This report from the Lancaster New Era's Jack Brubaker, has gotten a lot of attention.
Brubaker reports on President Bush's campaign visit with a group of Old Order Amish. This in itself is a bit odd — a bit like Caesar making a campaign stop among the Essenes. It's kind of strange for someone so devoted to his image as a "war president" to stump for votes among a group of nonvoting pacifists.
Brubaker's account of the meeting comes via Sam Stoltzfus, "an Old Order historian" who "spoke with a number of people present at the session with the president." So it's not a firsthand account, but the Amish usually speak as plainly as they dress, and they are not known for embellishing their accounts. And most of Stoltzfus' details have the ring of truth:
Bush said he had never met any Amish before and was curious about why the men were wearing straw hats rather than black wool hats. The Amish explained that they wear cooler straw in summer. Bush tried on a hat.
But here's the part of Brubaker's/Stoltzfus' account that created a stir:
At the end of the session, Bush reportedly told the group, "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job."
Now, many of the president's (and speechwriter Michael Gerson's) religious statements probably sound a little batty to people outside of the evangelical subculture. But this one sounds batty even to people inside the evangelical subculture he's trying to woo with such statements.
Here's Ted Olson, of the Christianity Today Web log:
If that's a real quote, then it's a rather shocking statement. If Bush had said that he trusts God works through him, then the comment would be rather innocuous: Evangelicals believe that God works through all types of people, good and bad, Christian and non-Christian. And it's common to hear many Christians speak of God working through them — sometimes in spite of their best efforts.
Christians believe that God speaks through all manner of people, too. And we believe that there are times when God has spoken through us. … But talking about God speaking through someone is rarely done in the first person. It's usually, "I just heard God speaking through him/you." Very rarely "me."
It's even rarer to hear someone say that God speaks through them regularly, or that God's speaking through me is essential to one's vocation. You'll hear pastors praying that God would speak through them every Sunday, but the pastor who tells his congregation that God really does speak through him week after week is taking a pretty serious risk. How much more so for the president of the United States?
Olson, however, doesn't believe the quote is genuine. "Bush reportedly told the group …" Brubaker wrote, since he wasn't himself there to hear it. He's relying on Stoltzfus' account of what the Amish present at the meeting told him. And, of course, none of the Amish present thought to bring along a camcorder.
"Lying Amish, apparently," Tim writes. Precisely. After all, who are you going to trust more, George W. Bush, or a bunch of objectively pro-Saddam Old Order Amish?