Religious Thinkers Describe a Christian 'Political Platform'

The New York Times in a recent discussion asked several commentators, including Jim Walls, Michael Novak and others: Which politicians espouse policies that align with Christianity, and how so? Here are some of their responses.

According to Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, religion plays a tremendous role in the consideration of most Americans when formulating their political view, which in turn influences political attitudes, political affiliation, policy prescriptions, and choice of candidates.

Kohult alludes to a Pew Research Center poll, which shows that 70 percent of Americans believe that it is important for a president to have strong religious beliefs. In 2007, a Pew poll discovered that Americans considered a candidate’s identification with the Christian faith to be the second most important trait in a list of 23 traits that they considered appealing.

Military service appeared higher on the list, with not having a belief in God to be the most negative trait.

In 2008, Christians who were weekly church attendees supported Republican candidate John McCain over Democratic candidate Barack Obama, 57 to 42 percent. Those who were less frequent church goers favored Obama over McCain, 53 to 46 percent.

"However, it is important to recognize that strong correlation between religiosity and political preferences is often not a direct one, but rather reflects the linkage between religion and other factors, like ideology and ethnicity,” Kohut said.

Still Kohut points out that when moral concerns are involved, religion can be a more determinant factor.

What is the opinion as to the influence of religious beliefs when considering political issues and candidates for political office? A number of important thinkers addressed the issue.

Jim Wallis, the president and C.E.O. of Sojourners and the author of Rediscovering Value: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street – A Moral Compass for the New Economy:

"Predictably the media will report the ‘religious issues’ in the coming election as abortion, gay marriage, perhaps evolution and, this year, maybe Mormonism… America’s growing economic disparity, now being protested by the Occupy Movement, is likely to be a primary factor in how many in the faith community will vote in the next election."

Michael Novak,theologian and the George Frederick Jewett Scholar emeritus in Religion, Philosophy and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author, most recently, of Living the Call: An Introduction to the Lay Vocation:

"To abbreviate an impossibly complex subject, it is useful to recognize that thoughtful and committed Christians make strong arguments on several sides of many absolutely central national debates – from abolition to abortion. The great Catholic moralist Blaise Pascal wrote once that the primary moral imperative is to think clearly."

Richard Cizik, the president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good:

"No candidate will ever embody perfectly a commitment to biblical principles. Thus, a well-informed conscience, aided by prudence, is required to discern the truth about the candidates and their claims. Beyond a stand on the issues are factors such as personal character, integrity and temperament."

Colleen Carroll Campbell, a columnist for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush. She is also the author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy:

"When choosing a presidential candidate from among the flawed field of 2012 contenders, voter’s intent on bringing their Christian faith to bear on their ballot-box decisions should remember Lord Palmerston’s observation: in politics, one has no permanent allies, only permanent interests."

Several other commentators offered guidelines for a Christian "political platform."