After going on hiatus the last few weeks, “The West Wing” returned last night with an episode that focused once again on presidential candidate Santos’s struggle to incorporate his religious beliefs with the demands of politics–or more specifically, the demands of his political advisors. After courting controversy with the Democratic Party in the past months over his stance on abortion (he believes life starts at conception) and his comments on Intelligent Design (he believes in that, too), Santos put himself in the hot seat once again when he made the difficult decision to visit the tense Los Angeles community where an African-American boy was shot by a Latino police officer.

After much thought, Santos decided to speak at the boy’s funeral–a decision not supported by everyone in his political camp. In fact, in one of the more realistic moments of the season, Santos commented that he’d found a Psalm from the Bible that would be appropriate to share at the service, only to be scolded by one advisor. Her stellar advice to Santos: “People don’t want you to close your eyes and pray. People want you to open your eyes and lead.”

In two sentences, an episode on television once again captured the disconnect between millions of people of faith and politicians in real life. (And no, I will not lower myself to using trite, pointless phrases like “blue state” and “red state” when discussing God and politics.) Why is it perceived by so-called political experts (both fictional and real) that someone who closes his eyes and prays is not showing leadership? Thankfully in this episode, if not always in real life, Santos went against the advice given to him and gave an impassioned speech from the pulpit calling both blacks and Hispanics to move beyond anger to compassion and understanding. As Santos left the church with his head held high, those in the congregation look upon him exactly for what he was–a leader not afraid to close his eyes and pray, and then follow that up prayer by acting out the courage of his convictions.

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