Did you notice? Once again, there wasn't a single serious reference to religion or faith in MSNBC's Democratic debate the other night. There was hardly anything said about God, church, or "belief" and not a word was said about prayer. This was supposed to be the year when the religious left would let its voice be heard. However, it appears that Tim Russert and Brian Williams didn't get the memo.
I am less inclined to questions about where a person attends church and whether or not that person prays before making major decisions. How a candidate's faith informs their policies isn't a bad question though. I was even less inclined, and enraged by the question from Brian Williams about the ridiculous rumors that shall not be repeated here of Senator Barack Obama not being the Christian he claims to be. There are so much better things to talk about and raising that question again and again just re-enforces the problem.
A question on the subject of faith based initiatives would have been most appropriate. This was a major part of President Bush's domestic agenda. Do we just assume that is off the table for a potential Democratic president? With the leading Democratic field of candidates agreeing on so many basic policy issues, this would have been a great question to explore the candidate's underlying governing philosophy. We also could have discovered their views on the proper role of the church in government affairs.
Both Obama and Clinton managed to mention their faith. In Obama's case, it was in response to the question from Williams about the pointless and baseless rumors about his faith. In Clinton's case, she mentioned her church and makes a Bible reference in response to a question to all of the candidates about their greatest weakness:
CLINTON: That's what I've done for 35 years. It is really my life's work. It is something that comes out of my own experience, both in my family and in my church that, you know, I've been blessed. I think to whom much is given, much is expected.
So I have tried to create opportunities, both on an individual basis, intervening to help people who have no where else to turn, to be their champion. And then to make those changes. And I think I can deliver change. I think I understand how to make it possible for more people to live up to their God-given potential.
After listing a bunch of positives about herself, Clinton said that her greatest weakness is her impatience. Impressive admission, yes?
In regards to "to whom much is given, much is expected," can we say now that Clinton is engaging in religious code language that needs interpretation? I don't think so. The Luke 12:48 reference is common enough and makes a lot of sense to those unfamiliar with the passage.
However, I wish Russert or Williams had followed up on this and asked her how this church of hers has played an important part in her life's work. How would the church affect her presidency? I mean Clinton was the one who brought it up.