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Finishing well

The State of the Union speech proves once again that President Bush sets a good example for Christians

Issue: "Snakepit," Feb. 11, 2006

Christians of a certain age will have heard a familiar phrase in the president's State of the Union address last Monday: "Will we . . . finish well?"

The context to this echo came at the end of the speech: "Will we turn back, or finish well? Before history is written down in books, it is written in courage. Like Americans before us, we will show that courage and we will finish well. We will lead freedom's advance. We will compete and excel in the global economy. We will renew the defining moral commitments of this land."

People interested in understanding President Bush should pause over that statement and his opening as well, in which he praised Coretta Scott King and her hero-husband Martin Luther King:

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"Today our nation lost a beloved, graceful, courageous woman. . . . Tonight we are comforted by the hope of a glad reunion with the husband who was taken so long ago."

Commentary by analysts quickly went to the demands the president made on Hamas, the warning he delivered to the mullahs of Iran, and the appeal he made to the people of Iran. The analysts were right to emphasize these crucial points.

But both the president's opening recognition that there is life after death and his closing admonition that everyone had to decide whether to "finish well" reflected implicitly his worldview. It is a worldview familiar to evangelicals, and his voicing of it explains his bedrock support among red state Americans who are themselves evangelicals.

President Bush has been open about his faith and has always expressed it in ways that connect to his fellow believers without giving offense to those Americans who do not believe in Christ. He has been unembarrassed but also winsome, confident but not belligerent-an example to his fellow Christians.

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