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At a January 1994 ceremony in Richmond, Virginia, to honor "Religious Freedom Day," Al Gore summarized his faith: "Like Jefferson, I believe that God is too powerful and mysterious to be contained within the rigid orthodoxy of any religious faith." As he has emerged from the lengthening shadows of the Clinton administration, Gore's ever-changing public persona has been the butt of talk-show comedy acts and has fogged his identity in opinion polls. But when it comes to religion, Gore seems to have settled comfortably into a progressive variation of Christianity. Christianity Today's interviews with close associates of Gore reveal a man driven to master his world internally and externally, and a politician who approaches public office with the pious vigor of a clergyman.

Always do right

From early childhood, Gore was conditioned to be spiritually bicultural. The Southern Baptist world in rural Tennessee rarely intersected with urban Washington, D.C., and its religiously elite Episcopalians. But the Gore family mastered both environments. Gore absorbed a stiff-upper-lip moralism at the select Episcopalian St. Albans School for boys on the grounds of the National Cathedral. Its spiritual leader, Canon Charles Martin, preached to his boys to always "choose the hard right over the easy wrong."Gore's capacity for self-discipline was remarkable even by the standards of St. Albans. "It was almost unnatural for a boy to be that well-behaved," recalls John C. Davis, a sacred-studies teacher. When the St. Albans bus broke down on a science field trip in 1958, many of the boys took a respite by running around in open fields. Gore approached science teacher Alexander Haslam, asking, "Sir, is this the time to be rowdy?" The boy's self-control ...

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October 23, 2000

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