Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

2008 elections: who’s got a prayer

2008 elections: whoIn November’s CNN/YouTube debate, host Anderson Cooper asked the Republican candidates a question straight from a car bumper sticker: “What would Jesus do?”

“Would Jesus support the death penalty?” he added.

“Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson,” replied candidate and former pastor Mike Huckabee, whose victory in the Iowa caucuses last month has been widely attributed to support from evangelical Christians. “That’s what Jesus would do.”

Religion is playing a significant role in the 2008 presidential election, not only in Huckabee’s campaign but in those of his Republican and Democrat counterparts.

“Religion has played such a prominent role in George Bush’s presidency that it’s definitely on the table in this election,” said Stuart Religious Counselor Adam Kirtley.

“You can’t get elected if you say you don’t believe in God,” said Professor of Politics Paul Apostolidis.

“And sure, that’s a clamp on freedom.”

Among others, Mitt Romney has faced questions regarding his faith, with many news outlets asking,

“Is America ready for a Mormon president?”

In Texas on Dec. 6, Romney addressed questions of religion at length in a speech on “Faith in America.”

“Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom,” Romney said. “I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.”

He went on to say, “It is important to recognize that, while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions.”

Professor of Religion Rogers Miles commented on Romney’s statements. “It’s hard for some Whitman students who don’t see a connection between religion and morality,” Miles said. “But for many Americans a great indicator of morality is religion.”

And the Christian Right in particular, Apostolidis said, has been effective in its attempt to fuse these ideas together.

Democrats, too, have faced questions about their religious background and fervor.

“There’s a divide between Democrats who support separationism and seem uneasy with religion in a public sphere,” said Miles, “compared with Republicans who seem to be resurrecting an ideal from the 19th century that the U.S. is strong if it rests on a moral base, connecting morality with religion.”

On Saturday in Idaho, Barack Obama continued to defend himself against e-mails questioning his Christian faith.

“They send out these e-mails saying, ‘You know Obama, he’s a Muslim and he doesn’t pledge allegiance to the flag,'” the senator said to a crowd at Boise State University. “Don’t try to just insult not just me but people of the Islamic faith by playing on people’s fears. I know who I am.”

“Anytime religion is used to divide is a misuse of religion,” Kirtley said.

“As voters, I think it’s only appropriate to not consider the candidates’ religion when we can count on elected officials to behave when it comes to infusing their religious views into policy,” Kirtley added.

“I don’t feel that my candidate of choice and I have to share specific religions or religious views. What we’ll share, hopefully, are political philosophies.”

Historically, however, Apostolidis said, “In the most important epic changes that became major phases of government, the presence of religion was very strong: you look at the civil rights movement and role that black Baptist churches played.”

“Religion is becoming more: not less: requisite if you want to become an elected official,” he added.
Kirtley believes it is reasonable to think that we will someday have a Jewish president and perhaps an atheist or Muslim. “We’re breaking all sorts of barriers in terms of race and sex,” he said. “There’s obviously more to come.”

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