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George H.W. Bush

Faith, Presidency, and Public Theology

Kjell Lejon

This book is the first to explore the religious dimension of President George H. W. Bush. Also, the author re-conceptualizes the common use of civil religion in order to understand more fully the religious dimension of Bush’s presidency, and thus argues for the need to highlight the religious rhetoric of President George H.W. Bush as a public theology, or more specifically, a presidential public theology.
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Chapter 2: Beginnings: From Milton to Houston


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Chapter 2 Beginnings: From Milton to Houston

Family Background and Upbringing

According to genealogist Gary Boyd Roberts, George H. W. Bush can trace his heritage back to the Mayflower.28 True or not, this claim is not one that the family has advanced, being firm believers in “it’s where one is going, rather than where one has been, that matters.”29

Bush’s paternal great-grandfather, James Smith Bush (1825–1889), born in Rochester, New York, to Obadiah Newcomb Bush (1797–1851) and Harriet Smith (1800–1867), was an Episcopal clergyman who initially served at Grace Church, Orange, N.J., as rector at Grace Church in San Francisco between 1867–1872, and until 1884 at the Church of the Ascension, Staten Island, in New York City. He increasingly held Unitarian views and decided to resign, moving to Concord, Massachusetts, and later to Ithaca, New York, were he died.30 He was the one who established the family tradition of attending Yale College (later Yale University). In a memoir from 1907, James is quoted as teaching a family motto: “Do the right thing.” He is also known for teaching other mottoes heard in the Bush family for generations: “Give the credit to others,” “Be loyal,” and “Always, always, play fair.”31

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