Rick Santorum, left, Ron Paul. center. and Herman Cain before a Republican presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, in Las Vegas.
We’re well into the presidential primary election debate season and I suspect that the candidates are as frustrated as those of us in the viewing audience, with “gotcha” questions, testy squabbles, and your-national-defense-strategy-in-30-seconds-please time limits.
Those of us in the social conservative realm have noticed something else-the virtual absence of intelligent and probing questions on the enduring values of faith, family, and society’s responsibilities to its children, both born and preborn. These are the messier and many times controversial issues that derive from the soul and for which sound bites simply won’t do.
That’s why my organization has joined two other social conservative groups to sponsor what we hope will be a different kind of encounter with the candidates. We’re calling it The Thanksgiving Family Forum and we’ll hold the event at First Federated Church – sacred ground, if you will—in Des Moines, on Saturday, Nov. 19, the weekend before Thanksgiving. So far nearly all of the major candidates have confirmed their participation and we are hopeful that all will have done so in the next few days. We’ll also be announcing soon our media partners.
The event is the brainchild of THE FAMiLY LEADER, an Iowa policy organization. Its partners are the National Organization for Marriage and CitizenLink, which is the public policy affiliate of Focus on the Family. Our moderator for the evening will be Frank Luntz, the master of the televised focus group, and his task will be to probe deeper than the usual sound bites and canned replies.
Rather than simply getting the candidates to elucidate a tick-tock of issue positions, he’ll be trying to get to the underlying world view which will motivate a prospective president toward a particular decision on an issue. Rather than dwelling on whether Mormonism is Christian or not, we’ll concede the difference of opinion on that question and start from there. We’d rather know how a candidate’s belief in God impacts his or her view of man, and good and evil, and right and wrong.
To accomplish this, we’ll do without the stopwatch, the Starship Enterprise lecterns and the digitized backdrops. The setting will be as casual as we can make it while still befitting the dignity of the office and the seriousness of the times. If we’re successful, the candidates will be talking to each other more than at each other. If we fail, we’ll only be watching Luntz tearing his hair out trying to make it work. But, we will have tried.
During the depths of the Civil War, President Lincoln said that he had often been driven to his knees by the overwhelming realization that he had absolutely nowhere else to go. As we look to the years ahead, with the monumental challenges we face, many of us will be eager to know that we have a president who is also fortified by a sustaining faith, and we’ll want to know how that belief system will or will not rise in the hour when it is needed most.