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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 8: Bush Sr. and the Civil Religion Debate: A Re-evaluation


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Chapter 8 Bush Sr. and the Civil Religion Debate: A Re-Evaluation

Our findings on Bush places light on the scholarly civil religion debate in the United States, since these reveal more classical Christian themes and concepts than what is normally stressed in the debate. These findings, including clear Christocentric aspects and faith experiential dimensions, require a re-evaluation of the American civil religion debate. In fact, I would prefer to specify the civil religion of George H. W. Bush as a public theology or maybe presidential public theology, i.e. to use a terminology that, for example, underlines the inadequacy and insufficiency of only using the earlier predominant French and German sociological theories in order to fully understand the religious dimension of George H. W. Bush’s presidency.

The inauguration of the contemporary debate

Sociologist Robert N. Bellah’s 1967 article “Civil Religion in America” in Deadalus, The Journal of the American Academy of Arts, inaugurated the contemporary American civil religion debate.838 The article appeared “at the height of national soul-searching during the Vietnam War” and established Bellah “as a major interpreter of American religion in the second half of the twentieth century,” according to the Encyclopedia of Religion and Society.839 Since its publication, popular and scholarly attentions have been paid to this article’s subject of the civil religion phenomenon, which he defines as the “transcendent universal religion of the nation”840 and the religious dimension of a nation’s “beliefs, symbols, and rituals.”841

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