Howard Dean's biblical adventures

Published February 12, 2005 12:02AM (EST)

Different Democrats do different things well, and talking like a Christian hasn't always been Howard Dean's strong suit. During the presidential race, Dean was asked to identify his favorite book of the New Testament. He named the Book of Job, which is in the Old Testament.

Dean would tell people that he prayed every day, but that as a New Englander he wasn't used to wearing his faith on his sleeve. "I'm still learning a lot about faith and the South and how important it is," he told the New York Times in January 2004. "It doesn't make me more religious or less religious than I was before, but it means that I'm willing to talk about it in different ways."

He's still talking about, but it doesn't seem to come any easier to him. Making the rounds of the DNC caucuses today, Dean argued that Democrats can't cede religious voters to Republicans. But he stumbled along the way when it came to matters biblical. He could never quite get his mouth around that line from Matthew about the rich man and the camel and the eye of the needle. And while his meaning was clear, we're not sure what authority Dean was citing when he said that Republicans get "two points" from the New Testament while Democrats "get about 25."

John Kerry, who was himself not particularly at ease in religious venues, liked to talk about the emptiness of faith without "deeds" to back it up. That's clearly what Dean was getting at today as he lambasted Republicans for deeds that harm children, the poor and the least able to help themselves. "I don't want to hear any lectures about Christian values from the Republican Party," he said. "They are the Pharisees and the Sadducees."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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