US News: The Anti-Social Campaign

Hispanic Christians were eager to hear from the leading presidential candidates as they gathered in California last weekend.

Hillary Clinton, in a video, talked first about how her faith has directed her life – but mentioned nothing of her well-known support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Donald Trump, reading from a piece of paper as he flew on his private plane, made no mention of religion at all in his footage, instead making broad promises to lower unemployment and cut taxes.

The crowd was silent after Trump’s video finished, recalls the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, founder of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which hosted the summit. Then a group leader stood up and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe it’s time to pray.” The crowd chuckled, then prayed, recalls Rodriguez, who also serves on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals.

And “boy, do we ever need a prayer,” Rodriguez adds.

If the emerging 2016 general election rhetoric continues as it has been going, Rodriguez is right. With self-described faith-driven candidates out of the race, there has been little talk on the trail of signature issues such as abortion, sexuality and gender identity, and religious liberty. And while the culture wars are evident in state legislatures and to some degree, in Congress, they are not being waged in the contest for president, perplexing some faith-motivated voters used to factoring candidates’ social agendas into their decisions.

Clinton has spoken and written at length about her Methodist faith, and how it has spurred her to seek social justice. But on the campaign trail, she does not routinely discuss religion. She does mention two hot-button social issues – abortion rights and gun control – but those matters have taken a backseat in a campaign focused on experience, the economy and inclusion of America’s many demographic groups.

And while Republican candidates routinely have played the God card in both primaries and general elections, Trump has been an anomaly. Thrice married, the casino-owning Trump has in the past talked openly about his extramarital affairs and dalliances with women. Soon after launching his presidential campaign, he described his practice of Communion to Iowa voters by saying, “When we go in church and I drink the little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and I eat the little cracker – I guess that’s a form of asking forgiveness.”

“It’s obviously a different moment, isn’t it?” says Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, musing about the 2016 campaign. “Neither one of the candidates has much of an affinity for speaking on those issues.”

Read more at The Anti-Social Campaign.