This political season, the three remaining candidates for the presidency all have pretty solid Christian credentials — and are probably more outspokenly Christian than most candidates have ever been — but watchdogs of the religious right don’t like any of them. Why? Apparently, they’re not Christian enough. Or conservative enough. (Or maybe, in their minds, those are equated?) In fact, it took them a long time to come around on Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher, because they questioned whether or not his decisions as governor of Arkansas came too close to being moderate. Or even liberal. I’m convinced conservative evangelical Republicans have narrowed their standards so much that they’d end up campaigning against Jesus if he ran for office.
Anyway, call it pandering if you want — and lots of cynical people do — but Obama, Clinton, and McCain all seem to have pretty solid spiritual testimonies. Here’s a round-up of some places where each candidate discusses, in detail, his or her faith:
Here’s Hillary Clinton in a revealing New York Times interview (2007) about her faith:
I believe in the father, son, and Holy Spirit, and I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit on many occasions in my years on this earth. I pray, I read the Bible, I read commentary on scriptures, I read other peopleâ€™s faith journeys. That is, for me, at the real core of how I keep feeding my faith. And, I was lucky because, as I said at the faith and politics event, I was taught to pray and I inculcate it as a habit in my daily life.
Here’s Barack Obama’s attention-getting keynote address at the 2006 Call to Renewal conference:
It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.
And here, John McCain gives an interview with Beliefnet on aspects of his faith. The question of his baptism is a fascinating one to me, so this excerpt includes the Q’s and A’s:
For years, you’ve been identified as an Episcopalian. You recently began referring to yourself as a Baptist. Why?
[It was] one comment on the bus after hours. I meant to say that I practice in aâ€”I am a Christian and I attend a Baptist church. I am very aware that immersion is partâ€”as my wife Cindy has doneâ€”is necessary to be considered a Baptist. So I was raised Episcopalian, I have attended the North Phoenix Baptist Church for many years and I am a Christian.
What prevents you from taking that final step of undergoing the baptism?
I’ve had discussions with the pastor about it and we’re still in conversation about it. In the meantime, I am a practicing Christian.
So the baptism is something you still might do?
Oh, sure, yeah. But, some of the factors haven’t got so much to do with religion as they have to do with justâ€”I’m in conversations with [my] pastor about it, as short a time ago as last week. But I would not anticipate going through that during this presidential campaign. I am afraid it might appear as if I was doing something that I otherwise wouldn’t do.Oh, sure, yeah. But, some of the factors haven’t got so much to do with religion as they have to do with justâ€”I’m in conversations with [my] pastor about it, as short a time ago as last week. But I would not anticipate going through that during this presidential campaign. I am afraid it might appear as if I was doing something that I otherwise wouldn’t do.
Both Clinton and Obama seem very comfortable speaking authentically of faith — even traditional evangelical faith. (In fact, remove the identifying details in Hillary’s interview but keep her general testimony of faith, and she sounds no different from most of the women who would attend a Beth Moore Bible study in a suburban megachurch — and I know of plenty of similar churchgoers who absolutely despise Hillary.)
McCain is (arguably) less convincing when speaking about faith, but I deeply respect the fact that he wants to be baptized but doesn’t want to do it while campaigning, because it would seem like he was putting on a show. That’s impressive.