The neat lines from doctrine to pro-business ideology, however, beg a few pesky questions. If God can provide via market forces, why can’t He provide via government programs, too? And if the GOP is so keen to trust God, not government, why must a host of industries (agriculture, energy and so on) depend on government support?

What’s more, all the lines don’t point in the same direction. African-American Protestants, for instance, lean Democratic to the tune of 88 percent. Yet according to Baylor, they’re almost three times more likely than either Catholics or other Protestants to hear in church that they should start businesses. Entrepreneurial people of faith can apparently rally behind Democrats as long as the group politics make sense.

Still, links between faith and political praise for risk-taking offer clues into what voters might feel is at stake. These are, after all, people of faith. While they care about issues from debts to war and education, they might care even more about whether faith ultimately flourishes or fizzles in America. If faith tends to thrive amidst risk-taking, will faith fade when risk is mitigated by a provider government? For those who believe, there could be no greater loss. In that sense, safety net issues in 2012 are about much more than bread and butter.

Beliefnet Contributing Editor G. Jeffrey MacDonald is a journalist, ordained minister and author of Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul . For more information visit and

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