The Jesus Factor [home]
homepresident and his faithevangelicalsdiscussion


interviews

 

Evangelicals

 
photo of black

Amy Black

Amy Black is assistant professor of politics at Wheaton College, Illinois, a leading evangelical liberal arts institution, and the author of Of Little Faith: The Politics of George W. Bush's Faith-Based Programs. Here, Black discusses President Bush's frequent references to God in his speeches, the importance of his faith-based initiative, and the delicate balance she sees the president having to confront -- holding certain personal beliefs but needing to operate in a political system that doesn't share those beliefs. "And I think that's what the president is trying to do, but it is always going to be a healthy tension." This interview was conducted on Dec. 9, 2003.

photo of cizik

Richard cizik

Richard Cizik is vice president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization that represents 52 denominations and 45,000 churches. In this interview, he talks about evangelicals' increased social and political influence and how his organization has successfully been working with the White House on issues that matter to evangelicals, especially the president's faith-based initiative. He also talks about pietism, which he calls "the overriding political vision of evangelical Christians." He says that it means to evangelicals that "you cannot relegate faith to the private arena only. You simply can't do that. … And that challenges the fundamental assumptions about Western political values that religion is private. Politics is public. And never the twain shall meet." This interview was conducted on Nov. 12, 2003.

photo of jacobs

alan jacobs

Alan Jacobs is a professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois, a leading evangelical liberal arts institution, and is the author of A Theology of Reading: The Hermeneutics of Love. In this interview, he talks about what it means to be an evangelical, how it differs from mainline Protestantism, and how an evangelical like himself can be a serious academic thinker and also hold that the Bible is the truth. "I think everyone who claims that the Bible is truth lays hold of that claim by faith. And it's not faith that is unmarked by reflection and serious intellectual engagement." He also discusses the importance of the "born-again" experience to an evangelical, the steady growth of evangelical churches in recent decades, and why the evangelical community is so opposed to gay marriage. This interview was conducted on Dec. 8, 2003.

photo of land

Richard land

Richard Land is a director of the conservative evangelical Southern Baptist Convention and is a friend and adviser to President Bush. In this wide-ranging interview, he talks about the reception his organization has received from the White House and assesses how President Bush has handled issues which matter to evangelicals, such as partial birth abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, the Sudan and human trafficking. He also discusses Bush's "overtly evangelical" expression of his faith and the religious language in the president's speeches, including references to divine providence in America's mission after Sept. 11. "A belief in divine providence is hardly a novel thing in U.S. history," says Land. "And if there are those who find it disquieting, they need to understand, they are the ones who have moved. ... George Bush is not the one that's moved." This transcript is drawn from two interviews conducted on Nov. 18, 2003 and Feb. 4, 2004.

photo of noll

mark noll

Dr. Noll is a historian and professor of Christian thought at Wheaton College in Illinois, a leading evangelical liberal arts institution. He also is the author of America's God, a history of American Protestant Christianity. In this interview, Dr. Noll offers a summary of American evangelical history beginning with a definition of the word "evangelical." He talks about why evangelicals became more politically engaged in the 1960s and 1970s and how their leadership changed over the following decades: "They have more friends in power [now]. They're more experienced and working for different issues. They have become political, as well as religious, in their public activity." Dr. Noll also talks about the many layers of differences between the African-American evangelical community and the white evangelical community and he defines the type of evangelical that George W. Bush represents. This interview was conducted on Dec. 10, 2003.

photo of wallis

jim wallis

Jim Wallis is editor and founder of the liberal evangelical magazine Sojourners, the author of The Soul of Politics, and the head of "Call to Renewal," a faith-based anti-poverty organization. In this interview, he talks about why many Americans seem to fear evangelicals, how biblical teaching shows that to be evangelical means to be obsessed with seeking justice for the poor, and why he supports faith-based programs. Wallis also talks about the president's personal faith and how he's putting that faith into action. He worries that after 9/11, the president seemed to turn from being a "self-help Methodist" to a "Messianic American Calvinist speaking of the mission of America, and even of his perhaps divine appointment to be president at a time such as this." Wallis also criticizes the religious language and hymnology used in the president's speeches which is "often misused or often put in a different context and the meaning changed." This interview was conducted on Nov. 12, 2003.

photo of wead

doug wead

Doug Wead is a motivational speaker, a Bush family friend, and was a campaign adviser to George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election. In this interview, he tells the personal story behind President Bush becoming in middle age a born-again Christian and, as someone who has closely observed Bush over the decades, he explains how the president's faith has had a tempering effect on who he is. "[It] is the good angel of his personality. Without that faith, he is so hard, he is so decisive, he is so quick, he is so brutal, he is so unapologetic, so self-righteous…" he says. Wead also discusses evangelicals' growing impact in recent presidential elections and why, nonetheless, they still feel under assault by the country's press, government and culture. In a way, says Wead, evangelicals have only themselves to blame. "We have not been involved in public life, because we haven't felt a need to or a desire to. So it's going to take time. Catholics have been through this, Jews have been through this in this country. … We are resented, because our numbers are so huge… if we could ever get our act together, we could be formidable." This interview was conducted on Nov. 18, 2003.

 
 

Analysts of Religion and Politics; a Religious Leader

 
photo of dionne

e.j. dionne, jr.

E.J. Dionne, Jr. is a columnist for the Washington Post, the co-chair of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and co-editor of What's God Got to Do With the American Experiment? Here, he talks about America's longtime "healthy ambivalence" about religion and how Americans respect those who are religious, "but a large number of Americans don't want religion to enter the public square too much." However, he believes the country may be at a stage now where "it's perfectly legitimate to root your political views in a set of religious beliefs." This interview also covers his thoughts on whether the Bush White House is the most religious ever, the issues reflected in the debate over the faith-based initiative, and why conservative religions are growing. This interview was conducted on Dec. 12, 2003

photo of gaddy

Dr. C. Welton Gaddy

Dr. C. Welton Gaddy is a Baptist minister and heads up the Interfaith Alliance, an organization of liberal religious leaders. In this interview, he offers a wide-ranging critique of the president's faith-based initiative, focusing in particular on how it "undercuts the authority, the uniqueness, the power of religion." He also talks about the "disturbing politics" he finds in the faith-based initiative and he addresses the question of whether politicians should put forth their political views based on religion. This interview was conducted on March 5, 2004.

photo of green

John green

John Green has done extensive research and polling on the demographics and politics of evangelicals and is director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, Ohio and the author of Religion and the Culture Wars. In this interview, he analyzes the religious strands of the president's faith and offers an overview of America's evangelicals -- from their movement to the Republican Party over the past three decades to the mainstreaming of evangelicals in U.S. society today, and their growing political and cultural influence. Green says that religion will very much matter in the 2004 election: "Bush needs to appeal to evangelical Protestants, the Democratic nominee … to black Protestants, Jews, and other religious. But the rhetoric is going to be heightened … because of same-sex marriages. This will energize many religious conservatives. I think we will see an intensification of religious rhetoric in the campaign." This interview was conducted on Dec. 5, 2003.

photo of slater

wayne slater

Wayne Slater is Austin bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News and the author of Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush. He has followed George W. Bush throughout his political career and here discusses some of his private talks with Bush about his faith which Slater says fits well with Bush's conservative political philosophy of "hard work, good things for business and an absolute right and wrong in everything." Slater also talks about how Bush convincingly reached out to Texas's evangelical community in his gubernatorial campaign, how he continues to shrewdly woo evangelicals, and how in the White House Bush "has surrounded himself … with conservative Christians." In this interview Slater also talks about the moment when then-Governor Bush confronted a profound conflict between the necessity of public policy and his own personal religious belief. This transcript is drawn from two interviews conducted on Oct. 30, 2003 and Jan. 8, 2004.

photo of waldman

steve waldman

Steve Waldman is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Beliefnet, a popular and respected Web site on religion and society. He has interviewed President Bush about his faith and says that he was struck by a sense that he was a "genuine religious pluralist." In this interview, he discusses Bush's "mild and general and inoffensive" religious rhetoric and he explains why the issue of gay marriage will bring conservative evangelical voters out for Bush. "There's a feeling that they've just gotten hit with a tidal wave, and that society as they know it is being destroyed rapidly," he says. As for the 2004 election, he predicts that religion will play an important role "in part because evangelical voters are going to be crucial to Bush's re-election. [It] also is going to be more important because of 9/11. … the extent to which Americans feel threatened by terrorism and fundamentalist Islam will probably be an asset for President Bush." This interview was conducted on Dec. 5, 2003.

home · introduction · president and his faith · america's evangelicals · interviews
discussion · producer's chat · links & readings · press reaction · tapes & transcripts
credits · teacher's guide · privacy policy
FRONTLINE home · wgbh · pbsi

posted april 29, 2004

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of wgbh educational foundation.
photo copyright © brooks kraft/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

The Rise of ISISOctober 28th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS