Appealing to a broader base of believing Americans, Clinton, Obama and Edwards all say that God and religion are important in their individual lives. They also say that their faith will serve to guide their performance as President should they be elected.
Reported on ABC’s morning news program today and published on-line in more detail by the Washington Post, the three leading Democratic presidential candidates talked about how faith influences both their politics and their personal lives. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton responded to a question about her husband’s infidelity by saying, “I’m not sure I would have gotten through it without my faith.” She also said to a crowd of more than a 1,000 attending the forum at George Washington University, “I’ve had a grounding in faith that gave me the courage and the strength to do what I thought was right, regardless of what the world thought.”
The forum was organized by Sojourners, a liberal evangelical group based in Washington, D.C. Each candidate stood on stage separately for 15 minutes to answer questions posed by a group of ministers and religious leaders and from the forum’s moderator, Soledad O’Brien of CNN.
None of the candidates, according to the Washington Post, offered answers that strayed far from Democratic Party orthodoxy, but their frankness in talking about their faith was unusual. Recall how during the 2004 presidential election, Democratic candidates steered clear of the subject altogether with John Kerry saying only that he was not one to wear his religion on his sleeve.
Former Senator John Edwards and Clinton both said that they pray daily with Edwards adding that prayer helped him handle the death of his 16-year-old son, Wade in 1996, and most recently the diagnosis of a recurrence of breast cancer in his wife, Elizabeth.
The candidates all responded to different questions, and Sen. Barack Obama, who of the three has been most outspoken about his faith in recent campaign appearances, said the least about his religion in this forum. He instead discussed his belief that evil exists in the world and that there is a moral element to his view that pay for corporate chief executives has become excessive and that more should be done to rehabilitate lawbreakers who are caught, tried and sent to prison. He repeatedly invoked the Biblical phrase, “I am my brother’s keeper.”
Since religion and politics seem now and forevermore to be inseparable, I am personally glad that the topic has finally been expanded on the national stage beyond the two hinge issues of abortion and gay marriage. After all, whether we are Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Buddhist, we can agree or disagree on these issues. But can we not all agree that democratic governments have an obligation to be morally consistent with all of their citizens, as well as the rest of the world?
Yesterday’s forum, according to the Washington Post, underscored an unusual turn of events in this presidential campaign. This time around, the Democratic candidates are more eager to discuss religion and their personal beliefs than the Republican front-runners are. On the Republican side, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) rarely discuss their faith publicly, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney‘s Mormonism makes many religious conservatives uneasy.
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