The Scottish preacher whose wartime writings inspire Bush’s faith

Times Online (England), Mar. 4, 2003
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,5470-599162,00.html
From Tim Reid in Washington

When President Bush awakes each day in the pre-dawn darkness, even before bringing his wife a cup of coffee he reads a daily devotional written by a First World War Scottish preacher.

As war in Iraq looms, the attention of observers is turning to the evangelical writings of Oswald Chambers, who brought the Gospel to Australian and New Zealand troops in 1917 and who now fills Mr Bush with the conviction that an Iraqi war would simply be a battle between good and evil.

Mr Bush, who rediscovered God 17 years ago when he gave up heavy drinking to help his marriage, is a President whose faith in the power of God permeates the White House and underscores all his policies. This includes his approach to the War on Terror and to Iraq. In Saddam, the President has said, America is simply “encountering evil”.

The devotional lectures of Chambers, who died of a ruptured appendix in 1917, make up My Utmost For His Highest, the bestselling daily devotional in the world.

The work has sold two million copies in the United States since 1991, and after Newsweek magazine reported the importance it holds for President Bush it looks likely to sell even more. Chambers’s message, much of which was written in wartime, is a simply written direction to devote oneself to the Almighty. In turn, God will lead us through life with a sense of victory.

“There is a fatalistic element in Mr Bush’s faith,” David Frum, a former White House speechwriter, recently said. “You do your best and accept that everything is in God’s hands” — a disclosure that unnerves the President’s detractors, particularly when they ponder how it might affect him as Commander-in-Chief of the biggest military power in history.

Mary Hutchison, the British publishing manager of Chambers’s 40-odd works, said: “I was told the day after he became President that he read Oswald Chambers. I can’t speak for George Bush, but a lot of what Oswald Chambers wrote was in the middle of war, which is an appealing connection to many at the moment.”

Chambers expressed his central message thus: “Sometimes God brings us to a point of climax. That is the Great Divide in the life; from that point we either go towards a more and more dilatory and useless type of Christian life, or we become more and more ablaze for the glory of God.”

Saddam Hussein: look out and take heed.

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