The Candidates on Faith

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Christopher Morris / VII for TIME; Adam Nadel / Polaris

Presidential candidates Sen. John McCain, left, and Barack Obama, right

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BARACK OBAMA: Changing Hearts and Minds

I began my Christian journey over 20 years ago, as a young man fresh out of college. And since that time I've been serious not only about deepening my relationship with Christ but also about the way that all Americans can live together in our diverse, pluralistic society.

I think there are some lessons that Americans from all political persuasions might learn in this regard, lessons that I take to heart each day. We have to start by remembering the role that values play in addressing some of our most urgent social problems. As I've said many times, the problems of poverty and war, the uninsured and the unemployed aren't simply technical problems in search of a 10-point plan. They're rooted in societal indifference and individual callousness — in the imperfections of man.

For example, I believe in tough law enforcement and commonsense gun laws to keep our children safe from an epidemic of violence. But I also believe that when a gangbanger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, that's not just a government problem — it's a moral problem. There's a hole in that young man's heart. Solving problems like this will require changes in government policy, but it will also require a change in hearts and a change in minds. That's a lesson that friends of mine like Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop T.D. Jakes know well.

I also think we must remember that there are a range of moral-values issues that must be addressed in our families, our communities and our government. My values speak to the 47 million Americans suffering without health care, the care of soldiers and civilians in Iraq and veterans back home, the expanse of God's creation that is warming day by day, the single mothers struggling to provide for their families and the fathers who are too often absent from the scene. I don't believe we should ignore the debate over traditional "values issues" at the expense of these other moral challenges. But we can't just talk about "family values." We actually have to stand up for policies that value families.

I hope we'll get into these tough topics and others at Saddleback. The next President will have to lead Americans of all religious and secular backgrounds and will navigate a range of tough values issues. I would be honored to have that weighty opportunity, and I hope to continue this conversation in the months to come.

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