OK, sports fans, I am still watching the coverage of Nikki Haley deep down there in South Carolina and, of course, her unique religious background. Here's a short update. It seems to me that we are inching closer to that magic moment when mainstream reporters start slapping themselves on their foreheads and chant as one, "WAIT! We're in Bible Belt territory! This woman's religious background is complex and even nuanced! What is happening? Will the Religious Right march behind You Know Who and support her, while the rumors swirl? Quick! Get some modestly dressed reporter to Bob Jones University! ASAP!"
Right now, the big news (other than the rumors) about Haley is that -- wait for it -- she is a Republican and a woman it does not seem to be a very big deal. Here's the top of the obligatory report in The New York Times:
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- As she entered the top-floor suite of a luxurious office building here ... Nikki Haley passed an oil painting of nine former South Carolina governors. All were men, all were white, seated behind a long table like a political version of "The Last Supper."
If she can maintain her momentum, Ms. Haley will make a most unlikely member of the club.
On Tuesday, Ms. Haley, a 38-year-old Indian-American state representative with strong ties to the Tea Party movement, emerged as the front-runner to become the next governor of South Carolina. Winning 49 percent of the votes in the Republican primary, she trounced three white male rivals with longer careers, higher titles and larger bank accounts, although she fell just short of avoiding a runoff with the second-place finisher. ...
Note that the fact that she is, in political terms, one-half of a minority candidate (Hey, is Barack Obama one-half of a minority candidate?) running in South Carolina, where all Republicans are assumed to be white, is now in play.
Later in the same story, we get one paragraph of background material that briefly mentions her family and her religious background. It appears that someone may have gone online and done at least one Google search.
Ms. Haley, who has been married for 13 years and has two young children, was born in the small town of Bamberg, in central South Carolina, to Sikh parents who emigrated from India. Beginning at age 13, she said, she worked after school at her parents' clothing store. She earned an accounting degree from Clemson University, then helped turn her family's business into a multimillion-dollar operation, according to her campaign.
OK, maybe it wasn't a very good online search. It does appear that the words "Christian" and even "convert" needed to be added to the mix. They can also add the word "Methodist," although I don't know if she is a United Methodist or part of another church. In South Carolina, the United Methodist flock contains more than its share of believers who would call themselves evangelical or even conservative Protestants.
Reporter seeking information may want to click here and head on over to the previously mentioned report by CBN's David Brody in which he notes that -- as Obama learned early on -- it is a good idea to clarify one's religious stance when you are seeking votes in a state like South Carolina. Note, in particular, the evolving language in her website's answer to the big question:
Question: Is Nikki a Christian?
Truth: Nikki is a Christian. In her words: "I believe in the power and grace of Almighty God. I know, and have truly experienced, that with Him all things are possible. I have looked to Him for leadership throughout my career and will continue to do so as governor." ...
Question: Is Nikki a Christian?
Truth: In Nikki's words: "My faith in Christ has a profound impact on my daily life and I look to Him for guidance with every decision I make. God has blessed my family in so many ways and my faith in the Lord gives me great strength on a daily basis. Being a Christian is not about words, but about living for Christ every day."
Interesting. Oh, by the way, where does Haley stand on major social issues? I have heard that, Tea Party or no Tea Party, the hot-button issues that mix politics, religion and culture are fairly important in the Bible Belt.