Beliefnet.com editor Steve Waldman has caused something of a stir with his recent essay about how John Kerry is dealing with religious issues in the campaign. “He seems to have decided that the best way to deal with religion in this campaign is the same way Kennedy (the last Catholic Democratic contender) did. JFK1 emphasized the separation of church and state and so, therefore, should Kerry,” writes Waldman, who thinks this is a mistake. Voters want to know what drives a candidate and Kerry claims that his faith is important to his decision making process. Why not showcase that? Waldman has a theory:
….the Kerry campaign suffers from the fact that while most Democrats are religious, many liberal Democratic activists are not. Perhaps the real problem with the paucity of African-Americans at senior levels of the Kerry campaign is not that he doesn't understand racial language but that—forgive the gross stereotyping—the white aides tend to be more tone deaf about religion than the black ones.
Is it true that liberal activists are uncomfortable about religion? My sense is that in some cases that is true and maybe it is the reason that Kerry shies away from religious talk. As I’ve written before, religious progressives are not always welcomed to the table by progressive secularists. That’s unfortunate. Most Americans understand religious language and respect those who share their faith without trying to impose it on others. We want to know that our leaders are more than unfeeling technocrats. We want to know that our leaders believe in something larger than themselves and their politics.
John Kerry, no doubt, has those qualities. He is clearly a man of great faith. So far, however, his campaign themes have largely ignored that. All that Americans know is Kerry wants to be President. Very few have any idea why. Being more open with his faith might give people a better idea of who he is and why he wants to be president.