Last week CNN took a landmark step. It sponsored a faith forum which featured the three leading Democratic Party presidential contenders. The program was entitled Faith, Values, and Politics. The revolutionary dimension of the program was not in the questions, the speeches, or the choice of clergy persons who participated in the program. The fact that faith was so openly discussed by a group of people that typically say that they want to keep faith out of politics was amazing. In the past, the left has been characterized as “secular” and the right was distinguished as “religious,” and these labels had an element of truth. Further, It was surprising that CNN would host such a show; CNN has historically aligned itself with a very liberal approach to both politics and religion compared to FOX News which has been identified with conservative thought and views deemed popular among the religious right.
Evangelicals and other religious groups have often felt that the liberal media has joined hands with the liberal political community and scoffed at people of faith. In fact, Ann Coulter’s book, Godless, makes the case that the liberals adhere to a set of principles that are as unbendable as the basic doctrines of any religious faith. In Coulter’s opinion, the tenants of the liberal belief system are also antithetical to the Judeo-Christian faith. She argues that liberals have been “evangelistic” in their attempts to convert the world to their point of view. Until now, her condemnation of the secular left has been correct.
Let me give you an example. The most recent bestseller in a long list of anti-faith books published in the last two years is God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens. This work has soared to the top of the sales charts in part because of the attention and interviews given the author by the liberal media. Hitchens blames traditional faith for many of the world’s greatest ills.
Despite the background I have just given, the CNN special attempted to make a new statement, “We liberals have faith too!” Perhaps a shrewd element of the liberal community has finally realized that the 60 million evangelical voters represent a political force that cannot be ignored. I will not attempt to analyze the motivations of the producers or the sincerity of the candidates at this point. Suffice it to say I was impressed by the program and its format.
Let’s examine the content of the program for a moment. The questions presented by Soledad Obrien and the guest panel were “soft balls” thrown right down the middle. Importantly, the forum gave the candidates an opportunity to share their personal journey of faith and the guiding principles that affect their lives.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.