I remember the first time I heard Gov. Howard Dean speak, more than a year ago. Dean sharply criticized the move toward war in Iraq and wondered out loud why the other Democrats were not willing to challenge the Bush administration. At the time, the faith community had been active in opposition to the war, but while protests erupted around the world, our leaders in Washington remained painfully silent. Dean broke through that silence with what to me was a prophetic voice in a time that desperately needed politicians to be truth-tellers.
I was so inspired to see a candidate who was willing to stand up for the things I believed in that I decided to leave my job to work on the Dean campaign. As a Christian, I passionately wanted to galvanize the faith community around the candidate that had captured my heart and imagination. I headed to Iowa, where I managed to convince the Dean campaign to hire me to do outreach to religious communities. I was quickly dubbed the "church lady" as I tried to convince senior staff that, although many people of faith supported Deans positions, his secular image would hurt him in the election.
My appeals for intelligent language about faith were met with skepticism. I was told that Dean supporters were not religious and liked him because he didnt talk about religion. A senior staff member who came into Iowa in the final weeks even asked me, "How in the world did you get hired?!" He just couldnt comprehend expending resources to reach out to the religious community. "Its not that Im against it," he said, "its just I would have never thought of it. Who would have known religious people could get behind us?"