December 12, 2011
Candidates Tout Faith as Romney Recalls Missionary Life, Obama Attends Church
Some of the presidential candidates are bringing faith into the campaign as the primaries draw closer. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney brought up his missionary work at Saturday night's debate, one of the only times he has referred to his Mormon faith in a public setting during this year's campaign.
“I was able to serve my church overseas, and to, to meet people there that had very difficult circumstances in their life,” he said, in response to a question about how he could understand financial difficulties. “I also spent time in this country, serving as a pastor in my, in my church, and again, having the occasion to work with people that were really struggling. I saw marriages under great stress.”
Since the debate, Romney garnered attention for offering a $10,000 bet to Texas Governor Rick Perry over health care, a gesture that some suggest makes him appear out of touch with American's financial difficulties as well as the teachings of his church on gambling. Some suggest his references to his life as a missionary is a way to humanize the GOP candidate.
“I don’t know about a conscious effort, but I do think more people should know about the more private side of Mitt Romney, including his family,” Romney senior adviser and evangelical public relations agency leader Mark DeMoss told Politico. “I appreciate the fact that he hasn’t talked about his personal life as much, perhaps, as candidates typically do, but also want more people to see him as I have come to know him, so I’d support any effort to reveal more of it in the coming weeks and months.”
Meanwhile, President Obama, who usually visits church on holidays like Christmas and Easter, took his family to St. John's Church across the street from the White House yesterday.
The pastor's sermon on John the Baptist drew a connection to the expectations Americans might have of Obama. Many unfairly expected a messiah that could cure the U.S. of all of its problems, but we're seeing that it's not that easy, Luis Leon told the congregation, according to the pool report.
Obama has also brought up his faith publicly at some recent public events, such as the White House's annual Christmas tree lighting. On Sunday night, he shared a similar message when he referred to Jesus's birth during the annual "Christmas in Washington" concert.
This is the season to celebrate the story of how, more than two thousand years ago, a child was born to two faithful travelers who could find rest only in a stable, among cattle and sheep. He was no ordinary child. He was the manifestation of God’s love. And every year we celebrate His birth because the story of Jesus Christ changed the world. For me, and for millions of Americans, His story has filled our hearts and inspired our lives. It moves us to love one another; to help and serve those less fortunate; to forgive; to draw close to our families; to be grateful for all that has been given to us; to keep faith; and to hold on to an enduring hope in humanity.
Service to others. Compassion to all. Treating others as we wish ourselves to be treated. Those values aren’t just at the center of Christianity; those are values that are shared by all faiths. So tonight let us all rededicate ourselves to each other. And, in that spirit, from my family to yours, happy holidays. Merry Christmas.
Obama's messages that touch on faith often point to the common ground and values between different faiths.
As Newt Gingrich leads in the polls, some media reports are examining the role of faith in his life and in his previous work in the House. As speaker, Gingrich led Congress to enact a major welfare reform law, including a provision allowing faith-based groups to win government contracts to run social service programs, the Huffington Post reports. Such provisions also helped lay the groundwork for the White House's faith-based office, which still exists under Obama's administration.
CNN's Dan Gilgoff reports on an e-mail skirmish between some evangelical leaders, such as the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., and Atlanta pastor Richard Lee related to his marital past. Gingrich spoke with Christianity Today in 2009 after he converted to Catholicism.