Religiously speaking, this presidential election is a fascinating moment in our national life, for multiple reasons.First, one party nominated a Mormon and a Roman Catholic as president and vice president, the first time in American history that a major party ticket has not included a Protestant.Mormon presidential candidates are not new. The present Republican nominee's father pursued nomination in 1968. Mormon patriarch Joseph Smith ran for president in 1844, the year he was killed by a "gentile" mob in Nauvoo, Ill.Second, the ideology of the Catholic vice presidential Republican and Democratic candidates remains disparate. Each has been reprimanded by American bishops -- for their views on economics and sexuality, respectively. (It's ironic that the bishops have found themselves similarly chastened.)Third, the Democratic nominee is a Christian, schooled in the African-American church. Yet, some 40 percent of the public reportedly believes him to be a Muslim.These individuals reflect contradictory approaches to personal and communal faith. As Election Day looms, what in their traditions might unite them, with implications for the nation?What if the candidates made a concerted response to poverty, which is a major imperative of their respective faiths? Current campaign rhetoric seems strangely silent about the plight of the poor. As one commentator recently noted, talking about poverty this year is "not a political winner."What if the candidates took their distinct religious traditions seriously enough to make alleviating poverty a "winner" for everyone?Consider a statement in one of the standard Mormon texts, Doctrine and Covenants 119:4: "Those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually, and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord."Suppose the Mormon candidate, echoing his faith tradition, encouraged persons making more than $250,000 annually, receiving extra tax relief through his administration, to give at least 10 percent of their income to poverty-alleviating agencies?Suppose the Roman Catholic vice presidential candidates asserted: "Although we're divided on many religio-political questions, our faith commitments unite us in common concern for poverty. We share the concern of the Conference of Catholic Bishops that poverty seems a neglected issue in the 2012 campaign. We know that 12 million Americans are unemployed, and 10 million are among the 'working poor.' As Catholics, we will work in behalf of the American poor."Might the Democratic presidential candidate recall the words of the Protestant preacher Martin Luther King Jr., during the "Poor Peoples' Movement" in 1968, just before his assassination: "People ought to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say, 'We are here; we are poor; we don't have any money; you have made us this way ... and we've come to stay until you do something about it.'"In this election, might a preferential response to the poor become a "political winner" for everyone?Let's accept the assertions of the Mormon, the two Catholics and the Protestant that they are persons of faith. Then let's ask them to take seriously this statement from the Christian Bible: "If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has not works, is dead." (James 2: 15-17).If the rest of us ever-squabbling faith-based-sinners would take those words halfway to heart, a renewed effort to attack American poverty would have political and spiritual implications for an entire nation. Let's all vote for that. No picture ID required.Bill J. Leonard, a graduate of Paschal High and Texas Wesleyan University, is Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies and Church History at the School of Divinity, Wake Forest University. A version of this column first appeared on abpnews.com.