CCM Comes to a Presidential Funeral

Anyone who attended a Christian college or was part of an evangelical youth group in the 1980s knows this song.   Love it or hate it, Michael W. Smith‘s “Friends” is a Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) classic.  Yesterday I learned that George H.W. Bush also liked the song and asked Smith to perform it as his funeral:

Kate Shellnut has this story covered at Christianity Today.  A taste:

“First and foremost, I hope the song is very honoring of the president because he loved the song,” Smith said in an interview with CT. “The last time I saw him, when we said goodbye, he gave me a hug, pointed his finger in the air, and with a twinkle in his eye, said, ‘Friends are friends forever.’”

The contemporary Christian music (CCM) chart-topper first played for President Bush in the White House after a Christmas special in 1989. They struck up a friendship that led to regular visits to the late president’s home in Kennebunkport, Maine; relationships with the rest of the Bush family; and even travel together.

“He’s just been an inspiration to me,” the three-time Grammy winner said. “We didn’t talk about politics much. But we did have a lot of conversations about God and faith.”

“One thing that tied us together was his relationship with Billy Graham. There were times we would get Billy Graham on the phone and talk,” Smith said, remembering them standing on the deck conversing with the late evangelist, whose memorial service and funeral the singer performed at earlier this year.

Bush requested “Friends,” his favorite song of Smith’s, for his funeral. Smith sang an arrangement with the Armed Forces Chorus, the National Cathedral Choir, and the United States Marine Orchestra.

Read the entire piece here.  I wonder what Trump thought about the song?

And here is the original:



In Defense of Trump on the Apostles Creed

Trump creed

Patrick Nugent, a self-described “liberal evangelical” in the Quaker tradition, thinks Trump did the right thing by not reciting the Apostles Creed at the George H.W. Bush funeral.  Here is a taste of his piece at The Washington Post:

The Apostles’ Creed is not just a prayer one can or should recite out of courtesy for the sake of show, good manners or good taste.

The Creed — or any Christian creed — is a statement of belief and a public commitment to very specific, carefully enumerated theological doctrines. It is not a bland, generic greeting-card prayer addressing an impersonal creator, a “force,” “the universe” or “the spirit of goodness” that could conceivably be uttered by anybody of any religious perspective or none at all.

I admit entirely that the Trumps’ abstention could well have been motivated by cluelessness, inattention, bad taste, bad manners, unfamiliarity, distraction or any number of other things. But the bottom line is that they abstained from reciting aloud, in public, a personal commitment to the truth of very specific, classic, ancient Christian doctrines.

The president participated in a public ceremony in his capacity as head of state, not as a Presbyterian (which is how he has identified himself). As such, he has no obligation to declare those theological truths, or any others, aloud in public. In fact, I’d suggest, he has an obligation not to do so if he disagrees with any of them, or all of them, or doesn’t especially care, or isn’t sure, or doesn’t understand — or just thinks the president should be theologically neutral in public.

Read the entire piece here.  What do you think?

Frankly, I think Nugent thinks more highly about Trump’s theological and ecclesiastical astuteness than I  do.

Did George H.W. Bush Enable the Christian Right?

Bush and Falwell


Check out Neil J. Young’s piece at The Washington Post:

Following Wednesday’s state funeral for George H.W. Bush at Washington National Cathedral, the former president’s casket will be flown to Houston where a memorial service will be held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church the following day.

Unlike his son George W. Bush, the elder Bush, a lifelong Episcopalian, was less known for his religious faith. He was certainly not thought of as a champion of the religious right, the powerful political movement most associated with his predecessor, Ronald Reagan.

Yet it was Bush, the moderate establishment Republican whose family helped found Planned Parenthood, who secured the religious right’s permanent place in American politics. While historians largely credit Reagan’s presidency with helping religious conservatives move from the shadows of American public life into its spotlight, it was the Bush presidency, particularly its disappointments and defeat, that entrenched the religious right as the center of the Republican Party and guaranteed its ongoing influence.

From the moment he entered the 1980 Republican presidential primaries, Bush drew the ire of religious right leaders — so much so that people like Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell objected to Reagan’s selection of Bush as his running mate. Conservative organizations tracked Bush closely throughout the primaries, scrutinizing his conservative credentials, reviewing his record and documenting his every misstep. Bush’s questionable history included having written the foreword to a 1973 book advocating the benefits of family planning in developing countries. As a congressman from 1967 to 1971, Bush’s enthusiastic support for federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning groups was so well-known it had garnered him the nickname “Rubbers.”

Read the rest here.

Sully the Dog


Have you heard about George H.W. Bush’s service dog Sully?  Ruth Graham introduces us to Sully in her recent piece at Slate.  Here is a taste:

In January 2009, a pilot named Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger steered his struggling aircraft to a safe landing in the Hudson River and became a national hero. Almost 10 years later, a dog named for the pilot has become a beloved “hero” in his own right, and he did it for something much simpler: lying down.

On Sunday night, George H.W. Bush spokesman Jim McGrath posted a photograph to Twitter depicting a golden Labrador named Sully resting in front of the former president’s casket. The caption read “Mission complete.”

Within hours, Sully the dog had become a bona fide celebrity. McGrath’s sentiment has been retweeted 61,000 times and counting, and “Sully” was trending on Twitter at various times on Monday. C-SPAN covered the dog’s arrival at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Monday afternoon. The picture of the dog lying in front of the casket was covered by outlets from Fox News to NPR as the internet exploded with tributes to the pair’s “forever friendship.” The photograph was submitted as evidence of Bush’s character, of Sully’s character, and as support for the idea that America should not elect a president who “does not love and is not loved by pets.” offered “5 Fast Facts You Need to Know” about the dog. People magazine gushed that Sully was “keeping the 41st commander in chief safe in death as he did in life,” and even produced a slideshow of their “special friendship.” Many suggested Sully was heartbroken, and/or that they themselves were crying over the photo; conservative writer Dan McGlaughlin compared the dog to a Marine.

Read the rest here.


Religion and Presidential Remembrances


Over at The Washington Post, Kimberly Winston teaches us that much of the pageantry we are seeing surrounding the death of George H.W. Bush has deep spiritual roots.

Here is a taste of her piece:

“The need to create meaningful rituals around death is very deep in our DNA,” said S. Brent Plate, an associate professor of religious studies at Hamilton College. “Death erases some of the dividing elements between religions. It shows us we are all human, all mortal. So this week is about the death of George Bush, but it is really about the collective faith of us all.”

Here is some context for the rituals you will see as the nation pays its last respects to its 41st president:

As Bush’s body traveled to Washington, D.C., from Houston, where he and the late first lady Barbara Bush lived after 1993, it was accompanied all the way. In addition to family and friends, a group of former staffers flew with the body, and an entourage of military service members was always nearby.

Like all presidents, Bush is being given a state funeral, a complicated and highly orchestrated set of military and state traditions that are secular in appearance, but have foundations in religion.

The practice of watching over a body springs from the oldest religious traditions. Scholars say the ancient Romans took the custom with them as they conquered the Mediterranean and Europe. By the Middle Ages, the practice was wrapped into Christianity and came with the first European settlers to the New World.

Read the rest here.

Would the Coverage of George H.W. Bush’s Death Look Different if He Did Not Die in the Age of Trump?

Bush Obama

Noble. Civil. Classy. Kind. Gentle. Hopeful. Dignified. Selfless. Honest. Wise. Beloved. Modest. Hero. Leader. Moral. Courageous.

These are all words that have been used to describe George H.W. Bush since he passed away this weekend.  Of course there are many writers on the Left who have complicated this glowing perspective, but as I watch his state funeral right now I am essentially listening to commentators describe the anti-Donald Trump.

“America is only three presidents old”


James Monroe

Very interesting analysis here from Philip Bump of The Washington Post.  A taste:

[George H.W.] Bush was born when Calvin Coolidge was president, who was born when Ulysses Grant was president, who was born when James Monroe was president, who was born when the United States was a British colony. (At that point, Britain was led by George III, who was born when George II was king, who was born when George I was king.)

Read the rest here.

Quote of the Day

“…Another sign of [George H.W.] Bush’s success [in the 1988 presidential campaign]: A [Jack] Kemp supporter called Jonathan Bush to say ‘Jack will get out an endorse me if we make a deal on the Vice-Presidency.’ It was the last in a series of feelers from Kemp about the second spot on a Bush ticket. ‘I don’t even know how we are going to handle this, but I just told them all–everybody–that there must be no indication of any deal of any kind,” Bush dictated on March 3.  He wanted to keep his options open. (Though not entirely open. The New York developer Donald Trump mentioned his availability as a vice presidential candidate to Lee Atwater. Bush thought the overture ‘strange and unbelievable.'”

–Jon Meacham, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush

Thanks to Douglas Brinkley on CNN last night for bringing this passage to my attention.