John McCain skipped the forum on faith at Messiah College. That gave more time for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to spar with each other over who was holier than thou -- smart. The Democratic candidates continue to trivialize faith with superficiality, and Sen. McCain was fortunate he didn't have a god in this fight. When your opponents are destroying themselves, the smart pol gives them plenty of room.
Hillary told the forum she communes with God in uplifting moments such as watching a sunset or walking in the woods. Her heart leaps at the daffodils, too. If Hillary took a page from Wordsworth, Sen. Obama sounded inspired by Theodore Dreiser. It was his Christian faith, he said, that led him to politics as a community organizer to help out-of-work steel workers in Chicago.
We heard once again how Hillary's faith helped her to survive Bill's philandering. No clinger is she. For his part, Sen. Obama (once more with feeling) repudiated the wicked remarks of his infamous pastor (who continues to spray venom from the pulpit). But nevertheless, he stands by the inspiring words of the "spiritual mentor" who led him to God. Americans respect the separation of religion and politics, but can they respect the candidate whose preacher loves the man and hates his country?
Religion in our politics has a long lineage. A New York preacher in 1800 famously attacked Thomas Jefferson for writing "against the truths of God's word." But this year's one-upmanship on God is part of a specific agenda for the Democrats. Four years ago, regular churchgoers voted overwhelmingly for President Bush over John Kerry, calling attention to the "God gap" in the two parties. The politics of Republican voters flowed naturally from the values of the Judeo-Christian tradition, which they see at work in their lives (bitter or not.)