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Kerry campaign muzzles religion outreach director as New York Times columnist urges religion talk

David Brooks is supposedly The New York Times op-ed page's conservative columnist in a sea of more left-leaning writers. But in today's column, he notes, "Bush has had the worst year of any president since Nixon in 1973 or L.B.J. in 1968." So why isn't John Kerry dominating the polls?

"One big reason," says Brooks, is that Kerry's campaign is too secular:

Clinton seems to understand, as many Democrats do not, that a politician's faith isn't just about litmus test issues like abortion or gay marriage. Many people just want to know that their leader, like them, is in the fellowship of believers. Their president doesn't have to be a saint, but he does have to be a pilgrim. He does have to be engaged, as they are, in a personal voyage toward God. … If Democrats are not seen as religious, they will be seen as secular Ivy League liberals, and they will lose. John Kerry doesn't seem to get this. Many of the people running the Democratic Party don't get it either.

Instead, he says, Democrats are busy shoring up their base—the secular left, which is united "more than anything else [by] a strong antipathy to pro-lifers and fundamentalists." The secularist ranks are growing, so it makes some political sense to do this, Brooks says. But "just as Republicans have to appeal to religious conservatives but move beyond them, Democrats have to appeal to the secular left but also build a bridge to religious moderates."

Brooks seems to have missed Friday's Washington Times story by Julia Duin, which reports that Kerry's advisers—including Catholic priests—are telling him to stop talking about religion.

Jesuit priest Robert Drinan ...

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Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's managing editor for news and online journalism. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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