By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Mitt Romney’s commencement speech at Liberty University on Saturday may be a significant moment for the presumptive Republican nominee’s relationship with the evangelical community, but Democrats are not ready to give up the powerful voting bloc and are even trying to use this weekend’s speech to draw a distinction with Romney.
In what was billed as a prebuttal to the commencement address, the Democratic National Committee’s faith outreach director, the Rev. Derrick Harkins, said in a Friday conference call with reporters that President Barack Obama could make inroads with the evangelical community.
“The realties of 2008 point to the fact that we made significant gains among younger evangelicals,” Harkins said. “We seek to do that very thing [again] because we are speaking to the issues that resonate with individuals and certainly younger evangelicals.”
According to Harkins, issues like poverty, immigration and health care are important to evangelical voters, and he believes the president’s stance on these issues will win him votes.
We asked a couple of Christian college presidents to give some unsolicited advice to Mitt Romney ahead of his commencement speech at Liberty University on Saturday. The school, founded by Jerry Falwell, will offer Romney a big "evangelical moment." Here's how the leaders responded:
Philip Ryken is president of Wheaton College.
Good leaders put other people first. So I would encourage Romney to see this commencement address more as an opportunity to serve the students of Liberty University than as a chance to advance his presidential campaign.
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – After the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. first gained wide public recognition in the mid-1950s, he made a special request to evangelist Billy Graham.
King was poised to join Graham on one of his barnstorming crusades, but he would do so only on one condition. He asked Graham to publicly speak out against segregation, a request Graham declined, says San Diego State University historian Edward Blum.
“What Graham feared was losing all of his influence,” Blum says. “For him, personal salvation was primary, justice secondary. For King, justice was primary.”
After President Obama this week became the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage, black clergy and churchgoers could be facing a question that's similar to the one that fractured King and Graham: Should my ideas about personal holiness trump my notion of justice?
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
The New York Times reports this week that gays and lesbians are now commonplace on hit television shows. But Christians are coming out of the closet and onto our television sets, too.
“Glee” may feature a gay couple (Kurt and Blaine), a lesbian couple (Santana and Brittany), and a transgender character (Unique), but it also includes the God Squad, a group of Christians that meet in school and struggle with the demands of their faith.
On the first season of “The Glee Project,” a reality show that trolls for talent to feature on “Glee,” actor Samuel Larsen won a seven-episode role in part because of a tattoo on his chest quoting from Psalm 18 (“I will love thee O Lord my strength”). Larsen, who also sports long dreadlocks, obviously has that elusive “it” factor, but one reason he won "The Glee Project" was that "Glee" executive producer Ryan Murphy wanted to feature a Christian character on the show.
By Laura Koran, CNN
Here's the Belief Blog’s morning rundown of the top faith-angle stories from around the United States and around the world. Click the headlines for the full stories.
From the Blog:
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have starkly different views on gay marriage and other social issues.
CNN: More ways social issues and religion will shape 2012 election (besides same-sex marriage)
Everyone knows the 2012 presidential race is about jobs and the economy. As likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney said a couple weeks ago: “It’s still about the economy, and we’re not stupid.” But have you noticed how the culture wars keep intruding into this it’s-all-about-the-economy election?
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.