I didn't like Mike Huckabee's campaign in the Republican primaries, because Huckabee argued, sometimes explicitly, that Christian voters should support him because he's a Christian. I wouldn't have voted for him anyway, but that sealed the point for me. I won't vote for any candidate because of that candidate's faith, or lack thereof. Often, I don't know anything (and don't try to find out) about the religious convictions of the candidates I support. I'm sure I've voted for candidates with a wide range of religious commitments, including some--probably a lot--with no more than nominal religious affiliations, or none at all.
Though you won't read it in the New York Times, I'm pretty sure that most of my fellow Christians follow a similar practice. We vote for and against candidates' political programs, not for and against their religious practice. That is as it should be in a society as religiously diverse as ours is.
But there's a flip side to that proposition. While my faith should never be treated like a job qualification in a political campaign, neither should its absence.
So far, in the press coverage of Sarah Palin, I've seen Palin mocked because (1) she prays and evidently believes that prayer matters, (2) she believes in a God who is actively engaged in this world's affairs, and (3) she wants to be the person God made her to be in the circumstances in which she has been placed. These beliefs and desires are shared by an enormous number of religious believers, and not only Christians. They would be politically problematic if Palin claimed that she knows God's plans, that when she prays God gives her specific instructions about how she should do her job, or that her faith dictates a political program that she is unwilling to disclose. (Even if she believes her faith requires some political stances--how could it not?--that is hardly a problem as long as she is open about her politics. Voters who don't like pro-life candidates can vote against them; the religious or philosophical underpinnings of the relevant candidate's stance shouldn't be dispositive.) But I haven't seen or heard her come close to making any of those claims.
In one talk that Charlie Gibson quoted misleadingly, she made nearly the opposite point: that religious believers should pray not that God would be on our nation's side in wartime, but that our nation would be on the side of a just God--that we would fight for good ends, and use the right means to achieve them.
If an overwhelmingly secular press treats religious beliefs like those as disqualifying in a candidate for political office, a great many Americans will be effectively cast in the role of non-citizens. I hope that isn't the view most of my non-believing friends take. If it is, I'm going to have to rethink my own voting practices.
Obviously, many of us on both sides of