The Democrats have been gettin’ preachy lately. Their initial attempts at religious talk post-2004 came off like a Tourette’s syndrome for Democrats, with politicians randomly spouting scripture verses and twitching to some unheard hymn in the background. There are still some afflicted with this disorder. But more recently we’ve started to hear a different sort of Democratic oration on faith. It’s more considered, more authentic, and perhaps, as a result, more effective.
The best models of the new Democratic approach to faith have come from Sens. Barack Obama and John Kerry and then-Senate candidate Bob Casey. In anticipation of questions about why this, why now, Kerry explained to an audience at Pepperdine University in September that he made a mistake during his presidential campaign by not engaging the issue of his faith more openly. And he advised other Democrats to learn from his mistake.
“I learned how important it is to make certain [that] people have a deeper understanding of the values that shape me and the faith that sustains me,” Kerry told the mostly conservative Christian crowd. Despite his aversion to highlighting his faith, he learned that “if I didn’t fill in the picture myself, others would draw the caricature for me.”
What Kerry and others have learned is that it’s all well and good for Democrats to decide that their faith is private and they’d rather not talk about it in public, thank you very much. But that doesn’t mean that their faith will remain private. It just guarantees that their faith—or purported lack thereof—will be defined by the opposition.