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July 23, 2008

Why Ask What?

Over at Get Religion, my friend Terry Mattingly has some comments about a recent Newsweek story about Senator Obama's faith. Like just about everything TMatt writes, it's worth reading.

In comment #22, "Michael" writes,

Should we also expect the press to examine McCain’s embrace of the Southern Baptist Convention and its doctrinal and ideological stances? Or is it only Obama’s faith that is put under a microscope? Is the fact that McCain seems totally ill-at-ease talking about his Baptist faith a story worth equal examination?

. . . to which TMatt replies,

Additional coverage of McCain’s flock or sort-of flock is MORE THAN justified. We have kind of been crying out for that here from time to time.

To which I say "don't hold your breath." I'm not complaining about press coverage of the campaign or even religion -- I'm noting something about what Terry calls "the world we live in today."

In this world, the GOP candidate, because of the party's -- with a few notable exceptions mostly symbolic and notional -- support on social issues, is presumptively entitled to the lion's share of the white evangelical vote. The candidate, as long as he pays obeisance to this arrangement, doesn't have to talk about religion if he doesn't want to -- his party affiliation is enough.

Since Democrats can't (for fear of alienating part of the base) or won't bring themselves to go that far, the only way their candidates can cut into the GOP's evangelical base is to talk about their own religion. (The best description and analysis of this tactic is Amy Sullivan's.) In effect, it's a way of saying "ignore my party affiliation and get to know me as a person who is a lot like you."

Whether or not this tactic works (as least as well as Sullivan thinks it does), it does explain why so many Democrats talk about religion these days: they're the ones who have to, at least if they want to make inroads among evangelicals. And it's why TMatt will probably be "crying out" for a while.

Sorry, Terry.

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Comments

CLH

It is a double-standard. They both should 'have to' talk about their own religion. Honestly, I haven't looked at lots of the longer, in-depth (relatively speaking) articles on McCain--as one Australian writer noted, our election is exhausting: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/07/AR2007120701610.html

But the general impression I get of articles about him regard his experience, voting record, policy stance -- but not his religion or how, if at all, his faith (whatever it may be) affects his view of humanity and how to shape policy accordingly.

Readers/bloggers, have I missed anything? Share links you've found. Where has McCain talked about the impact of a risen Savior in his life and how he (McCain) views His creation?

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