Archive for April, 2012

Throughout American history the interplay of religion and politics has been quite interesting.  President Jefferson had a Bible in which he carefully cut out any references to the miracles of Jesus.  President Carter was a Baptist Sunday school teacher but turned out to be one of the worst presidents we ever had.  Bill Clinton was not exactly Mother Teresa in his personal life but was able to govern and work with the other party with some success, especially when compared to the chaos of the Obama regime.  So how should we consider the importance of religious belief in a candidate?

In a nation of religious freedom and with no religous qualifications when one runs for office, what are the interesting issues that arise?  Religious issues can cause some confusion and concern, as we saw when John F. Kennedy became our first Catholic president.  Some non-Catholics wondered if he would be influenced by the Vatican!  As it turned out in his short time in office there were few or no religious issues raised.  But some were almost relieved when a good Baptist like Lyndon Johnson took over, though his language resembled Navy seamen and their cussing rather than a good Southern church boy.  But it always seemed that in spite of one’s personal faith walk, as long as the office holder fell within the general description of Christianity, their church of choice was ignored.

This became a bit more complicated when a candidate is outside mainstream Christian circles.  In the last part of the 19th Century new religious groups were born, including Latter Day Saints, Jehovah Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists.  Right at the turn of the 20th Century the new phenomena of Pentecostalism was also rising.  When it comes to looking at the long range history of faith groups, these are relatively young and thus must deal with some misunderstanding and mistrust.  So when an adherent of one of the above decides to run for office, how should we judge their abilities and how their faith and beliefs would influence their decisions and manner of governing?

Jehovah Witnesses would not be trusted with keeping a strong military, and there would be some questions with Seventh Day Adventists on that issue.  Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists might give extra attention to the general health of the citizenry. I realize that there are probably pages of thoughts that could be written about how these groups or even Pentecostals in office would handle the reins of government.  Remember when Pat Robertson wanted to run, folks really didn’t trust his tendency to prophesy.

These are important issues as we now obviously have a Mormon candidate in Mitt Romney.  Most Americans have limited knowledge of these folks, other than “they are hard workers, well educated, have a great choir in Salt Lake City, and they don’t smoke or drink alcohol.”  A couple of their basic tenets might indicate how one would govern:  first that the United States of America was founded by the grace of God for the well being of the world, and also, that human intelligence is the glory of God.  Most of we outsiders recognize that they are hard working, revere strong families and personal morality, desire being contributing members of society, and working with integrity in whatever one does.  To those goals, education, training and self improvement are held in high esteem.  They practice what they preach when it comes to helping others and being Christ-like in that they have an enormous program of serving the poorer among them rather than depending on government for welfare.

Perhaps we should examine Utah before making a judgment on how a Mormon might govern, since 60% of the citizens that state are affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Utah granted full voting rights to women 27 years before becoming a state, thus well ahead of the nation as a whole.  Utah lately has been the fastest growing state in the country, friendly to business, having low crime rates and clean air and water.  Non-Mormons that live there reportedly can feel intimidated and a bit isolated in a neighborhood or town where they are a religious minority, but it is also obvious that non-Mormons are elected to office as well.  Notable Mormons recently have been founders of Jet Blue airlines, Marriott Hotels, Dell Computers, and in education: Dean of the Harvard School of Business.

Undoubtedly in a nasty election upcoming, there will be subtle issues put forward that will engender mistrust in a Mormon candidate.  This has already begun with assertions that Republicans are somehow anti-women, which arose after discussions of birth control during primaries.  And of course with the birth rate 25% higher in Utah than in the country as a whole, some will label Romney and his church as being “just old-fashioned” period.  So here we have five and a half million Americans who participate fully in American life.  Should they have a shot for one of their own at the Presidency?  I would think the rest of us Americans should at least investigate enough to make a fair and intelligent decision on that question.


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