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Citizen Voices

Code Word "Christian"

In polite company, so the saying goes, refrain from speaking about religion and politics.  The two subjects tend to roil deep ideological divides between friends and peers where none were apparent.  In the interest of political conversation, however, perhaps discussing the two topics is a worthier pursuit than silence, especially when contemplating a candidate's character. 

Does the role of religion in a politician's private life transmute into a dangerous public weapon used against his or her opponents? Or does the candidate's religion materialize into a useful tool with which to frame issues of morality, ethics, values, and judgment? 

Alternately, may a modern politician publicly avoid discussing his or her religion without engendering the mistrust of voters? 

Enter Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California's dual conversations on CNN last Saturday with both presumptive presidential nominees.

His premise at the outset of the forum is that "faith is a worldview."  I think by "faith" Pastor Warren means "Christian faith" and by "worldview" he may mean something closer to an all encompassing mission.  The self-proclaimed "values-voters" (a moniker I only use as shorthand reference, wishing it were something else) often is a one-issue voter.  Want to guess what that one issue tends to be?  The big issue probably does not need to be spelled out, but it has to do with sexuality, as do so many other socially conservative issues. 

So, does a modern presidential candidate hurt his chances of election by emphasizing a worldview that does not include his or her "faith," and more specifically, his or her Christian faith? 

Can there be an agnostic or atheist, or Jewish, president of the future United States?  Or have voters created the need for this type of forum because Christianity is the perennial elephant in the room, so to speak? 

Ben Grage from San Diego
August 19, 2008 at 09:40 PM
To answer your last question first, a candidate's faith-based disclosures have no influence on my vote whatsoever. In our modern political environment, all presidential candidates must express that they regularly attend religious services, and they must be Christian in nature. Of all our presidents, no one spoke about his personal faith with God more than George W. Bush. Yet, he arguably is the least God-like of all our past presidents. He is responsible for over 4000 deaths of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan (and counting), he is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths to Iraqi citizens, he is responsible for the destruction of New Orleans, he is responsible for the trashing of our Constitution, etc., etc. As a country, we are probably decades, if not centuries, away from voting for an agnostic, atheist, or Jew for president. The political environment keeps getting worse every year, so that we are farther and farther away from voting for the above as president.

Chuck from Escondido, CA
August 20, 2008 at 01:45 AM
While nothing McCain said redeemed himself in my eyes, I was a bit disappointed by Obama's performance. It certainly didn't make me more supportive of his candidacy.

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