Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Does a Candidate’s Religion Matter?

Are you ready for a Mormon President? Do you care if your President is a Catholic? Is a Bible-believing, fundamentalist the best person to be trusted with our future?

I think no one should automatically be denied consideration for the presidency because of his religious affiliation anymore than one should be denied consideration because of his race or sex. However, I do not think it is bigotry to want an understanding of how one’s religious views will influence the way he will govern.

I am not going to be too concerned about those candidates who practice religion-lite, such as most mainstream Protestants. I suspect most Methodist, Episcopalians, and Presbyterian are casual Christians and can adequately departmentalize their life to the point that their religious beliefs and practical issues of governance are not a problem. I also suspect that many Catholics, many Baptist, and many members of evangelical mega churches are “casual Catholics” or “casual Baptist” or whatever and they are considerably less doctrinaire than the leaders of their congregation. I suspect that most educated people think the Bible is allegorical and myths and not to be taken literally.

The Constitution prohibits a religious test to hold public office, but that does not mean the electorate cannot evaluate a candidate’s religious beliefs before electing him to the highest office in the land . I think we should have the right to know what the people who seek public office believe about faith and governance.

In the 1960 campaign for president, there was widespread fear that an American Catholic president would take direction from the Vatican. I do not find that fear to be pure bigotry. World history gives us adequate reason to be suspect of the roll of the Catholic Church and affairs of state.

Kennedy addressed the issue head-on. “Because I am a Catholic,” said Kennedy, “ and no Catholic has ever been elected President, it is apparently necessary for me to state once again-not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in. I believe in an America where separation of Church and State is absolute-where no Catholic prelate would tell the President, should he be a Catholic, how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote”.

Apparently that was sufficient to overcome the concern of enough of the electorate to make a difference. I think it was not inappropriate that he be was made to address the issue.

On December 7 Romney made his JFK speech and he said: “When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.”

Should that settle it? Maybe. It seems that Romney is not just a casual Mormon but has served as a Mormon missionary and a lay minister. Apparently he takes his faith very seriously. Face it; Mormonism is a weird cult. Maybe all religions start out as weird cults and it is longevity that gives them respectability. Somehow however, the story of Moses receiving stone tablets with the Ten Commandments seems like a respectable myth, while the story of Joseph Smith and the golden tablets seems quite bizarre.

In 1827 Joseph Smith claimed that an angel appeared to him and revealed golden tablets upon which was written the Book of Mormon. Smith couldn't read the tablets however, until the angel also gave him some glasses that allowed him to interpret the text on the plate. The fascinating story includes “seer stones” and buried treasure and a mystical frog. The Book of Mormon is the story of the Lamanites who were supposedly an ancient Israelite people that were the ancestors of the American Indians.

Many of the practices and believes of the Mormons are as weird as the story of their founding; former polygamy, the former prohibition against Blacks being admit ed to the Priesthood, proxy baptism of the dead, secret rituals, secret underwear, and secret oaths. Would it be out of bounds to ask Romney what he believes about the story of Joseph Smith and the golden tablets? Would it be out of bounds to ask what secret oaths he may have taken? I don’t know that his answer would necessarily disqualify him form being President, but in an age we can ask, “briefs or boxers” we should be able to ask questions about ones religious believes.

It is not only Romney’s believes that I would like to know more about. If a Baptist minister seeks to be President, I want to know more about his believes also. Does he believe that God directs his actions? Has he ever done something because he had a strong impression that God told him to do. If God tells him to support a certain policy, who does he check with to make sure it is really God and not his own judgement. Is he “led by the Holy Spirit?” Being “led by the Holy Spirit" is a different concept than being guided by the values of your faith.

I would also want to know if he believes that the story of Adam and Eve, and the flood are historical events and if the world is only six thousand year old. If he does, I am not sure I would trust his judgement.

I don’t mind a President who reads the Bible and prays. I would not have been offended by George Washington at Valley Forge kneeling to ask God’s blessings. I think a little civic religion can be a good thing. However, if a candidate for President talks to God I want to know, does God talk back? If he does, that would concern me.

I would like to know if any of the candidates are fundamentalist Hal Lindsey-type Christians who read Revelations and believe the world will end with Armageddon and the return of Christ? If they do, do they think it will happen in their turn in office? If so, then they may not be too concerned about global warming, or a large national deficit, or other issues that need long-term consideration. Do they believe the Jews are God’s chosen people and we have a God-ordained mandate to always support Israel?

I think it is reasonable to want to know to what extend a Presidential candidate’s most profound beliefs, convictions, and values would govern their conduct in office. I would prefer my President to be guided by reason rather than faith. Inquiry into a candidates religious faith should not be considered bigotry or impolite. It should not be off limits.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

No comments:

Post a Comment