Monday, November 26, 2007

How did religious affiliation become so important in politics, columnist asks

Peggy Noonan asks, in the Wall Street Journal, what’s with all this business of wanting to know all about an American political candidate’s religious affiliation (in what church he is formally listed as a member)?

She’s a pretty experienced hand, and according to her, that’s new.
In 1968 we were, as now, a religious country. But when we walked to the polls, we thought we were about to hire a president, not a Bible study teacher.

You can be touched by a candidate's faith, or interested in his apparent lack of it. It's never wholly unimportant, but you should never see a politician as a leader of faith, and we should not ask a man who made his rise in the grubby world of politics to act as if he is an exemplar of his faith, or an explainer or defender of it.

We have the emphasis wrong. It's out of kilter. And the result is a Mitt Romney being harassed on radio shows about the particulars of his faith, and Hillary Clinton -- a new-class yuppie attorney and board member -- announcing how important her Methodist faith is and how much she loves wearing her diamond cross. For all I know, for all you know, it is true. But there is about it an air of patronizing the rubes and boobs.

Yes, some people are worried about the fact that Mitt Romney, a US Republican candidate, is a Mormon. Whatever happened to asking where candidates stand on political issues and - this is really important - looking at their track record for following through on what they say they believe? (If he isn’t going to do much anyway, it doesn’t matter what he says or thinks or believes.)

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