Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon once best known for separating conjoined baby twins, announced May 4 that he will pursue the Republican nomination for U.S. president. Carson is now known as a culture warrior whose criticisms of President Obama have made him a favorite of conservatives. Here are five faith facts about him:
1. He’s a twice-baptized Seventh-day Adventist.
In his book Gifted Hands, Carson, 63, describes being baptized as a boy by the pastor of Detroit’s Burns Seventh-day Adventist Church. At age 12, he told the pastor of another Adventist church in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, that he hadn’t completely grasped his first baptism and wanted to be baptized again.
Carson has served as an Adventist local elder and Sabbath school teacher. But he attends other churches. “I spend just as much time in non-Seventh-day Adventist churches because I’m not convinced that the denomination is the most important thing,” he told RNS in 1999.
“I think it’s the relationship with God that’s most important.”
The Republican National Committee on Friday launched its first web-based effort to rally conservative believers behind the party, a sign of how crucial voter turnout will be in this fall’s close-fought midterm elections and an indication that the GOP cannot take its evangelical Christian base for granted.
“This shouldn’t be outreach, this should be who we are — it is who we are,” said Chad Connelly, director of faith engagement for the Republican National Committee and the force behind this new initiative, GOPfaith.com.
Evangelicals, Connelly said, “are our biggest, most reliable voting bloc.”
The problem, however, is that even though evangelicals identify more closely than ever with the GOP, they have not been turning out at the polls in sufficient numbers to carry Republican candidates to victory.
Even though the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez had a 3.9 GPA in high school, his teachers kept pushing him to be a car mechanic.
He is Hispanic, said Rodriguez, now president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and his teachers did not believe he could succeed academically.
Rodriguez wants the same bar set for all students, something he believes can come out of the Common Core State Standards. Across-the-board standards could help end the poor education that fuels “our multigenerational poverty, the proliferation of drugs, participation in gangs, teenage pregnancy,” Rodriguez said.
Christian conservatives have grown increasingly alarmed in recent weeks over reports and rumors that the Pentagon is considering new policies aimed at discriminating against Christians and disciplining or even court-martialing those who share their faith.
But the Department of Defense on Thursday sought to debunk that speculation, saying that while aggressive proselytizing is barred, evangelization is still permitted and the rights of all believers – and non-believers – will be protected.
“The U.S. Department of Defense has never and will never single out a particular religious group for persecution or prosecution,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said in a statement. “The Department makes reasonable accommodations for all religions and celebrates the religious diversity of our service members.”
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