Jeb Bush

Behold, a Barbara Bush mystery: Family matriarch waited 'til age 90 to be confirmed as Episcopalian?

Behold, a Barbara Bush mystery: Family matriarch waited 'til age 90 to be confirmed as Episcopalian?

If you watch the whole Barbara Bush funeral, you really get a sense of her personality and how she fit into Houston as a community, but especially life at St. Martin's Episcopal Church (the largest Episcopal congregation in North America).

The service (click here) was loaded with interesting choices, in terms of the readings and hymns -- all negotiated in fine detail, months before her death by the clergy and the extremely literate Barbara Bush.

There's a lot of humor in the service, since we are talking about the life of one of the wittiest figures to grace the American political stage in the 20th Century. There are quite a few tears, too, since she led a large family and clearly had a big impact on all of them.

However, let me note that the service also contained one big surprise and/or mystery and, sure enough, it concerned Barbara Bush's faith. I am sure that religion-beat reporters -- had any been given this choice assignment -- would have caught it.

So what was it? In my GetReligion post following the Bush matriarch's death, I noted that George H.W. Bush and his wife were dyed-in-the-wool, old-school Episcopalians and that this fact helped shape their lives, culture and style. You can see this right at the top of the fine New York Times story about the funeral:

HOUSTON -- At the Episcopal church that has been her spiritual home for more than 50 years, the former first lady Barbara Pierce Bush was celebrated at her funeral as one of the most beloved political matriarchs in American history.

Mrs. Bush, the wife of the 41st president and the mother of the 43rd, died on Tuesday in the bedroom of her home in Houston. She was 92, and took her last breaths holding the hand of her husband of 73 years, former President George Bush.

Note especially the reference to St. Martin's being her "spiritual home for more than 50 years." With that in mind, note this material drawn from the eulogies by son Jeb Bush and the church's rector, the Rev. Russell J. Levenson Jr. This passage was way down in the USA Today report:

When [Jeb Bush] asked his mom recently how she felt about the idea of dying, he said, she didn't miss a beat. "She said, 'Jeb, I believe in Jesus and he is my savior. I don’t want to leave your dad, but I know I will be in a beautiful place.’”

Rev. Russell Levenson Jr., the Bush's pastor for the last 13 years, revealed that Bush came to him in 2015 -- at the age of 90 -- and asked to be confirmed in the church.

Wait a minute!

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Crux think piece: Just try to pin a political label on the agony loyal Catholics are feeling

Crux think piece: Just try to pin a political label on the agony loyal Catholics are feeling

Please consider this post a quick follow-up on this morning's blog item about a Washington Post story on the pain and confusion that is setting in for many doctrinally conservative Evangelical Protestants facing the choice of voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton or Citizen Donald Trump.

This is a religion story, of course. The more seriously one takes centuries of church teachings on moral theology and life issues -- the whole spectrum of issues from abortion to the dignity of every human person (including immigrants) -- the more painful this White House race gets.

So how do you think conservative members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are feeling right about now? How long can they remain all but silent?

With that in mind, let me point readers toward a think piece that ran over at Crux, under this headline: "Trump v. Clinton matchup has Catholic leaders scrambling." The key to this story is that it shows, once again, how hard it is (#DUH) to pin conventional political labels on the teachings of the Catholic Church (and my own Orthodox Church, for that matter).

Readers get to hear people from rather different political perspectives say some remarkably compatible things, in terms of doctrine. That's a compliment.

So, let's try pin-the-label on the quote, shall we? Which quote is from the Catholic left, which is from the Catholic right and which one is actually from a Protestant who is frequently involved in dialogues with Catholic leaders?

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That same old question for 2016: What is an 'evangelical,' anyway?

 That same old question for 2016: What is an 'evangelical,' anyway?

The Carson- Cruz- Rubio-Trump piety sweepstakes aimed at the vital “evangelical vote” in Iowa has produced recent news that would have been unthinkable a generation ago:

* Businessman Donald Trump brags that “Franklin Graham said incredible things about me” (the evangelist isn’t endorsing anyone), then targets Senator Ted Cruz: “In all fairness, to the best of my knowledge not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, OK?” Unclear what that means, but it followed Trump’s previous slap at surgeon Carson’s Adventist church after Carson questioned Trump’s faith.

* Preacher’s kid Cruz tells a church rally, “Keep this revival growing. Awaken the body of Christ that we might rise up to pull this country from the abyss,” and quotes the favored Bible verse of evangelical activists, 2 Chronicles 7:14 (“If my people ...”).

* Not to be outdone, Senator Marco Rubio states in an online ad, “Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our Creator and for all time, to accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ. ... The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan...“ The Catholic candidate also appoints 15 evangelical, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Orthodox Jewish notables (e.g. law Professor Michael McConnell, Pastor Rick Warren) as advisors on future religious liberty issues.

* An e-mail blast from Eric Teetsel, late of the Manhattan Declaration now running Rubio’s “faith outreach,” quotes Southern Baptist social-issues spokesman Russell Moore on evangelical constituencies: “Ted Cruz is leading the Jerry Falwell wing, Marco Rubio is leading the Billy Graham wing and Trump is leading the Jimmy Swaggart wing” (the latter a scandal-scarred  televangelist).

Political nose-counters note that in 2012, 57 percent of Iowa voters identified as evangelicals (vs. 22 percent in New Hampshire, the second lowest percentage among states behind only Senator Sanders’ Vermont). Iowa polls show Cruz moving well ahead of Carson and Trump in evangelical support, while CNN says nationwide Trump leads Cruz by 45 to 28 percent among white evangelicals. And the Wall Street Journal reports the Cruz camp thinks there are  90 million U.S. evangelicals (!) of whom 54 million didn’t vote in 2012(!!).

Obviously, both politics and religion reporters need to pursue that ever-challenging question, What is an “evangelical”?

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In story on Paris attacks, U.S. politics and Syrian refugees, is there any room for theology?

In story on Paris attacks, U.S. politics and Syrian refugees, is there any room for theology?

Since the Paris attacks, my Facebook feed has filled up with two things:

1. Temporary profile pictures in the blue, white and red colors of the French flag.

2. Friends debating the pros and cons of allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.

Michael, a minister, sparked 100-plus comments when he declared:

I know a lot of people will strongly disagree with this, but I think terrorists within our borders is the price we must be willing to pay if absolutely necessary for showing Christ-glorifying love and help to Syrian refugees who live with this evil every day. A sovereign God has called us to help and defend the cause of the immigrant, regardless of the costs. "Your kingdom come, your will be done..."

Phil, also a minister, seemed to take a different position with this status:

The attack on France included at least one Syrian refugee. What will happen to us when we take them in? Do we want to invite our enemies into our house and support them?

Enter Donald Trump into the discussion, courtesy of The Washington Post.

Read the Post's lede, and many of the issues my friends are debating on social media emerge:

BEAUMONT, Tex. — For John Courts, the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed at least 132 people provided more evidence of something he has long suspected: Syrian refugees are not to be trusted.
“I think they’re wolves in sheeps’ clothing,” said Courts, 36, a police officer in this industrial town in southeast Texas who attended a political rally for Donald Trump on Saturday. “Bringing those refugees here is very dangerous. Yeah, they need help, but it’s going to bring terrorism right into our front door.”

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About the Republican presidential race and that 'Christian army' assembled Sunday in Texas

About the Republican presidential race and that 'Christian army' assembled Sunday in Texas

A friend of mine — a progressive evangelical who doesn't always agree with GetReligion's take on media coverage — asked me what I thought of a front-page story in today's Dallas Morning News.

The story, with the main headline "Faith takes the stage" in the dead-tree edition, reports on a Southern Baptist megachurch hosting six Republican presidential candidates at a Dallas-area forum Sunday.

My friend didn't care much for the coverage:

This looks and feels to me like religious bias from The Dallas Morning News. (It was political bias by Prestonwood Baptist, but that's an entirely different story.)
Where are the interviews with progressive Christian leaders, reminding readers that these six men do not represent the views of every Christian? By not mentioning us, aren't they perpetuating the myth that all Christians vote alike?
The DMN is covering an event that was decidedly Republican (an event to which Democrat candidates declined attendance). On the other hand, isn't the DMN contributing towards the assumption that evangelical voters represent the "Christian vote" by not mentioning the rest of the Christian voting bloc?

I am, of course, familiar with Prestonwood Baptist from my time covering religion and politics in Texas for The Associated Press. When I interviewed Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham, then the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, in 2004, I couldn't help but notice a prominent photo of President George W. Bush welcoming him to the Oval Office.

This is the lede on today's Morning News story:

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Did GOP candidates really avoid moral and religious talk when courting black voters?

Did GOP candidates really avoid moral and religious talk when courting black voters?

If you follow trends among African-American voters, you know that they tend to be more conservative on moral and social issues than other key players in the modern Democratic Party coalition. There have been some small shifts among younger African-Americans on issues such as abortion and gay rights, but the basic trends can still be seen.

So, African-American voters are more culturally conservative than most other Democrats, but they have remained very loyal when venturing into the voting booths -- especially in the Barack Obama era.

But one other factor should be mentioned. If Republicans are going to find any black voters that are willing to cross over and ACT on their more conservative values, it is highly likely that those voters will be found among those who frequent church pews. That isn't surprising, is it?

Thus, I would like GetReligion readers to dig into the following Washington Post story that focuses on attempts by GOP candidates -- including Dr. Ben Carson -- to recruit some additional black voters to their cause. The headline gives zero clue as to what this very long political story is about: "Clinton takes a swipe at Jeb Bush’s ‘Right to Rise.' "

What are readers looking for?

Well, personally, I find it interesting that the story contains, as best I can tell, zero references to religious, moral and cultural issues. Even in the material from Jeb Bush. Even in the references to the remarks of Carson, who is, of course, an African-American religious conservative who rarely gives a speech without talking about social issues.

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While faithful fill pews, movers and shakers can’t get enough of Sunday a.m. TV gabfests

While faithful fill pews, movers and shakers can’t get enough of Sunday a.m. TV gabfests

Movers and shakers from the realms of media and politics can’t get enough of those five Sunday morning TV news gabfests from Washington. Meanwhile, millions of churchgoers ignore the weekly action, unless they religiously remember to set their DVRs.

It’s an important season for these influential shows due to the upcoming  presidential campaign, tight competition for ratings, and three big changes in the cast of characters.

On behalf of his fellow geezers, the Religion Guy is tickled that spry Bob Schieffer, 78, the host of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” regularly grabs more viewers than the younger hosts.  This summer he retires to be replaced by John Dickerson  (a former colleague at “Time” magazine). After last year’s tumult over David Gregory, NBC’s venerable “Meet the Press” is gaining ground with replacement Chuck Todd. In the third switch, CNN cable has tapped Jake Tapper as Candy Crowley’s “State of the Union” successor come June.

The other two personalities: Chris Wallace, Son Of Mike and a onetime “Meet the Press” anchor, has led “Fox NewsSunday” the past dozen years. It’s much the ratings also-ran on broadcast but nears audience parity due to Fox News cable reruns.  Onetime Friend Of Bill George Stephanopoulos continues on ABC’s “This Week.” (Religion beat veterans know his father Robert as the longtime dean of Greek Orthodoxy’s archdiocesan cathedral in New York, and his mother Nikki as the Greek-American church’s news director.)

Here’s what we got in the entirety of the five shows for May 10, chosen because there was no one commanding news story gobbling up air. That would have allowed for a timely little roundup on religion and the 2016 race.

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Faith of Jeb Bush: Aligned with Catholic hierarchy on most issues, but not on death penalty

Faith of Jeb Bush: Aligned with Catholic hierarchy on most issues, but not on death penalty

If this is Michael Paulson's last hurrah on the Godbeat, it's a good one.

Last week, we lamented the New York Times religion writer's move to the theater beat.

This week, we were reminded why we're going to miss Paulson's expertise and storytelling talents on religion news.

 

Paulson's 2,000-word story on the Catholic faith of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — a potential 2016 Republican presidential contender — appeared on the front page of Wednesday's Times: 

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — He arrived a few minutes early — no entourage, just his wife and daughter — and, sweating through a polo shirt in the hot morning sun, settled quietly into the 14th row at the Church of the Little Flower.
A bit of a murmur, and the occasional “Morning, Governor,” passed through the Spanish Renaissance-style church, with its manicured grounds and towering palms, as worshipers recognized their most famous neighbor, Jeb Bush. He held hands with the other worshipers during the Lord’s Prayer, sang along to “I Am the Bread of Life” and knelt after receiving communion.
“It gives me a serenity, and allows me to think clearer,” Mr. Bush said as he exited the tile-roof church here on a recent Sunday, exchanging greetings and, with the ease of a longtime politician, acquiescing to the occasional photo. “It’s made me a better person.”
Twenty years after Mr. Bush converted to Catholicism, the religion of his wife, following a difficult and unsuccessful political campaign that had put a strain on his marriage, his faith has become a central element of the way he shapes his life and frames his views on public policy. And now, as he explores a bid for the presidency, his religion has become a focal point of early appeals to evangelical activists, who are particularly important in a Republican primary that is often dominated by religious voters.

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Terri Schiavo case revisited: What role did faith play in Jeb Bush's fight to keep her alive?

Terri Schiavo case revisited: What role did faith play in Jeb Bush's fight to keep her alive?

In a fascinating story, the Tampa Bay Times explores former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's role in the case of Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged woman who died a decade ago after the feeding tube that sustained her for 15 years was removed.

The front-page report published Sunday focuses on Bush's decision to "err on the side of life" in a messy conflict over the fate of Schiavo, whom medical experts described as in a "persistent vegetative state."

The lede:

Tricia Rivas had never written to an elected official, but gripped with emotion, she composed an urgent email to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. "Please save Terri Schiavo!" she wrote from her home in Tucson, Ariz., on March 20, 2005. "Do something before it is too late … please! Every parent is watching this drama unfold … and will remember the outcome in future elections." Schiavo would be dead by the end of the month at a hospice near St. Petersburg, but not before Bush took a series of actions that, looking back a decade later, are stunning for their breadth and audacity.
A governor who was known for his my-way-or-the-highway approach — and who rarely was challenged by fellow Republicans controlling the legislative branch — stormed to the brink of a constitutional crisis in order to overrule the judicial branch for which he often showed contempt. Bush used his administration to battle in court after court, in Congress, in his brother's White House, and, even after Schiavo's death, to press a state attorney for an investigation into her husband, Michael Schiavo.
While many Republicans espouse a limited role for government in personal lives, Bush, now a leading contender for president in 2016, went all in on Schiavo.

Brief glimpses of faith and religion appear throughout the 2,200-word story. Unfortunately, those glimpses function more as flashing lights — as buzzwords — than real spotlights illuminating any kind of spiritual insight or depth.

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