Presidential Religion: Enough, Already!
A few days ago I was on the air with Los Angeles’s outstanding drive-time host, Frank Pastore - a keen worldview thinker. Frank told me his phone lines have been burning up over the comments made by a prominent evangelical pastor who said that presidential candidate Mitt Romney belongs to a cult.
Should Christians vote for a Mormon? Is Mormonism a cult? Let me say right off: These questions are an enormous distraction in an important presidential campaign. The secular media is using the pastor’s comments to paint evangelicals as bigots. The Chicago Tribune is calling this “hate speech.”
I want to say this to every Christian listening to my voice: Let’s stop criticizing candidates for their religious convictions.
And let me make a few things, as my former boss used to say, perfectly clear.
First, there is no religious test for public office. If you don’t believe me, check out the Constitution of the United States, Article VI, Paragraph 3. The public statements of some evangelicals that they wouldn’t vote for Romney because of his Mormonism would cause the Founding Fathers to spin in their graves.
Second, as voters we are to choose the most competent people to be God’s magistrates to do justice, restrain evil, and preserve order. That’s what the Bible calls for. And in our country, where we have the precious liberty of choosing our leaders, we are responsible for picking competent men and women. See Jethro’s advice to Moses in Exodus 18. While choosing men to help him judge the people, Moses was to select first of all competent men. Those men were also to be godly - that is, men of good moral standing and character.
Third, let me answer the question that is causing so much angst. Is the Mormon faith Christian? No. It is not. There are significant and un-reconciled doctrinal differences between Mormonism and Christianity, like the sole sufficiency of Christ and the exclusivity of the Bible.
For me to say there are such differences is not “hate speech.” To deny that there are differences would be disrespectful of the truth claims made by Mormons and degrades my own truth claims. No one in good conscience can do that.
Having said that, there may be no other group of people I appreciate more as co-belligerents than the Mormons. They are stalwarts on life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty issues.
To sum up, I’m with Luther, who reportedly said that he would rather be governed by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian.
Now I’ve never publicly endorsed a candidate, and I’m not doing it now. But I would personally vote for a competent nonbeliever who would protect life, liberty, and marriage, before I would vote for an incompetent Christian--or even a competent one--who would not stand for those overriding moral issues.
Our ultimate decision has to be based on what Augustine taught. We must live obediently in the City of Man as the best of citizens, doing our civic duty, which includes voting responsibly, as a reflection of our primary citizenship in the City of God.
Where does this leave us? Come on: Stop talking about the candidates’ religion. It’s distracting and it marginalizes Christianity in the public debate. Let’s continue instead to work to advance the Kingdom of God and pick, to the best of our ability, a candidate of competence and sound character who will preserve order and promote justice in our land.