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Keeping the faiths

"Keeping the faiths" Continued...

Issue: "Considering the heavens," Jan. 24, 2004

Knight Ridder journalist Steven Thomma quotes one of Mr. Kerry's aides, David Wade, who says the senator is "very private about his religion" and does not actually go to Mass very often.

Mr. Wade then makes it sound as if his boss goes to church purely for political reasons: "If he's in someplace like Davenport or Dubuque, with a big Catholic community, he'll go to church."

The Methodist candidate

John Edwards is a Methodist. He was baptized in the Southern Baptist church when he was 16. He told Jim VandeHei of The Washington Post that he drifted away from religion during college, but that when his 16-year-old son Wade died in a traffic accident in 1996, he started studying the Bible, and his faith came "roaring back."

He joined a Senate Bible study group and co-chaired a national prayer breakfast. Religion, though, as he talks about it, seems mainly to be a matter of being "a good person," as opposed to being a sinner who has found forgiveness.

Voters "want leaders, particularly a president, who they trust and who they think is a good person," he told Mr. VandeHei. "If you are a person of faith, I think it adds weight to that issue of whether you are a good person."

Mr. Edwards is unusually reticent when it comes to talking about his religion. "Most people in this country do not want you to be beating them over their heads with your religious views," he says. And he says that he is "very, very careful" not to allow his faith to influence his policies.

The clergyman candidate

Al Sharpton is an ordained Pentecostal minister. If he is elected, he would be the first clergyman to become president.

Some might question his credentials. According to his autobiography, Go and Tell Pharaoh, he started preaching at a 1,000-member Pentecostal church in New York City when he was 4 years old. The minister of that congregation ordained him when he was 9. WORLD has found no evidence that he ever attended a seminary or Bible college. Nor does he ever seem to have pastored a congregation. He does have a radio program featuring him preaching, but this is in a studio, not a church.

When Mr. Sharpton was 13, he joined the entourage of Adam Clayton Powell, the Harlem minister/politician, so he seems to have been a political activist for his whole career.

African-American churches tend to be liberal politically but theologically and morally conservative. But Mr. Sharpton has said that he not only believes in gay marriage; as a minister, he would perform a gay marriage.

As for his advocacy of abortion, here is how he explained it in an interview with Rolling Stone: "[Former New York archbishop] Cardinal O'Connor once asked me how I could support a woman's right to choose abortion. I told him, 'God didn't say you have to go to heaven-he gave you the option of hell. I think you may go to hell, and I defend your right to get there.'"

The Episcopalian candidate

Carol Moseley-Braun, who withdrew from the race last week, grew up a Catholic but is now an Episcopalian. Once again, personal suffering seems to have been a catalyst for faith. She says that in 1986-after her brother died of a drug overdose, her mother had a stroke, and she went through a divorce-she became a born-again Christian.

This did not make her any less liberal. In an interview with NPR, she said that the key to America's spiritual renewal is improving the economy.

The delinquent Baptist candidate

Richard Gephardt is a Baptist whose church helped pay for his education, who once considered the ministry, and who was once pro-life. Now, his theology sounds more like the mainline liberal social gospel. He says that his religion is "to care about the poor first." With his current pro-abortion stance, that must not include the poor aborted children.

He told Bill O'Reilly on Fox News that "the government has to divorce itself" from religious beliefs. Again, reporter Steven Thomma discovered the truth from a helpful aide. Although Mr. Gephardt is "a religious person," said aide Erik Smith, "he does not regularly go to church."

The Jewish candidate

Ironically, the Democratic candidate who sounds most like an evangelical is not a Christian at all. Joseph Lieberman is not just Jewish but an Orthodox Jew, the most conservative branch of Judaism. He holds to the Jewish law. He only eats kosher food, and he refuses to work-or even campaign-on the Jewish Sabbath.

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