WASHINGTON – Nearly all Americans would agree that faith is playing a prominent role in the current presidential race. Yet an evangelical leader contends that Christians should be more concerned about where the candidates stand on issues, than the amount of "God Talk" from each presidential hopeful.
"I appreciate that the candidates are taking a risk when they talk about their faith," said Prison Fellowship Ministries President Mark Earley in a commentary last week.
"The problem is that all of this 'God Talk' misses the point: what Christians want – or should want – is a candidate who shares their moral and culture concerns, not just their religious vocabulary."
Talks about God and personal testimonies of faith have been a bipartisan affair at a number of debates and forums so far this year.
"All the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls have been grilled on their religious beliefs," The Associated Press recently pointed out. "Most seem eager to talk publicly about their faith as they actively court religious voters."
Democratic candidates, who previously shied away from religious talk, have been sharing openly about the importance of their Christian faith to woo evangelicals – voters who have been more often associated with the GOP not because of political allegiance but because of shared values.
Individuals such as former presidential candidate and current Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean has especially urged his party's contenders to pay particular attention to a new generation of evangelical voters who care about faith but are also concerned about social issues such as poverty, global warming and immigration reform.
Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) have both reportedly hired strategists to reach religious voters, according to AP.
But PFM's Earley argues that "God Talk" is not enough.
He pointed out that while the candidates increasingly talk about God to court Christian voters, they are also appealing to pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood.
Top tier candidates such as Clinton, Obama and current Republican frontrunner former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani are all pro-abortion and support gay rights.
"It's difficult to imagine positions more at odds with the motivations of the very evangelical voters they're trying to court," commented Earley. "Protecting the lives of unborn children has been the cornerstone of politically active Christians for the past thirty years."
Moreover, the abortion issue is important to the general American public. Overall about 40 percent of all registered voters said abortion is very important in their vote for president, according to a recent poll by Pew Research Center.
Earley concluded: "It's hard to know which is worse: that candidates think that talking about religion will make evangelical Christians forget why they care about politics – or that they might be right,"