Down Ticket in Indy

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Elrod.jpgCarson.jpgThe 2008 election campaign, as we understand it, involves more than just the presidential race, and we hope to keep track of religious dimensions of other races, as these pop into view. First up (for us, at least) is the March 11 special election in Indiana’s seventh congressional district. It features Democrat Andre Carson running to fill his late grandmother Julia’s seat versus Republican Jon Elrod.
Carson was raised by his grandmother as a Baptist, but after some spiritual wandering found his way to Islam. If elected he would be the second Muslim member of Congress following Keith Ellison, who since 2006 has represented Minnesota’s fifth (Twin Cities) district. Like Ellison (and Barack Obama), Carson has a bit of a Louis Farrakhan problem. Farrakhan was a friend of his grandmother’s, attended her funeral, and insisted on endorsing her grandson. Carson has had to make sure the Indy Jewish community didn’t get the wrong idea. He himself belongs to a mosque that had its origins in the Nation of Islam, but which has become part of the Sunni Muslim mainstream. The Midwest is the heartland of Islam in America, especially when it comes to African Americans–a fact that would only be underscored by the election of a second African American Muslim to Congress from that region.
Elrod is a United Methodist and, in the spirit of inclusivist Midwestern Methodism, something of a social liberal, at least by Indiana GOP standards. That is to say, he is opposed to current efforts to amend the Indiana constitution to forbid same-sex marriage. He’s pretty serious about his religion, having spent three years studying theology at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. He belongs to Roberts Park United Methodist Church, the first Methodist establishment in the city and bastion of good works in the heart of downtown. It’s not, however, a liberal church when it comes to gays and lesbians–i.e. it is not, in the terminology of United Methodism, “reconciling.”
The Indianapolis Star reporter on the case is Robert King, who has done fine profiles of both men, here and here. Daniel Pulliam, the law student and sometime journalist who posts of GetReligion from Indy, is on the case too.