From Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director, Faith in Public Life
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Rev. Jerry Falwell on the day of his death. With his passing, one of the landmarks of the American religious landscape has passed as well; our discourse on religion and public life is sure to be impacted in ways we cannot yet fully imagine. There will be time in the days ahead to evaluate the impact of Rev. Falwell on our civic life, and particularly the tone and content of debates on religion and public life in America. For now, we pause to give sympathies to those closest to Rev. Falwell, and reflect on the experience of death that unites us all.
Bishop T.D. Jakes is one of America’s most prominent and dynamic pastors. He gave an extended interview to NPR that appeared yesterday on All Things Considered. The entire segment is well worth a listen; click the icon at the right to check it out. Among the highlights:
“I think really religion in general is struggling with politics, not just African Americans. Many, many times we’ve allowed ourselves to be taken up under the control of this party or that party, and I think that’s dangerous when you do that.”
“You can’t just be the president of the Christians. You have to be the president of the United States, which incorporates atheists, agnostics and all brands of faith. And many, many Christians don’t understand that. They see this as a Christian nation. But I don’t see this as a theocracy. I see it as a democracy.”
“I think that religious people, minorities and many others have been played on, that people say things to incite us to riot, to get us to vote and then don’t fulfill promises. I’m tired of being a pawn. I want us to be united again.”
YouTube has become a major feature of our public policy landscape, so we wanted to take a look at how leading presidential candidates have used this web video world to spread their message on faith and public life. The videos below feature leading presidential candidates from both parties addressing the relationship between faith and politics. To limit the scope of this video roundup, I chose to limit it to the top three candidates of the two major parties.
I found it difficult to find video of Giuliani speaking directly about his faith. Interestingly I found plenty of videos by conservative Christians attacking his pro-choice position. The official videos by Romney and McCain show that they speak of faith in “me” terms (more personal narratives) whereas Edwards and Hillary get right into saying faith calls “us” to do for others. So for McCain and Romney primary synonyms for religion include character and principle and it’s pretty clear that they are answering in relation to issues like terrorism or abortion. On the other hand both Clinton and Edwards translate faith directly to an application on poverty and health care. It seems that Obama tends to speak very directly about his own faith-based values – speaking of his secular upbringing and conversion and very broadly about the role of faith in solving social ills.