By Elizabeth Tenety
Much has already been written about Christine O’Donnell, “the Sarah Palin and Tea Party backed candidate” who won the Republican Senate primary in Delaware Tuesday. But it’s comments that O’Donnell has made about religion and morality that haunt many accounts of her life.
The New York Times published a story Thursday that gives more detail about the Senate candidate’s spiritual life. The story reported that O’Donnell is “a Roman Catholic who for a time considered herself an evangelical.” O’Donnell’s statements on religion and morality over the past 15 years reflect that blend of Catholic and Evangelical worlds.
In her work with conservative organizations, O’Donnell made the talk show rounds in the 90s, and early 2000s, appearing on CSPAN, MTV and Politically Incorrect. Her appearances and essays have been widely viewed and read over the past few days.
But are Christine O’Donnell’s views unusual or out of the mainstream?
Of particular interest to many is a video clip that shows O’Donnell on MTV in the 90s talking about masturbation, filmed while she was working with SALT-Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth, a organization she founded to promote Christian sexual morality.
“We have God-given sexual desires and we need to understand them and preserve them in God’s appropriate context,” O’Donnell says in the clip. She also points to the bible’s teaching on lust to make the point that self-pleasure distorts what she sees as God’s plan for sexuality within marriage.
O’Donnell knows her theology. This particular point, that sex is for mutual self-giving in marriage, is familiar to Christian and Catholic teenagers indoctrinated by hours of religion classes examining the fine print on human sexuality. That O’Donnell espoused such beliefs is not unusual; what is unique is her drive to evangelize in such a public forum.
On creationism, O’Donnell’s beliefs, at least as expressed in 1996, mirrored that of some Christian churches who promote creationism over evolution as an explanation for the origin of life on earth.
“Well, creationism, in essence, is believing that the world began as the Bible in Genesis says, that God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods. And there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that,” than evolution, O’Donnell said in a CNN interview.
The now-Catholic O’Donnell’s beliefs on creationism are at odds with her church and pope. Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 addressed the debate between creationism and evolution, insisting: “This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.”
And on abortion, O’Donnell toe the Catholic line. A story on Delaware Online reported that “O’Donnell touts her anti-abortion position, even in cases of incest and rape.” This belief matches official Catholic teaching on abortion, as some Evangelical and Christian churches make exceptions for those extreme cases.
After spending much of her 20s and 30s bringing religious principles to the public forum, O’Donnell now wants to bring her political principles to the United States Senate. Her Democratic opponent, Christopher Coons, has a religion background himself, having obtained a master’s of ethics degree from Yale Divinity School.
Do your candidates religious beliefs factor into your vote? What do you make of O’Donnell’s public statements on religion and morality? Can she transition from a public role of religious evangelist to Delaware Senator?