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Dr. Dean has been telling the press and the public that he now intends to talk about his faith. The announcement caught the media off balance as Dean announced that he would now claim a Christian identity and mention Jesus on the campaign trail. As one might expect, there is a good deal more to this story, and it reveals as much about the American political scene as about Howard Dean.
A former governor of Vermont, Dr. Dean first made his announcement in an interview with the Boston Globe. In the interview, Dean described himself as a committed believer in Jesus Christ and said that he would "include references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he stumps in the South." This came as a shock to the newspaper. Reporter Sarah Schweitzer responded with an understatement: "The move is striking for a man who has steadfastly kept his personal life out of the campaign, rarely offering biographical information, much less his religious beliefs." In reality, Gov. Dean's religious convictions are so private, even he doesn't seem to know what they are.
Howard Dean has run as one of the most secular candidates in the history of American presidential politics. In previous statements, Dean has explained that he does not attend church very often and does not allow his faith to inform his public policy. "My religion doesn't inform my public policy," Dean once explained. Dean also told ABC News commentator George Stephanopoulos that his religious convictions have "nothing" to do with his political career.
In a previous statement Dean simply summarized his personal separation of church and state: "My faith doesn't inform my public policy." Like John F. Kennedy, Dean could have argued that his faith doesn't determine his public policy. But Gov. Dean went far further, arguing that his faith doesn't even inform his public policy.
Dean also said that he doesn't like the way the book ends, apparently thinking that the book leaves Job in torment and despair. When reminded that the book of Job is found in the Old Testament and that Job is returned to health, family, and prosperity, Dean claimed that there are various versions of Job: "It's been a long time since I looked at this, but it's believed that was added much, much later. Many people believe that the original ending was about the power of God and the power of God was almighty and all knowing and it wasn't necessary that everybody was going to be redeemed." There is simply no intelligent response to this gibberish.
(Now, about the above: some scholars do suggest that the "happy ending" of Job was added later. And I also don't like the way Job ends, because I think giving Job everything back is sort of a cheat. But that's a discussion for another day.)