If someone argues that it is just not possible to combine Christianity and modern society, that Christianity is a matter of private faith and personal devotion, I would offer two thoughts.

First, if Christianity is a matter of private faith, then perhaps candidates for president should keep it private. We don't need to know any essentially personal facts about them, only about those beliefs and actions which would shape them as political leaders. If Christianity is really too demanding, extreme, or idealistic to shape public life, let these men stop pretending it shapes theirs.

Second, however, while it is no doubt very difficult to combine Christianity and modern political life, some people—some Christians—offer us pretty good examples of trying to do so. Martin Luther King is one case. Any cursory examination of his statements and actions reveals devotion to ideals of freedom, democracy, equal rights, care for the poor, humility, respect for enemies, and peacemaking. Dorothy Day, who went from being a communist to being a devout Catholic, is another example. Her passionate concern for the destitute and relentless opposition to American militarism was joined with a gentle spirit and an open mind.

The upshot of all this is that perhaps it is time for Republican candidates to stop using Christianity as a club to beat up democratic opponents, or latte-sipping, environmentalist and feminist college professors like me, and start using it as a rigorous task master of their own behavior. And that it is also time for serious Christians to ask themselves if the public displays of their religion by politicians actually further its public presence—or make Christianity's spiritual demands seem trivial to non-existent.

What, indeed, would Jesus say about that?