In Pa. Governor’s race, belief emerges in opposite ways | News, Sports, Jobs

By PETER SMITH Associated Press

CARMICHAELS, Pa. (AP) – In one of the most closely watched races in one of the most competitive battleground states, both gubernatorial candidates bring up religion. But in very different ways.

Republican Doug Mastriano’s campaign exhibits several hallmarks of Christian nationalism, which blends Christian and political imagery, words and ritual and promotes the belief that America was and should be a Christian nation.

Democrat Josh Shapiro, meanwhile, speaks about his Jewish faith in speeches and advertisements and says it inspires him to enter public service while trying to create a classic Democratic coalition of black clergy and other progressive religious groups, including Christians and Jews, and non-Christians – build up Jews. religious.

“My faith grounds me and calls me to public service. I don’t use my faith to make political decisions or exclude others like my opponent does.” Shapiro, current Pennsylvania Attorney General, said in an interview.

Mastriano, a state senator, refused “Christian Nationalist” label, although his political events often have the feel of a church service. He was introduced at a church-sponsored event near Pittsburgh by a pastor who mixed Christian and political imagery: “Get ready for a big red wave of ‘Blood of Jesus’!”

At a campaign event in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, Mastriano stood in front of a church, with an oversized campaign sign and a towering cross in the background.

A pastor, in a common Pentecostal rite, laid his hands on him and asked God for protection.

“We pray that you will give him the courage and strength to face what lies ahead.” said the pastor at the meeting in the Crosspoint Assembly of God. “We pray against the darkness and the enemies that come against him in the spiritual realm.”

Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to emailed requests for an interview. He consistently ignored inquiries from The Associated Press and many other media outlets.

At the recent church event, a campaign worker told a reporter that Mastriano would not answer questions. Mastriano claimed he “observed various media mocking our beliefs” in their coverage of his first victory rally, which was steeped in worship music and Bible quotations. “My campaign has no place for intolerance and bigotry,” he said.

This was contested by Shapiro and others because Mastriano’s campaign paid $5,000 for what was described on a financial disclosure form “Advisory” Services for Gab – a social media site popular with white supremacists and anti-Semites. Authorities say a suspect on Gab signaled his plans for the 2018 massacre of 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue building in Pittsburgh. It was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history.

Mastriano led efforts to get Pennsylvania’s vote overturned for Joe Biden in 2020. He chartered buses to take Pennsylvanians to the outdoor rally that preceded the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot. He passed through, according to a report by the Senate Judiciary Committee “Broken barricades and police lines.”

The two candidates appeal to the contrasting religious and ethnic demographics that have supported each side in recent campaigns such as the 2020 presidential election, when a majority of white Catholics and a large majority of white evangelical Christians voted Republican, while Democrats have strong support resorted to Black Christians, Latino Catholics, Jews, Muslims and people without religion.

Several recent polls have shown that Shapiro has a lead over Mastriano.

A September poll by Franklin & Marshall College suggests that Shapiro and Mastriano circulate even among Protestants and Catholics overall, while Shapiro leads among adherents of either religion. The poll shows Mastriano to be a leader among self-proclaimed born-again or evangelical Christians.

Mastriano has “made no effort to soften” his tough stance on a general election constituency, said John Fea, a history professor at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and author of “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.”

Mastriano takes “Black and White Worldview of Spiritual Warfare” Said Fea. “Anyone who criticizes him is the devil. I don’t mean that metaphorically. He genuinely believes they are working for the cause of evil. … That’s what makes him so dangerous.”

Still, some evangelicals “may be disgusted by his (Mastriano’s) Christian nationalism, but can’t imagine voting for a Prochoice candidate like Shapiro.” Said Fea.

He said Shapiro seemed to contrast his broader view of religious freedom in a heterogeneous population with Mastriano’s narrower one. Shapiro has criticized Mastriano’s statement “All religions are not the same.”

A Pew Research Center report released Thursday said that 45% of American adults polled and 67% of Republican-leaning people believed the United States “should be a Christian nation” although fewer want the federal government to formally declare itself Christian.

Mastriano spends much of his blunt speeches denouncing the rise in crime, the incumbent Democratic government’s COVID-19 restrictions and the participation of transgender athletes in girls’ sports. He has made the absolute ban on abortion a top priority.

said Shapiro “My office is dedicated to protecting legal access to abortion in our Commonwealth,” where it is allowed up to the 23rd week of pregnancy.

Each candidate attracts supporters with a shared understanding of the role of religion.

At Carmichaels Church, Mastriano addressed a small but enthusiastic crowd on a September morning.

“I like the fact that he’s being encouraged to express our religious values ​​and our freedoms in the Bill of Rights.” said Steven Grugin of Dunkard Township. speaking in a church “tells people he’s very pro-freedom of speech and freedom of religion.” he said.

Rev. Marshall Mitchell, senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Abington, Pa., who has known Shapiro for years, said Shapiro “feels as comfortable in a Black Baptist church as in a conservative school, temple, or mosque.” said Mitchel. “He sees the common humanity, which he believes has its origin in God.”


The Associated Press’s religion coverage is supported by AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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