Editorial: Talk of faith welcome in governor's race (Athens Banner Herald)
Published Friday, February 19, 2010
Certainly, there's a healthy amount of political calculation behind state Rep. DuBose Porter's recent prominent mention of his Christian faith on the gubernatorial campaign trail. Porter, a statehouse veteran vying with a raft of fellow Democrats looking to carry their party's banner into this year's governor's race, undoubtedly understands that conservative Christian voters played a major role in bringing the Republican Party to dominance in the state legislature.
Before proceeding further, it's important to note that this editorial should in no way be construed as an endorsement of Porter's candidacy. If or when this newspaper makes an endorsement in the governor's race, that endorsement will be based on a wide range of information about candidates' positions on issues, and on other factors.
It is, though, worth noting the possible implications of Porter's strategy of making religion an issue in a statewide political contest. On a personal level, a candidate's views on religion can provide some real insight into the moral and ethical framework he or she purports to bring into the public arena. On a political level, Porter's strategy of talking about his faith brings home the important message that a spiritual point of reference on the issues of the day need not necessarily be ceded as the exclusive province of a single political party.
Porter made that point bluntly at a gathering of the Georgia Christian Alliance earlier this month, which he attended along with most of the Republican field in the gubernatorial race. "I am tired of people saying that you can't be a Christian and a Democrat," he said. "Because I am. My faith is important to me, it's important to my family. ... Pray for me. And pray that God's will be done in this election. I believe that to my very core."
More recently, in an interview with local political blogger and regular Banner-Herald columnist Johnathan McGinty, Porter said, "Democrats have been portrayed in the national media as Godless. Democrats are not Godless. I have yet to go to a Democratic meeting that has not opened with a prayer. ... We as Democrats believe economic justice and civil rights will be helped by a strong education system and through job creation. Is this because we believe 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'? I think so. Is that a religious influence? It probably is."
Again not discounting the political calculation in Porter's profession of faith, the statements outlined here portray him as a man seriously committed to that faith. Given that apparent commitment, Porter's approach to the governor's race might serve as a template, both now and into the future, for other Democratic candidates who are also seriously committed to their faith.
In a political environment where Republican and Democratic candidates talk freely about their faith and its role in their lives, it's possible that, over time, that faith will become a yardstick by which voters can judge a candidate's personal fitness for office, rather than his or her political fitness to hold a position of public trust.
Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Friday, February 19, 2010