The Governor Speaks From a New Pulpit

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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 3, 2007

RICHMOND

When Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine ran for election in 2005, he campaigned as a Democrat who wasn't afraid to talk about his religious beliefs.

"I'm a person of faith, and here's who I am, and you're entitled to know who I am because you ought to know about me, what's important to me," Kaine, a devout Catholic, said in a Washington Post interview that year.

Kaine's victory over Republican Jerry W. Kilgore caused the national media and political pundits to take notice. Could Kaine, who won a year after President Bush was reelected because of strong support from Americans who regularly attend church, hold the formula for Democrats to reach out to "values voters," especially in the South?

During his first year in office, Kaine offered few clues on the role religion would play in shaping his image.

But after the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech, Kaine seems to have perfected the political art of connecting with religious voters, even though he maintains strong ties to the socially liberal, and somewhat secular, base of the Democratic Party.

A day after the shootings, Kaine delivered what many describe as a masterful speech at Virginia Tech's convocation service to honor the victims. Kaine, quoting the Bible, counseled the students that it was okay for them to grieve. He referenced the story of Job, who lost his livestock, servants and 10 children on the same day.

"He was angry at his Creator," Kaine said of Job. "He argued with God and he didn't lose his faith. It's okay to argue. It's okay to be angry. Those emotions are natural."

Kaine's speech caught the attention of the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., a megachurch that broadcasts to an estimated 20 million television viewers every Sunday.

Schuller, an early leader in the modern evangelical movement, had Kaine speak via video during his televised "Hour of Power" service April 22. For 10 minutes, Kaine, as Schuller referred to it, had his own "sermon time."

Kaine spoke about a missionary trip he took to Honduras in the early 1980s to teach at a Jesuit school. The trip, Kaine said, helped shape his Catholic beliefs and has guided his response to the Tech tragedy.

"I think that humans understand that God sent Jesus to Earth, not just to teach us more about how to be good," Kaine said. "But He also sent Jesus to Earth so He could draw closer to us, so He could understand human suffering and what a comfort it is to know that our Creator has also experienced the loss of his only child, and that can make us very close together in times of grief and sadness."


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