What does a candidate's faith tell you about that person? And why does it matter?
President Obama and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney answer those e-mailed questions for Rev. Francis Wade, interim dean of the Washington National Cathedral, that great church on a city hill where the nation has mourned for and prayed with national leaders for nearly a century.
In the newest issue of the quarterly magazine, Cathedral Age,both candidates say their faith in God sustains and guides them, that faith has a role to play in the American public square, and that service to others -- motivated by faith -- is one of the great contributions of religious groups to the life of the nation.
Despite numerous times that Obama has spoken of his committed Christian faith, some Americans still doubt his religion or, incorrectly, view him as a Muslim. Obama's answer to that is frank:
"I have a job to do as president, and that does not involve convincing folks that my faith in Jesus is legitimate and real. Faith can express itself in people in many ways, and I think it is important that we not make faith alone a barometer of a person's worth, value, or character."
And Romney, a former bishop in his Mormon church, used the questions to reiterate his Christian faith in Jesus -- just in case any conservative evangelicals are still thrown off by the very different understanding of the Trinity that Mormons hold.
Romney says that more important than a religious label is whether someone seeking office, "... shares these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty. They are not unique to any one denomination."
Neither men take faith as a trivial personal matter, "like collecting stamps or riding bikes," says Wade.
For our nation to pretend that the beliefs of our president are a matter of indifference is an absurdity that ill serves us.
Neither do they confine their understanding of religious orthodoxy to those who "agree with me," he says.
Wade writes in an introductory essay:
Long-standing issues of contraception, abortion, sexuality, re-distribution of wealth, stewardship of the environment, and health care, as well as public and private debt, combine to produce a nearly perfect storm of fear, judgment, and negativity.
And we appear all to willing, Wade writes, to set ourselves up as "the jury on judgment day"
The candidates' answers are variations on the same themes.
Isaiah 40:31 and Psalm 46 for Obama; Matthew 25:35-36 for Romney, who has yet to cite the Book of Mormon directly in this campaign.
And both agree, the commitment to love and to serve transcends denominations and that is faith's gift to public life.
Obama: Faith motivates people to do incredibly compassionate and good work that helps our nation thrive.
Romney: Words and symbols of faith "should be welcome in public spaces."
However, each does veer a tad to potentially controversial areas.
Romney says "Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our Constitution rests." (Take that to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.)
Romney also says:
Clearly, the boundaries between church and state must be respected, but there is a large space in which faith-based organizations can do good for the community in which they serve. In recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning.
And Obama, after touting the accomplishments of his Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership, and linkups with non-profits and private sector groups to see best practices for service, mentions working with faith communities to fight human trafficking and care for survivors.
Hmmm. The Catholic Church is still riled because the Obama administration, backed by the courts, cut off funding to a Catholic group with a long history of working with trafficking survivors because the Church would not provide access or information on abortion or contraception to victims.