole world in His hands, and knew Bush would be President during those dark hours. His faith gave Bush the courage to act confidently, because he trusted his Father to take care of things in the long run.

 

It's also this faith that made it possible in an April press conference for George W. Bush to answer, honestly, that he doesn't think he's made any mistakes since 9/11. Every step along the way, he's done what felt right to him. His staffers say he begins every morning on his knees in prayer and Bible study. He consults his heavenly Counselor, and does what his gut tells him to, trusting God will take it from there. No need for second-guessing or hand-wringing over the past, because God is in control in the present, and leading us into the future.

 

This trust in his Father also made it possible for Bush to undertake one of the most daring (and radically progressive) military actions of the modern era. Bush saw an opportunity to attempt to bring western democracy to the Arab world, by overthrowing Saddam Hussein. He consulted with his advisors (though apparently not his Secretary of State), then consulted with his Advisor, and decided to go for it. As things turned out, the experiment has been more difficult than he expected, but to him that's not an indication that he might have made the wrong decision. As Bush sees it, if he succeeds in bringing democracy and peace to the Middle East, then it will be because God is working through him. And, if instead he causes World War III or Armageddon, as some of his detractors predict, then that must have been God's plan all along. Bush has done his best, and God will do the rest.

 

Bush told Bob Woodward in the final hours before the decision to go to war, "I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will." My guess is this is something Bush does every day, not just on those mornings when he's making monumental decisions. If you share his faith and trust in his Father, then this is probably comforting to think about. If you don't share his faith, his actions are probably puzzling at best and frightening at worst. Either way, Bush will continue acting decisively, confident that his Father holds the future and trusting that whatever happens was meant to be.

 

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Copyright 2004 by John Tyler Connoley

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