The forum was interesting as political theater, but the leading Democratic presidential contenders gave no indication that if their faith ever conflicted with their political point of view they would choose what their faith taught them over what focus groups tell them. And that's what makes this exercise - as noble as Jim Wallis and others might see it - rather futile.
Americans have traditionally wanted their presidents to believe in a "higher power," even if they don't care what faith it is, as Dwight Eisenhower famously remarked. American history is loaded with religious language and references to "Divine Providence." Democrats and Republicans have utilized religiosity and calls to prayer to justify war, unify the country and promote peace. But as Jim Wallis correctly noted: "The people of God should never be in the pocket of any political party or candidate." If so, it makes one wonder the point of these forums (a similar gathering of the top three Republicans is scheduled for the fall).
In the Democratic forum, neither questioners nor candidates suggested that individuals bear primary responsibility for their lives and that government policy should be directed toward fostering personal responsibility and accountability for wrong decisions as an incentive for making right ones.
The Apostle Paul said, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The threat of an empty stomach is the best incentive for providing for one's self. Government should serve as a last resort, helping the truly needy, not as a first resource subsidizing laziness and wrong decisions.
Most of this God-talk by politicians is irrelevant. We're not electing a theologian, but a president. There are many moral and godly people in my church who I would trust with my wife, but with possibly one exception, not the country. Competence, not ideology or religiosity, should be primary in this election.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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