Paul  Kengor

I’m typically not prone to conspiracy theories. Yet, I have reason to suspect that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama may be coordinating their campaign strategies. This is especially apparent in their strikingly similar bids to win the religious “values voters” who twice elected George W. Bush.

Consider the most recent overture: Over the weekend, Senator Obama went into a huge church in Greenville, South Carolina and called himself an “instrument of God,” one who is “confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on earth.” His message was notably Hillary-like, as Senator Clinton is fond of quoting Methodist founder John Wesley, who stated, “The world is my parish.” Both Senators Clinton and Obama see themselves as doing the Lord’s work; or, as Mrs. Clinton’s husband said during a political rally at a Newark church in 1996: “God’s work must be our own.”

The secular press, which goes berserk anytime it asks George W. Bush if he prays and he answers yes, is, naturally, not offended by these grandiose statements. Likewise, ACLU lawyers are not dashing to courthouses to strip the non-profit status of the Greenville church, nor any of the 27 New York churches that hosted political rallies for Mrs. Clinton in the two months prior to the 2000 vote.

Yet, even more instructive is this similarity between Senators Clinton and Obama: Outside the Greenville church, Obama told reporters. “I think it’s important, particularly for those of us in the Democratic Party, to not cede values and faith to any one party.” He criticized Republicans’ “particular brand of faith,” surely a reference to how Republican legislators cite Scripture to oppose gay marriage. Rather, noted Obama, evangelicals need to appreciate the “social justice” concerns embraced by Democratic politicians, such as fighting poverty.

This sounded a lot like Mrs. Clinton’s November 10, 2004 visit to Tufts University, immediately after religious voters made the decisive difference in re-electing President Bush. She called it a mistake for Democrats to have not engaged evangelicals on their own turf, thereby ceding the vote to Bush.

She singled out areas where she thought faith-backed Republican politicians were vulnerable, pointing to social justice: Mrs. Clinton said the Bible should be cited to win debates over poverty, akin to how Republicans referenced Scripture to resist the legalization of gay marriage. “No one can read the New Testament of our Bible without recognizing that Jesus had a lot more to say about how we treat the poor than most of the issues that were talked about in this election,” said Senator Clinton.