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God-O-Meter

obamaclinton2.jpgReligion Writer, a blogger and frequent God-o-Meter commenter, thought last night’s Compassion Forum with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was “a little dull”:

[A]fter all, how much new ground can be covered after the endless months of campaigning? Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek and co-host of the On Faith blog, tried to liven things up with off-the-wall theological questions reminiscent of SNL’s Deep Thoughts. So Meacham asks, “Senator Clinton, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” “Does God want you to be president?” The natural next question was, of course, “If you were elected president, how many angels would you allow to dance on the head of a pin?”
Okay, yes, we’re all comfortable talking about religion now, and you can ask anything you want — but how about sticking to the questions that are somewhat relevant to being president? Why spend time asking unanswerable theological questions when there are so many pressing real-world religion questions to answer — Clinton didn’t have to answer anything about creationism or Ten-Commandments-on-display or even the federal response to polygamy.

God-o-Meter found itself thinking similar thoughts while watching last night’s event. Discussing personal faith, whether or not it relates to public policy or how a candidate would govern, seems to have become an end in itself for many Democrats, who still feel the burden of having to convince voters that they’re not secular or hostile to religion. On the other hand, after nearly eight years of the Bush presidency and seeing the unexpected ways in which religion influenced some of his big decisions, can’t a case be made for the usefulness of having candidates speak about their faith generally, even if there’s no readily apparent implications for public policy? After all, in an interview last year, George W. Bush explained his confidence in his Iraq policy partly by saying:

“It’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist.”

Bush also told Bob Woodward that rather than consulting with his dad before going to Iraq, “there is a higher father that I appeal to.”
Perhaps these are not the kind of comments that Bush would have offered in debates or mainstream media interviews before he was elected president. But in a Compassion Forum-like setting, where questions might not have had an obvious public policy tie-in, voters could have listened for hints of how Bush’s religion shaped him and his decisions.
Still, God-o-Meter does agree with ReligionWriter that last night’s forum was pretty yawn-inducing.


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