FOUNTAIN HILLS — Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday that she believes "God has placed me in this powerful position as Arizona's governor" to help the state weather its troubles.
In a wide-ranging speech on the role of religion in politics and in her life, Brewer detailed to a group of pastors of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church how she relies on her faith and in prayer to deal with many of the issues she faces as the state's chief executive. Brewer also said there are times when, during a meeting with staffers, one will suggest praying about an issue.
"And we stop, and we take that time, and we pray about it," Brewer, a Missouri Synod-Lutheran herself, told the group meeting here. "And it does make a difference."
But Brewer also said she recognizes the difference between bringing her faith to the office and having an "agenda."
"The problem with having a political agenda is that we give the impression that we have God's truth," the governor said.
"We think we can convert God's truth into a political platform, a set of political issues, and that there is 'God's way' in our politics," Brewer continued. "I don't believe that for a moment, any more than you believe that God's way is exclusively the Lutheran way."
The governor said, though, she believes it is right — if not inevitable — that elected officials bring their faith to their offices.
Brewer quoted from "Faith and Politics," a book by John Danforth, a former U.S. senator and ambassador to the United Nations, who also is an Episcopal priest.
"Danforth said, and I agree by the way, that it is important that we don't check our religion at the church door," Brewer said. "We want to apply it to the rest of our lives."
Brewer reminded the ministers how she did not seek to become governor but "inherited many, many, many significant challenges that still confront Arizona citizens today" when she got the job after Janet Napolitano quit to take a job as homeland security chief in the Obama administration.
"As with past challenges, tragedies or problems that I've had to confront, I first and foremost relied on my faith to guide me through, for I believe in the power of prayer," she said. "And I firmly believe that God has placed me in this powerful position of Arizona's governor to help guide our state through the difficulty that we are currently facing."
Brewer, in response to audience questions, said she has been "blessed because so many people of great faith" have helped her with their prayers.
"And that has caused me, of course, to be grateful that we are a country of Christianity," she said.
"I don't think under the circumstances that anybody's in the position of living at this turbulent time, these terrible, critical times of our nation, can possibly get through without asking for help and guidance from Jesus Christ and from God," the governor told the ministers.
"For those of us who have lived it and practiced it, we just know that," Brewer continued. "So it must be very difficult for someone out there that doesn't have him to rely on."
In connection with the state's budget woes, the governor detailed some of the programs that have had to be trimmed such as subsidized child care.
"And that's where, I believe, socially, churches need to step up and seek out people, not only of their own congregation but of the community," she said. "Because if the church doesn't do it, who is going to do it?"
Brewer, who is 64, said she remembers the time when many of the services government now provides were made available through churches.
"It's become almost a total solution has been government," she said.
"I don't know if that's right," Brewer said.
"Some of us feel that government's responsibility is just doing those things that people can't do for themselves," the governor said. "But because of the need and the style of which our government has gone, we've taken on a lot of responsibilities that at one particular time was in the churches."
Brewer said volunteering is, in some ways, more important than ever. And she said it's not just about helping children.
She said some elderly find themselves in the position of qualifying for government health care.
"But they don't have a way to get to the doctor," she said. "We just need the churches to step up and make that part of their mission, I believe."
Brewer, facing a question about illegal immigration, said she does not know the stance of her church. But she said her views are governed by her elected position.
"As the governor of Arizona, I stand on the law that they're illegal, they ought not to be here," she said.
The governor said a long-term solution is needed to the fact there are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. And she said it would be impractical to try to round them up.
But Brewer said dealing with that issue should wait until the United States first secures its borders.
"I firmly believe that God has placed me in this powerful position of Arizona's governor to help guide our state through the difficulty that we are currently facing."
Gov. Jan Brewer