John Kerry on Faith

KIM LAWTON: Two years ago, when Senator John Kerry ran for president, many religious Democrats were disappointed that he didn’t speak more directly about his Catholic faith and how that faith influences his politics. This week, he made that speech.

At Pepperdine University in California, John Kerry outlined his vision of how faith can—and should—play a role in public life. Quoting frequently from the New Testament, he described how his Roman Catholic beliefs shape many of his policy positions, and he suggested a moral agenda he believes many people of faith can share.

Senator JOHN KERRY (in speech at Pepperdine University): I lay out these four great challenges—fighting poverty and disease, taking care of the earth, reducing abortions, and fighting only just wars—as godly tasks on which we can transcend the culture wars and actually reach common ground.

LAWTON: In the speech, he also gave the most detailed and personal account to date of his own spiritual journey. He told me it has been difficult for him to talk about these things.

Sen. KERRY: What I found was that if you don’t explain what your foundation is, and you don’t share with the people the fullness of how you come to whatever faith it is you have or don’t have, then people fill in the gaps for you, and that’s even more dangerous.

LAWTON: He spoke of a long time of searching after he had lost the faith of his youth. I asked him to describe the spiritual revelation that he says brought him back some years ago.

Sen. KERRY: It was tangible. I mean, you could really sense a kind of input that really surprised me. I don’t know where it came from. You know, people can describe how those things come. It really changed how I was thinking about myself and God and my relationship to the church, and answers came that hadn’t been there previously.

LAWTON: He now describes his faith as “very real.”

Sen. KERRY: You know, I still sometimes question certain things. It’s just my nature. I can sometimes be a little more linear. But the test of reason and faith is an ongoing test. But it’s very real with me. The fundamentals are there, and there’s a confidence about it. The certain certainty that comes with you—maybe it’s something that happens with age, maybe it’s something that comes with the spirit. But whatever it is, it’s a good feeling.