A Thanksgiving week discussion of faith with the GOP presidential field

Chris Carlson AP Rick Santorum, left, Ron Paul. center. and Herman Cain before a Republican presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 18, … Continued

Chris Carlson


Rick Santorum, left, Ron Paul. center. and Herman Cain before a Republican presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, in Las Vegas.

We’re well into the presidential primary election debate season and I suspect that the candidates are as frustrated as those of us in the viewing audience, with “gotcha” questions, testy squabbles, and your-national-defense-strategy-in-30-seconds-please time limits.

Those of us in the social conservative realm have noticed something else-the virtual absence of intelligent and probing questions on the enduring values of faith, family, and society’s responsibilities to its children, both born and preborn. These are the messier and many times controversial issues that derive from the soul and for which sound bites simply won’t do.

That’s why my organization has joined two other social conservative groups to sponsor what we hope will be a different kind of encounter with the candidates. We’re calling it The Thanksgiving Family Forum and we’ll hold the event at First Federated Church – sacred ground, if you will—in Des Moines, on Saturday, Nov. 19, the weekend before Thanksgiving. So far nearly all of the major candidates have confirmed their participation and we are hopeful that all will have done so in the next few days. We’ll also be announcing soon our media partners.

The event is the brainchild of THE FAMiLY LEADER, an Iowa policy organization. Its partners are the National Organization for Marriage and CitizenLink, which is the public policy affiliate of Focus on the Family. Our moderator for the evening will be Frank Luntz, the master of the televised focus group, and his task will be to probe deeper than the usual sound bites and canned replies.

Rather than simply getting the candidates to elucidate a tick-tock of issue positions, he’ll be trying to get to the underlying world view which will motivate a prospective president toward a particular decision on an issue. Rather than dwelling on whether Mormonism is Christian or not, we’ll concede the difference of opinion on that question and start from there. We’d rather know how a candidate’s belief in God impacts his or her view of man, and good and evil, and right and wrong.

To accomplish this, we’ll do without the stopwatch, the Starship Enterprise lecterns and the digitized backdrops. The setting will be as casual as we can make it while still befitting the dignity of the office and the seriousness of the times. If we’re successful, the candidates will be talking to each other more than at each other. If we fail, we’ll only be watching Luntz tearing his hair out trying to make it work. But, we will have tried.

During the depths of the Civil War, President Lincoln said that he had often been driven to his knees by the overwhelming realization that he had absolutely nowhere else to go. As we look to the years ahead, with the monumental challenges we face, many of us will be eager to know that we have a president who is also fortified by a sustaining faith, and we’ll want to know how that belief system will or will not rise in the hour when it is needed most.

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  • persiflage

    It’s always unfortunate that national leaders have to undergo the religion test, when their real world knowledge and ability to lead a vastly complicated country such as the USA appears to be secondary to some kind of committment to archaic, unchanging mythologies that have been supplanted by fact-based knowledge ages ago.

    Relgious beliefs and theologies are essentially unchanging and charged with emotion as opposed to rational and fact-based cognitive processes that are so important in the 21st century, when it comes to problem-solving on a very large scale, and the execution of fair governance for an entire nation.

    More often than not, literalist-based religious beliefs (especially of the fundamentlst and/or evangelical kind) retards the essential qualities needed for high caliber national leaders in a secular government – but of course you can’t tell voters that, now can you??

  • slowe111

    How absolutely EMBARASSING for America!

  • Secular1

    When are we going to have a forum to grill the candidates about their views on the Aesop’s fables? As far as I can tell all morality of the world is synopsized in those fables. It is imperative that we know their views on teh subject.

  • Carstonio

    Looking at the two groups involved, it’s fairly obvious that the “enduring values of faith, family, and society’s responsibilities to its children” is really a deceptive euphemism. These two groups advocate for Christian privilege and male privilege, in particular the idea of male headship of families.

    If they want to make the forum about faith, they should invite participation from a broad spectrum of religious groups. Not just ones like Sojourners that represent other Christian beliefs, but also ones that represent non-Christian faiths.