Southern Religion

Bush faith-based manipulation failed to increase churches’ social-services

Although the Bush administration’s goal for faith-based initiatives was political manipulation, the program’s failure at the congregational level was not a foregone conclusion. Duke Divinity School’s Mark Chavez, a professor of sociology and religion, performed an important public service in establishing that the program in fact had little impact.

He concluded, wrote Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press, that “the proportions of congregations that provide social services (82 percent of all houses of worship), that have a staff member who devotes at least a quarter of their time to providing social services (11 percent) and that receive government funding for such services (4 percent) did not change between data collected in 1998 and in 2006-2007. In both surveys, about 6 percent of social services performed by congregations were done in collaboration with the government in some form (although not necessarily financial collaboration), while 20 percent were done in collaboration with a secular non-profit agency.”

Everyone was warned before the second Bush term.

John J. DiIulio Jr., a domestic affairs expert and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who resigned in August 2001 as the first head of Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said in 2002:

There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you’ve got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis

David Kuo in an interview about “Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction,” a book he wrote about his experience as deputy director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, was asked if he were “the one to come up with the idea to use the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for political gain in election campaigns.”

He answered:

Jim Towey (the second director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives) and I did. All the protests to the otherwise are ridiculous and silly. I do not want to get in a tit for tat with the White House. There is a much broader point to Christians about politics. There is this idea, which Christians have perpetuated to Christians, that George W. Bush is, in some way, a pastor-in-chief. His faith is his soul to Christians. It is one of the most inviting things about him. The only problem with that is that he is the President of the United States. He is not a minister. He heads the GOP; he does not head a church. I think Christians have been seduced into thinking otherwise. . . .

That misdirected view helped inspire then-outgoing Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham to do more than accept Bush’s conversion via satellite uplink of the June, 2004, Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting into a political rally. Graham followed up with a tub-thumping stump speech, delivered only partly in the language of a sermon, calling for Southern Baptists to “look up, step up, stand up, wise up and gear up” for the culture wars.

The Bush team wasn’t grateful and did not regard Southern Baptists with respect as a result of their efforts. Conservative political analyst Tucker Carlson reached down to his journalist roots and found a clear characterization of it all for MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in October of 2006:

It goes deeper than that though. The deep truth is that the elites in the Republican Party have pure contempt for the evangelicals who put their party in power.


So it was from Bush’s “faith-based” outset. Use the people of faith while pretending to assist them in helping others. Result was coherent with purpose.


January 8, 2010 - Posted by | Politics, SBC | , ,

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