‘Well, duh!’ headline of the day

jesuslandagainThere is nothing really wrong with this Associated Press report by Tom Raum.


But it does rather leave you wondering if the editors who wrote this and, especially, wrote the headline were around at the time of the 2000 and 2004 “pew gap” elections. Also, there has been an ocean of ink spilled on this topic in the past year.

I think we have reached the point where this headline — at the Washington Post site — is an understatement worthy of a chuckle: “Religion Looms Large Over 2008 Race.”

You think? You think that religion is an issue for the candidates, even beyond Gov. Mitt Romney?

Religion has not played so prominent a role in a U.S. national election since 1960, when John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to be elected president. And it’s not only Romney under scrutiny. All the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls have been grilled on their religious beliefs. Most seem eager to talk publicly about their faith as they actively court religious voters.

Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasizes her Methodist upbringing and says her faith helped her repair her marriage.

Chief rival Sen. Barack Obama frequently uses the language of religion and proclaims a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ. The Illinois Democrat — whose middle name is “Hussein” — scoffs at suggestions of Muslim leanings because he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. He is a member of the United Church of Christ.

And so forth and so on, through virtually the entire list of candidates on both sides of the political and church aisle. It’s a nice, crisp summary.

Oh, and did you hear that Southern evangelicals have become more politically active? There’s this thing out there called the Religious Right! Really!

Art: It’s a two-fer. Back by popular demand.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.msu.edu/~chasech5 Christopher W. Chase

    Tom Raum wrote:

    An earlier poll by the Pew Research Center said 30 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate that was Mormon. The negative sentiment rose to 46 percent for Muslim candidates and to 63 percent for a candidate who “doesn’t believe in God.” Pollster Andrew Kohut, Pew’s director, said that between the late 1960s, when Romney’s father ran, and now there has been “one of the great transformations of our era. There is more mixing of religion and politics than there was then. As a consequence, people scrutinize Mormonism _ or any other religion _ more closely than back then.”

    Part of this balkanization reflected in the Pew poll may be because there are already so many culturally divisive issues at hand. In the 1968 era, it seemed that the William Herberg consensus over multiple ways to be American was not a flashpoint, at least since the election, assassination, and subsequent political canonization of Pres. Kennedy. On the other hand, there has been a rise in grassroots cross-denominational activity since the 1960′s, and perhaps we’ve seen a weakening of the denominational structures after all those mid-century mergers.

    What strikes me as strange is that so many have focused on the Kennedy speech in Houston as a sort of “Nixon-to-China” moment in domestic politics, while ignoring the great and famous step taken by Mario Cuomo on September 13, 1984 at Notre Dame. The absence of this event from Pew sources seems especially strange, since the Pew website even hosts Gov. Cuomo’s speech.

    I suspect that Romney’s comparable speech, should it ever be given, will more closely align with Cuomo’s points than it will Kennedy’s. The conspiratorial ‘Kennedy-esque’ fear that Romney might take his marching orders from the First Presidency of the LDS Church does not seem as operative here, but rather it is a certain distaste for doctrine (or half-truths about LDS doctrine) that fuels public dislike of Romney. Cuomo’s point about using faith in the service of moral suasion for the common good is a point where Romney can connect with both Protestant Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. The question remains: is it Kennedy that Romney must seek to emulate, or Cuomo–or someone else entirely?

  • Chris Bolinger

    I wish I could have Raum’s job. Then I could take an hour to summarize a bunch of other religion stories, pepper it with a few anecdotes about Mitt Romney’s dad, and go hit the links by 10 a.m.