Southern Baptist Convention official Richard Land has a few words of advice for secularists: "The country has made the decision that they want more faith in the public square.” That is the premise of Land's message these days as the U.S. presidential election approaches. He said the recent civil forum at pastor and author Rick Warren's Saddleback Church is an example of how important faith has become to many Americans. After all, Land said, who would have thought that the two presumptive presidential nominees would attend a pre-party convention discussion at a church — one with Southern Baptist roots, no less? "I must say I am genetically programmed to be an optimist, but even I, in my wildest dreams, could not have imagined that in 2008 the only post-debate forum would be at a Southern Baptist church and be moderated by a Southern Baptist preacher,” Land said while visiting Oklahoma City this week. He is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Land said the forum, held Saturday in Lake Forest, Calif. (and aired online and on several cable TV networks) exceeded expectations for most people, and helped prove that "most Americans want to bring their religious convictions to bear on public policy.” Such statements are reminders of why Tony Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, dubbed Land the "consummate culture warrior.” Leaders with the Capitol Baptist Association of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma said they hosted Land's two presentations to give Oklahoma Southern Baptists an opportunity to visit with someone knowledgeable about the intersection of politics and religion. In an interview with The Oklahoman, Land said it is obvious that faith has become more and more important to Americans. Land said he is encouraging evangelicals to vote based on their moral convictions and not necessarily their thoughts about the economy. "They need to make certain they are informed and know where their candidates stand on the issues,” he said. "Your convictions and values should override your narrow economic standards.” The major issue for evangelicals during this election year is life — a person's right to life, Land said. Thus, evangelicals are taking keen interest in candidates' views on abortion, he said. The second big issue is traditional marriage, defined as marriage between a man and a woman, he said. With 61 percent of Americans saying religion is very important to them, according to a recent TIME magazine poll, Land predicted that voters will take their beliefs about morality and values into the voters' booths.
Forum commentaryGo online to Beliefnet.com for commentary on the recent civil forum at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. An interview with Warren, Saddleback's pastor and author of "The Purpose-Driven Life,” also is featured on the site's "God-o-Meter” blog, found under the site's "Politics and News” section. Also new is the faith-themed Web site's blog or "blogalogue” titled "Lynn v. Sekulow: Politics, Religion and the Public Square,” also found under the site's "Politics and News” section. It features a discussion about the role faith and religion play in politics. Discussing the issue are Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a law firm and educational organization focused on protecting religious freedom, American families and human life, and the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.