Wearing your faith on your sleeve isn't easy as a politician, but in the liberal state of Hawaii, Duke Aiona is running to be the next governor while also taking a public stand for Jesus.
In a place where beauty reigns and surfers rule, Aiona doesn't always fit the picture of Hawaiian politics. For the lieutenant governor, however, his faith is his priority.
"I don't impose my faith and my beliefs on anybody using my authority as lieutenant governor or as a judge, when I was a judge. But that doesn't mean I can't stop believing and practicing my faith," Aiona told CBN News.
Judging with Faith
Aiona's began on the island of Oahu where he was born and raised. It's also where he learned early on about God and practicing his faith.
Aiona's story is almost legendary on the small island. He was a star athlete from a well-known family of Chinese and Portuguese roots. Aiona grew up Catholic. He says when he became a judge, God's presence really hit him.
His role put him in the powerful position of making life-changing decisions on things like child custody, terminating parental rights, and sentencing people to jail.
"Many times when I was on the bench, when I would sentence someone, I said a prayer for them," he recalled. "It wasn't me as Judge Aiona imposing my belief and my faith on that defendant or whoever it might be. It was just me as Duke Aiona, a man who believes in God showing my love for that person or the circumstance that I was in."
Hawaii for Jesus
Putting God first has been a staple of Aiona's life, and not just in private. A few years ago, he upset liberals in his state after praying at an event that "Hawaii belongs to Jesus."
"It wasn't in a speech. It wasn't in a cabinet meeting," he said. "It had nothing to do [with] when I was lieutenant governor convening a meeting or making a speech to some Rotary Club or anything like that. It was in prayer."
Aiona is involved with the evangelical group "Transformation Hawaii." It's goal is to make Hawaiian society one that obeys God's laws and truth. Along with attending prayer and fasting events, Aiona also holds prayer sessions at the state capitol after hours -- no politics involved.
"People want prayer," he said. "I've asked many people because I want to get their permission first. Can we pray? And nobody has ever turned me down."
Standing for Marriage
While the outward show of faith is nice, conservative Christians in the state are hoping and praying Aiona's governorship will help their effort to stop Hawaii's same-sex marriage movement.
"We don't want a new kind of marriage. We don't want an alternative to marriage," said Jacquelyn Skaf, a pro-family activist in Hawaii. "We want our government to sustain marriage as the basic building block of our families and our state."
A rally against the same-sex marriage bill drew thousands of conservative Christians to the state capitol weeks ago. The bill was defeated, but the fight for gay marriage continues.
With Aiona as their governor, opponents hope a new day will come. He is hopeful too.
"For me, ultimately what needs to happen is that we need to have a constitutional amendment which will definitively define marriage as being between a man and a woman," Aiona told CBN News. "We don't have that in the state of Hawaii, but that's where the debate needs to go for this to finally come to an end. Otherwise it will not come to an end."
A Humble Approach
In the meantime, Aiona carries out his duties knowing that being a Christian in public life is not an easy thing.
"There's a different type of pressure that comes upon you as an elected official," he said. "And without that divine intervention and that support from the prayer warriors that we have out there, we'd have a very difficult time in making it through these last seven years."
As for the next seven years, Aiona believes that, "God rewards those who are humble."
"And I don't mean in the sense 'poor me, poor me,'" he continued. "But just humble in our ways in regards to us understanding where our blessings come from, where are gifts come from and where we're at right now."