Texas Faith is a weekly online feature that draws upon the expertise of clergy, laity and academics in Texas to debate, discuss and define the intersection of religion, politics and culture.
This week's question is pegged to the Republican convention:
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is about to go under the microscope that Obama, McCain and Biden have already experienced. Is there a particular faith-related question you would like to see her address? Is there a faith-related question the others have not answered you'd like to see asked? And why?
Answers this week from Joe Clifford,William B. Lawrence,Darrell Bock, Katie Sherrod, Trey Graham, Amy Martin, Robin W. Lovin, Gerald Britt, Matthew Wilson, George Mason, Bob Dean, Diane Presley, Cynthia Rigby, Larry Bethune, Clara M. Reed, Ric Dexter, Mohamed Elibiary, Geoffrey Dennis, Daniel Kanter, and Lynn Godsey.
Please feel free to add your own comments.
GERALD BRITT, vice president, Central Dallas Ministries
It's recently been revealed that Governor Palin's 17 year old daughter is five months pregnant and unmarried. The plans are for her daughter to have the child and for her to marry the child's father. Admirable. Through a McCain spokesman this was referred to as a family matter and that the Palins were going to unconditionally support their daughter. Again, admirable. The campaign said, 'Life happens' and referred to them as 'An American family'.
I think it is safe to say that the more conservative evangelicals have not been equally as charitable and supportive in some of their public statements when it has come to people of much more modest means than the governor.While all of this takes place in the context of a personal circumstance, the fact is that it begs the question regarding to the role of grace and unconditional acceptance of those who are not like us when it comes to their violation of our Christian convictions. Such personal religious views make us more or less sympathetic and influence the way our public officials develop and support legislation.My question is, how does she plan to use the influence of her current position as a Vice-Presidential candidate to moderate or counter some of the more harsh assessments of her evangelical constituents when it comes to more economically disadvantaged children who have made the same 'mistake' as this was referred to by the dean of Liberty University.
TREY GRAHAM, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Melissa
Sen. McCain has made a strong, bold move to appeal to conservative voters by choosing Gov. Sarah Palin, an evangelical Christian who is young, pro-life, anti-gay marriage, pro-gun rights, fiscally conservative, and a Washington outsider.
My questions for Gov. Palin: How did your biblical view of the value of human life influence your decision to carry your Down Syndrome child to full-term and delivery? How will your Christian faith help you and your family prepare for and handle the relentless barrage of attacks from the Democrats, both personal and professional, both fair and unfair?
My questions for Sen. Obama: You have a very eclectic religious background. Newsweek described the religious views of your parents as "a Christian-turned-secular mother and a Muslim-turned-atheist African father." You personally described your mother as an agnostic. Newsweek described your maternal grandparents as "two lapsed Christians." Your long-time pastor, advisor and friend is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a strong proponent of black liberation theology? Which of these various faith systems most influenced your personal version of liberal Christianity, and how?
My question for Sen. Biden: How do you reconcile these political positions with the teachings of your Roman Catholic faith: support for abortion, support for embryonic stem cell research, opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and support of the initiative to redefine hate crimes to include sexual orientation?
My question for Sen. McCain: Your pastor in Arizona, Rev. Dan Yeary, is on record to the Baptist Press describing your Christian walk as genuine and real. Pastor Yeary said of you, "he has a strong faith and he is committed to Christ." Why are you so reluctant to publicly express and explain your faith in Jesus as your personal Savior and guide?
CYNTHIA RIGBY, professor, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
I'm not sure what a "faith-related question," as opposed to a question that is not "faith-related," would look like. I think it is important that we who are self-identified people of faith ask Obama, McCain, Biden, and Palin about all matters we believe crucial to the future of our country and our global society. And insofar as the candidates themselves make the claim that their religious convictions inform their policies, we have a responsibility as American citizens to engage, encourage, and/or critique their theologizing.
I do not yet know whether Sarah Palin is willing to discuss, with any depth, the relation of her faith claims to her politics. I hope she is. I am concerned by reports, however, that she at once both advocates the teaching of creationism in public schools and refuses to comment on what she believes about evolution.
I would therefore like to ask her: "Can you please tell us more about how your belief that God created the universe informs your stated view that creationism be taught, alongside evolution, in the public school system?" And, perhaps, a follow-up: "In your view, is it possible to believe God created the universe and, at the same time, to embrace evolutionary theory?"
WILLIAM LAWRENCE, Dean and professor, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
Here are the faith-related questions that I would like Governor Palin to address:1. As the American people become acquainted with you and your background, what religious traditions, spiritual guides, and theological thinkers would you want the nation to consider the spiritually formative forces in your life?2. Having identified yourself as strongly pro-life and strongly in favor of capital punishment, what religious or theological perspective frames those issues for you and allows you--intellectually and spiritually--to hold what appear to be such contradictory points of view?3. As you have traveled across Alaska, particularly during your campaign for governor and during your twenty months in office, what religious practices have you encountered among native peoples that you have found especially worth affirming?4. Would you advocate continuation of the current White House faith-based initiatives?5. What is the most recent book on religion that you have read?
KATIE SHERROD, independent writer and producer; progressive Episcopalian activist, Fort Worth
Alaska Governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is a self-declared feminist, a wife, and the mother of five children, one a five-month-old baby with Downs Syndrome and one a pregnant unwed 17-year-old. She apparently has no problem balancing her responsibilities as a wife and mother with the demands of a high-profile job such as governor, and now, candidate for vice president of the United States. John McCain is clearly hoping she will appeal to the many American women who daily juggle the demands of family and work responsibilities. How does she respond to those among her brother and sister conservative fundamentalist evangelicals who believe scripture teaches that a woman's place is in the home, condemns pre-marital sex, and forbids a woman to "teach" a man?
Read it all here.
Frankly, Katie, yours is the only question that really hits the target.
As you might note, Palin is also "abstinance" only when it comes to sex education. We can see how well that worked in her own family. I don't critisize her daughter, I make a comment on Sarah, the mother, who also, BTW, does not support hormone related, interuterine and other kinds of birth control.
Palin's religion is, in fact, literalist. She cannot depart that call (see the statement of faith of her church).
As an Episcopalian, I am GREATLY troubled that we even accept the notion that policy should be informed by faith. NO, it shouldn't be. In fact, policy should NEVER be informed by faith. Our Constitution (thus our elected officials who are supposed to defend its premises) separates government and religion, and I certainly underline that thinking.
The MESS we are in, today, is IN FACT because someone DID let religion inform policy. Bush said God told him to invade Iraq.
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