Skip to comments.Dean Narrowing Separation of Church and Stump; Invokes Muslim Phrases; Claims Biblical Knowledge
Posted on 01/03/2004 6:23:24 PM PST by nwrep
STORM LAKE, Iowa, Jan. 3 Little by little, the Lord is seeping into Howard Dean's presidential campaign.
In South Carolina the other day, an invocation preceded the political speeches, and David Mack, a state legislator, closed the rally with "God bless you and keep you." In Iowa last weekend, Dr. Dean referred to the New Testament. On Friday in New Hampshire, he invoked a Muslim phrase, "inshallah," God willing, to make a point about Americans believing they control their destiny.
"I'm still learning a lot about faith and the South and how important it is," Dr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont, said as he flew here, 150 miles northwest of Des Moines, Friday night on his chartered jet, predicting he would mention God more and more in the coming weeks. "It doesn't make me more religious or less religious than I was before, but it means that I'm willing to talk about it in different ways."
Dr. Dean recently told an audience in Iowa that he prayed daily. On the plane he declined to detail his prayer ritual but described how a 2002 trip to Israel deepened his understanding of the connections between Judaism and Christianity. He named Job as his favorite New Testament book, then later corrected himself, noting that it is in the Old Testament.
"I'm a New Englander, so I'm not used to wearing religion on my sleeve and being as open about it," he said. "I'm gradually getting more comfortable with talking about religion in ways that I did not talk about it before."
The changes come amid concern from several corners about the stridently secular tone of his campaign so far. In contrast to his Democratic opponents, who frequently discuss their faith in public, not to mention the born-again incumbent, President Bush, Dr. Dean said plainly in an interview a couple of months back: "I don't think that religion ought to be part of American policy."
A cover story in The New Republic last month, headlined "Howard Dean's religion problem," called him "one of the most secular candidates to run for president in modern history," and suggested this would "mark him as culturally alien to much of the country." A rash of columns followed with similar warnings, and voters have begun to inquire about the issue at town hall meetings.
"I'm pretty religious," he responded the other day in Waterloo, Iowa. "I pray every day, but I'm from New England, so I just keep it to myself.
"Don't you think Jerry Falwell reminds you a lot more of the Pharisees than he does of the teachings of Jesus?" he added. "And don't you think this campaign ought to be about evicting the money-changers from the temple?"
Dr. Dean grew up spending Sundays in an Episcopal church, and attended religious boarding school, but became a Congregationalist after the Episcopal church he belonged to in Burlington, Vt., refused to yield land for a bike path around Lake Champlain that he championed. His wife is Jewish and their children observe both traditions, though the family stopped attending services years ago after scolding sermons about once-a-year attendees.
The campaign has brought Dr. Dean back to the pews, clapping along with hymns in African-American churches from Harlem to San Francisco. At a Hanukkah party for his staff last month in Manchester, N.H., Dr. Dean proudly chanted the blessing over the candles in well-accented Hebrew and then repeated it for an Israeli television crew.
During the interview Friday night, Dr. Dean said he was moved during a tour of the Old City in Jerusalem when his guide pointed out half a house next to a stone wall that King Hezekiah had ordered built to defend against invaders. In a neighboring house, "you can sit on the third floor and you can pray, and you look out the window and you look down at the wall and the house and understand that 3,000 years ago people prayed the same prayers in the same language," Dr. Dean said. "Now that's an extraordinary thing that happens when you go to Israel."
Touring with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Dr. Dean also visited Galilee, where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. "If you know much about the Bible which I do to see and be in a place where Christ was and understand the intimate history of what was going on 2,000 years ago is an exceptional experience," he said.
Asked his favorite New Testament book, Dr. Dean named Job, adding: "But I don't like the way it ends." "Some would argue, you know, in some of the books of the New Testament, the ending of the Book of Job is different," he said. "I think, if I'm not mistaken, there's one book where there's a more optimistic ending, which we believe was tacked on later."
Job, the Old Testament story of a righteous man who suffers hardships as a test of his faith, ends with the Lord restoring his fortunes and the protagonist living to be "an old man, and full of days." Some scholars have posited that the original ending may have been more dour.
An hour after his comments, Dr. Dean returned to the clutch of reporters, saying he realized he had misspoken because Job is not in the New Testament.
"Many people believe that the original version of Job is the version where there is not a change, Job ends up completely destitute and ruined," he said. "It's been a long time since I looked at this, but it's believed that was added much, much later. Many people believe that the original ending was about the power of God and the power of God was almighty and all knowing and it wasn't necessary that everybody was going to be redeemed."
Asked again about his favorite part of the New Testament, Dr. Dean said, "Anything in the Gospels."
His press secretary, Doug Thornell, telephoned late Friday night to say that Dr. Dean did not mean to imply he was some kind of expert.
"He obviously has read the Bible and knows the passages fairly well," Mr. Thornell said, "but just in terms of having a theologian's knowledge of the Bible, he doesn't want to pass on the impression that he does."
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Give this guy enough rope and he'll hang the entire Democratic party for the next twenty years.
LOL!!!! I laughed my head off. Yeah, right! He really knows his Bible!!!!
In that intervening hour, I can just see his staff saying:
No, Boss, we told you OLD, OLD!!!
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