In an interview published by the Washington National Cathedral, President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney answered new questions about their personal faiths, favorite Scripture passages, and religious diversity in public life.
Both candidates agreed that their personal faiths help ground their convictions and their politics. They also agreed that faith motivates citizens to act in love and service to society. But their answers differed when they described the exact form that action takes.
Cathedral Age: How does faith play a role in your life?
President Obama: First and foremost, my Christian faith gives me a perspective and security that I don't think I would have otherwise: That I am loved. That, at the end of the day, God is in control – and my main responsibility is to love God with all of my heart, soul and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself. Now, I don't always live up to that standard, but it is a standard I am always pursuing.
My faith is also a great source of comfort to me. I've said before that my faith has grown as president. This office tends to make a person pray more; and as President Lincoln once said, "I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go."
Finally, I try to make sure that my faith informs how I live my life. As a husband, as a father, and as president, my faith helps me to keep my eyes on the prize and focus on what is good and truly important.
Governor Romney: Faith is integral to my life. I have served as a lay pastor in my church. I faithfully follow its precepts. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. My father was committed to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s cause of equality, and I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby and in leading national volunteer movements. My faith is grounded in the conviction that a consequence of our common humanity is our responsibility to one another – to our fellow Americans foremost, but also to every child of God.
Both candidates have faced questions regarding their personal faiths throughout their campaigns. Critics have attacked Obama for his purportedly Muslim beliefs, while Romney's Mormon faith - about which he has not been vocal - has raised questions of its own.
The magazine offered both candidates the opportunity to respond to critics who "question the sincerity of your faith." Obama defended his beliefs as "Christian," saying "I have a job to do as president, and that does not involve convincing folks that my faith in Jesus is legitimate and real." He cited Isaiah 40:31 and Psalm 46 as scriptural passages that offer him encouragement.
Meanwhile, Romney emphasized his belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and noted, "Every religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These should not be bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance." He quoted Matthew 25:35-36 in the King James Version, which states, "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me." Romney has yet to quote the Book of Mormon in his campaign.
According to Cathedral Age, both candidates received the same questions and emailed their responses, which were printed in the quarterly magazine in full.
CT has previously written on how Christians think about President Obama's faith, as well as on why Romney's Mormonism does matter.