George W. Bush was always brilliant at dropping in religious references in ways that seemed genuine, appropriate and not forced. Joe Biden had a different, but equally effective style. This was not language of poetic evangelicalism, but colloquial faith talk of working class Catholics:
“How in God’s name”
“God sends no cross that you cannot bear”
“Live your faith, treasure your family.”
“May God protect our Troops”
In more subtle ways, he also used resonant Catholic language, especially when he talked about the “dignity” of work. “Work is more than a paycheck. It’s dignity. It’s respect. It’s about whether you cna look your children in the eye and say: we’re going to be ok.” Whether consciously or unconsciously, this evokes the papal encyclicals, Rerum novarum — about the dignity of work — and the seven basic teachings of social teaching from the U.S. Catholic Bishops: “Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.”
More important, he used the imagery of the working class Irish Catholic neighborhood. Who needs a Catholic electoral strategy when you have the image of that sweet little old lady with the most Irish name I’ve ever heard —– Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden — telling her stuttering son Joey to bloody the nose of the bullies who picked on him.