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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Religion in the 'West Wing'

While Americans continue to debate the relationship of religion to politics and faith-based initiatives, TV's The West Wing mixes the two — not accidentally.

 

Aaron Sorkin, the show's creator, says he hopes his characters inspire people to talk more about religion.

About 18 million West Wing fans tune in weekly to see President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet's struggles between personal faith and public duty.

Played by Martin Sheen, Bartlet is a Roman Catholic economist who almost became a priest — a man who prays the rosary in the Oval Office, personally opposes abortion and capital punishment, publicly defends gay rights and a woman's right to choose, taking on all Bible-quoting comers.

Sorkin, who is Jewish, says he grew up suspicious of religion, seeing it as an "instrument of hypocrisy or, worse yet, of bullying." Some episodes reflect that. "But what I want to make sure to point to just as often is the way in which faith can be magnificent, an enormous comfort and an incredible road map," he says.


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