Religion News Service: Every election cycle an elaborate courtship ritual goes on between political candidates and clergy. Watch for it in 2016.
Candidates seek out major clergy (and denominational officials, and activists, etc.) to…help validate their candidacies; (appear to) seek advice; appeal to certain constituencies; reach large in-person audiences; get pictures taken with them.
Clergy seek out major candidates to…help validate the clergyperson as a big-time leader; offer advice to candidates; pray with them; endorse or quasi-endorse them; get pictures taken with them.
It is an interesting question to ask, as James Davison Hunter did in his groundbreaking 1991 book, Culture Wars, who is using whom? Who is gaining more from these transactions, the candidates or the clergy?
And the rest of us should ask: is this good for our politics? Is it good for our religion? Are there any boundaries here?
I’ll admit it. I’m a clergyman who has been courted by a candidate. Barack Obama courted me in 2007-2008. He wrote me what appeared to be a personal letter. I later responded favorably to invitations from his religious outreach team. They invited me to the 2008 Democratic Convention. I spoke on a panel there.