As voters ask questions about religion, some journalists are challenging records for theological illiteracy. For example, Chris Matthews on Nov. 29 complained that a YouTube questioner asked GOP presidential candidates their view of the Bible: "If there was a Jewish fellow up here, an Arab fellow up here, a non-believer, he'd have to say, I don't believe in the Bible."Way to go, Chris: Three errors in one sentence. Jewish believers would not say that: they trust the Old Testament, which makes up ¾ of the Bible. Some Arabs are Christians, believing in all of the Bible. Arab Muslims also believe in the Bible when the Quran does not contradict it.
Religion flummoxes many reporters. Matthews and others complained about questions on faith in presidential debates because the Constitution states that there should be no "religious test" for federal office. That means it would be unconstitutional for a Mormon to be elected and then not allowed to serve because of his religious belief, or for Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) to be forced to swear his oath on a Bible rather than on the Quran. But it's fine for voters to take beliefs into consideration.
And that's apparently what they're doing. Democrats are trying to tap into voters' religious interests: Barack Obama is bilingual in secularese and Christianese, but when Hillary Clinton tries speaking Christianese she sounds like me speaking French. That's one reason why Obama is improving in the polls.
On the Republican side, conservative evangelicals are supposedly easily led, but this year the followers are leading and the leaders are playing catch-up. Christian conservative political groups spoke of sitting out the election because none of the major candidates appealed to them, but now Mike Huckabee is on a roll and the "leaders" have to think twice.
Huckabee, like President Bush, is not as fiscally conservative as some would like, but his eloquence is important. He fares well in comparison to Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, who have organizational clout but little more. Romney, asked a question, seems to run quickly through all the computer chips in his brain so as to find the politick answer. (He's like Hillary Clinton in that way.) Thompson's mental computer, meanwhile, runs at Atari speed.
The upshot, unless today's Romney's attempt to talk about religion gives him a boost, is that what seemed like an anarchic GOP race is likely to settle down to a Giuliani vs. Huckabee, traditional city vs. country, social liberal vs. social conservative contest - and it will be heated. Ironically, John McCain might emerge from all this as a compromise candidate