Questions of Substance at the Compassion Forum

By Jim Wallis 4-14-2008

Last evening, I was privileged to be one of the religious leaders asked to participate in the Compassion Forum, sponsored by Faith in Public Life and broadcast by CNN from Messiah College. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama participated; Sen. John McCain declined.

The religious leaders asked questions of real substance, focusing on difficult and important policy choices. We are not so much interested in the personal testimonies of candidates - important as those are - but rather how their faith beliefs would shape their leadership and decisions. It is also worth noting that the majority of the questions of substance and depth about critical policy issues came from the religious leaders last night, and the more personal questions about the religion came from the stage moderators for CNN-just as was the case at the Sojourners/CNN Forum on "Faith, Values, and Poverty" last June.

Here are a few examples:

Lisa Sharon Harper of New York Faith and Justice asked Sen. Clinton:

Senator Clinton, underdeveloped nations and regions lack widespread access to education and basic resources like water, and they tend to be some of the most unstable and dangerous regions of the world. Places like Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan. Our national security is at stake, but our military is stretched. As president, would you consider committing U.S. troops to a purely humanitarian mission under the leadership of a foreign flag?

Clinton responded:

I believe we should demonstrate our commitment to people who are poor, disenfranchised, disempowered before we talk about putting troops anywhere. The United States has to be seen again as a peacekeeper, and we have lost that standing in these last seven years. Therefore, I want us to have a partnership, government to government, government with the private sector, government with our NGOS and our faith community to show the best of what America has to offer.

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