Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Decision 2008

Keeping The Faith In A Political Year
By Alexandra Kolbeck

Millions of people have died because of it, and billions of people believe in some form of it or dismiss it all together. The country was founded on its principles, it is printed hundreds of times in historical documents, and we see it every day on our currency. It’s religion, and according to a recent poll, 92% of American’s believe in God or some other higher power.

With every political election, religion causes controversy. Whether they’re for it, against it, or non-sectarian, a candidate’s religion is an important issue. With the 2008 presidential election already underway, this topic has gotten many voters thinking about religion. Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, or a member of any other political party, religion may play a part in the candidate you choose to support. For some, religion plays no role at all and for others it is completely irrelevant. However, for many voters, like Ryan Fisher, 21, religion is non-negotiable. “I would never vote for someone who didn’t believe in God,” she said.

With a huge, Texas evangelical backing, Sen. John McCain sets the bar for fellow Republican candidates like Mike Huckabee who attended the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was has been the pastor of two Baptist churches. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s prayers have not gone unnoticed either. She has made it very clear that her Methodist background plays a large role in what kind of president she would be. However, her opponent, Barack Obama, has not been very public with his affiliations with the United Church of Christ.

It may be a strategy to separate a candidate’s religious beliefs from his or her political beliefs, but it may also play in a candidates favor to associate their image with a religion, especially if it is a form of Christianity. Almost every U.S. President has been religious, or to quote John F. Kennedy, “guided by the principles of their faith.” With many crucial votes residing in the U.S. “Bible Belt,” someone like John McCain, who is a very outspoken, Republican, Episcopalian, could fair very well.

For many voters however, religion is not something that affects their vote. Nick Stauth, 24 says, “I tend to relate politics as something that I feel has more of an impact on my day to day life, instead of my overall spirituality.”

For a candidate to not publicly address his or her religion regularly could be off-putting to some voters. Many feel as though it gives them insight into what kind of person they are voting for. Kathleen Grisanti, 44 says, “The only time I’ve heard Barack Obama speak about his religion is when he was defending himself and denying he was Muslim. If it had not been such a controversial topic, I would never have known he was a Christian.”

Each individual voter’s personal beliefs are going to affect their decision as they choose which candidate they believe should lead our country. While religion is an important factor in making this decision, it is not the only one. This is why it has become even more important for a candidate to express every facet of their views on both a personal level and a political level throughout their campaign.

Some voters believe that a candidate’s individual ability to convey their message is critical in helping them win their support. While others feel that the candidate’s ability to communicate might be more important than their specific religious beliefs or the church that they follow. When it boils down to it, the extent to which candidates display their religious principles may determine how they fair in the general election.

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