Faith Factor: Dems Discuss Religion, Values

Clinton, Obama and Edwards to participate in rare forum on faith.

ByABC News
June 4, 2007, 1:23 PM

June 4, 2007— -- The evangelical minister hosting Monday's discussion of faith, values and poverty with Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former North Carolina Democratic Sen. John Edwards sees 2008 as a turning point for faith-based progressives.

"I think the 2008 election will be dramatically different from the 2004 election in relationship to issues of faith and values," the Rev. Jim Wallis told ABC News. "The Democratic front-runners are all people who are clearly more comfortable in church as people of faith -- relating their faith to politics -- than the top Republican front-runners."

Wallis is the author of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" and the founder of Sojourners, the largest national network of progressive Christians.

He describes himself in his writings as an advocate of a "new moral politics" that "transcends" the "old categories" of both the "secular left" and the "religious right."

In an e-mail to supporters sent just hours before the start of his 7 p.m. EDT forum with the Democratic Party's top-three presidential contenders, Wallis wrote, "There are very few moments when we have the opportunity to turn the eyes of the nation away from the three-ring circus that our electoral process resembles and on to the concerns of those whom Jesus called the 'least of these.' Tonight is one of those moments."

Rather than invite all eight Democratic presidential candidates to Monday's discussion at George Washington University, Wallis decided to limit the invitation list to Clinton, Obama and Edwards, in order to foster a "more thoughtful, deeper, reflective" conversation among those candidates who he thinks have a realistic chance of winning their party's nomination.

"You can imagine the Democratic front-runners knowing the psalms in church, knowing when to clap at the right time and knowing what comes next in the service," Wallis told ABC News, "and the Republican front-runners kind of squirming awkwardly and, you know, not knowing the music and clapping at the wrong time, and looking at their watch to see when the service gets finished."