“I’m not voting for a theologian in chief, I’m voting for a Commander in Chief.”
That statement was made to me by a very conservative, Evangelical Christian trying to make the point that Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith should not be an issue when it comes to conservative Christians casting a ballot for President. The same person, in other conversations, cited statements made by Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, as a means of evaluating the nature of the Christian faith claimed by the President, and questioned the sincerity of it in the way that it affects his position on political issues with a moral perspective. In other words, faith doesn’t matter as much for candidates who hold a political position with which you agree, but it should be a factor in evaluating those on the other side.
That’s inconsistent. But it is the way a whole lot of people, particularly white, conservative, Evangelical Protestants, are evaluating faith when it comes to the presidential campaign. So much for attempting to write off the issue by references to John F. Kennedy’s Catholic faith. If Jeremiah Wright is something you bring up, then the President’s faith matters to you. If you are an Evangelical Christian, then by the same token, Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith should be a huge question for you. President Obama separated from Trinity UCC and repudiated Wright’s remarks. Romney, who is not just a member of the Mormon church, but also served a two year mission on its behalf, and belongs to one of its priesthoods by virtue of his temple oath, and as such is designated as a “bishop,” remains a faithful Mormon. That is a difference worth thinking about, at least as far as I am concerned.
There is relatively little that lines up theologically and Biblically between Mormons and Evangelical Christians. On the surface, most Christians know that Mormonism is a different gospel than the salvation by grace through faith in Jesus and his atoning sacrifice. They know that Mormons elevate the importance of the “standard works” of the church, their unique “scripture” over the Bible, and that they believe the Bible only “insofar as it is correctly translated.” Some may know that Mormons believe God has a body of flesh and bone, and is an exalted man. They may or may not know the long, and sometimes confusing history of Mormon prophecy, that Mormons believe that their “living prophet” utters the very word of God in a way that exceeds even the authority of the church’s standard works, and the Bible, and that he represents to them the very will of God himself. But most Christians are unaware of some of the core doctrines of Mormon teaching, related to the temple rituals, the priesthood orders, and the prophecy laid down regarding the future of the world, the role of the United States and the role of the Mormon church in leading it. And that is the very aspect of it that should be considered with the question about whether the faith of the President of the United States should be a consideration in casting a ballot.
What I hear most often from conservative Christians is the justification of voting for Romney based on his verbalized position in support of the pro-life issue, and opposition to same sex marriage. I’m opposed to both of those things, but I do not see, in Romney, a defender of either position. The only political record he made was as governor of Massachusetts. He was not opposed to either practice while in office. One’s Christian faith should make an absolute difference on both of these issues, as it does for millions of Christians. What does it say about Romney’s Mormon faith, if he could be favorable to same sex marriage, and in fact, as governor, order magistrates to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, and be openly pro-choice? And remember, Romney is not just your run of the mill Mormon church member. He’s served a two year mission, and has been through at least one temple ritual in which he was placed into one of the church’s priesthood orders, enabling him to serve as the bishop of a local ward. His pro-choice position and his position on same sex marriage were obviously not a problem for the Mormon church. So why do so many Christians seem to think they can depend on him to deliver on either of those issues as President? Is it just because he says he’s changed his mind and because it is in the Republican platform? Both George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush “changed their mind” on abortion, and it was in the party platform when they were elected, but neither of them were committed enough to their words to appoint the justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn the Roe decision. Neither Romney’s record, nor his Mormon faith, provides any indication that things would be different if he is elected.
When you walk into the ballot box, it is just you, your convictions, and the voting machine, whatever device is placed before you. As a Christian, committed to belief that the Bible is the written word of the living God, and that it is truth, without any mixture of error, I cannot help but give much consideration and prayer to the vote that I will cast, not only for President, but for every political office on the ballot. Faith matters, and it makes a difference. Different people will express that in different ways. But the fact of the matter is that the faith practiced by the President of the United States does make a difference.