Tim Pawlenty's megachurch ties examined by National Journal

Is Tim Pawlenty the George W. Bush of the 2012 presidential election cycle, thanks to his ties to conservative Christian evangelical churches?

Not compared to the way Bush wore his born-again faith on his shirtsleeve in front of any and all audiences, and conflated his faith with patriotism and war. But Pawlenty's ties to that wing of American religious life are intriguing, reports the National Journal. Maybe he has more in common with Mike Huckabee:

Though he generally takes an understated approach to his religion on the trail, Pawlenty is a member of the Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, MN, a non-denominational Christian church whose pastor, Leith Anderson, also happens to be pres. of the 30M-member National Association of Evangelicals. Pawlenty, who was raised Roman Catholic, became an evangelical Christian in '87 when he married his wife, Mary, with Anderson presiding. Mary Pawlenty -- herself a well-known figure in MN's evangelical community -- remains active as a trustee at her alma mater, Bethel College, a conservative evangelical school just outside the Twin Cities.

This background rarely, if ever, finds its way into Pawlenty's stump speech. The MN gov. and RGA vice chair spends ample time detailing his blue-collar upbringing in the meatpacking town of South St. Paul, the son of a truck driver and a housewife. In detailing his 4 principles for conservatives to follow, he notes that the first is that "God's in charge." But by and large, his remarks to party faithful usually center on fiscal restraint and the need for the GOP to become the party of "Sam's Club Republicans" rather than on social issues.

Pawlenty's God talk did, of course, make its way into Minnesota politics recently when a number of faith leaders hammered him for talking about how God was in charge as he campaigned forr Republicans out of state, while at the same time attempting to shutter the state's health care program for the poor. Here was Grant Stevensen, pastor at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in St. Paul, during that legislative conflict:

Governor please, stop talking to us about God. The governor is going around saying 'God is in control.' We elected you. We elected you to be making decisions for this state that will help everyone in this state. Things that will lift up the poorest in this state. Don't pass this on to God. That's no God we've ever heard of.

And please stop lecturing us about God. It's offensive. The only God we're aware of is the one who says 'If you want to follow me, you'll look our for the widows, and the orphans, for the fatherless, for the poorest in the land.' Please stop talking to us about God. It's offensive. We can't take it.

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