Friday, February 16, 2007

narrowing the religion gap

The February 18 New York Times Magazine includes this from Gary Rosen:

Try a quick political thought experiment. First, form a mental picture of the Democratic front-runners for president — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Now do the same for the leading Republican contenders — John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Next (and this is the key step), imagine each of them in church, sitting in a pew, head bowed, or better still, at the pulpit, delivering a homily or leading the congregation in worship.

Strange, no? It’s not hard to envision Clinton and Obama among the faithful. She is a lifelong Methodist and self-described “praying person,” and he belongs to a church where some years ago he found himself (in his own words) “kneeling beneath that cross” in submission “to His will.” Both slip easily into the earnest, humble-of-the-earth mode of liberal God talk.

But McCain and Giuliani? You somehow imagine them fidgeting during the hymns and checking their watches. The senator is an Episcopalian, the former mayor a Catholic, but neither man, you have to think, would be caught dead in a Bible-study group or could possibly declare, à la George W. Bush, that his favorite philosopher is “Christ, because he changed my heart.” In the piety primary, the Democrats win hands down.

It's a twist on America's political road that would have been difficult to imagine at the turn of the century. Political conservatives may now find themselves splitting hairs about the private faith of their candidates as supporters of John Kerry and Al Gore did so recently.

Is it too much to hope for a broader, more substantive, less doctrinaire and demonizing conversation about governance than we've had in recent election cycles?

No comments: