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(RNS) — Democratic presidential candidates have talked a lot about God this year, but are they willing to debate the divine?
In years past, the prospect of Democratic candidates discussing faith in the course of a presidential debate would be far-fetched. But the 2020 campaign season has already produced an atypical amount of God-talk on the campaign trail, and the first Democratic presidential debate Wednesday (June 26) on MSNBC has the potential of breaking into an open competition for religious voters.
Wednesday - Half - Field - Candidates - Thursday
In Wednesday’s half of the primary field — 10 more candidates will debate on Thursday — are Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
They represent perhaps the most eclectic group of faith backgrounds in presidential campaign history, with a Hindu (Gabbard), a Mexican American Catholic (Castro) and, in Booker, someone who grew up in the black church.
Candidates - Volubility - Faith - Matters - Debate
But it is tonight’s candidates’ volubility about faith matters that makes the first debate likely to get interesting if religion comes up. Here are a few ways that it might:
Booker-Warren Bible battle?
Candidate - Conversation - Booker - History - Language
The candidate mostly likely to initiate a spiritual conversation is probably Booker, who has a long history of weaving spiritual language into his speeches and political rhetoric. He has infused his presidential campaign with a message rooted in love and “civic grace.”
He even made a Bible reference during his speech before the South Carolina Democratic Party last week, when he invoked the Book of Genesis, citing a passage where people discuss killing the “dreamer.”
Referendum - Dream - Booker - Baptist - Church
“This is a referendum on the dream!” Booker, who attends a Baptist church in New Jersey, shouted...
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