Monday, October 24, 2011

Should Catholics Vote for a Mormon for President?

Leaving aside whether or not you support Gov. Romney, it wouldn't have occurred to me to not vote for him based on his faith. It only occurred to me when reading Scott's post at Rivets and Trees which I recommend to all of you. I am going to put enough to give you the idea but that is not the sum of what Scott says so please do click through and read the whole thing.
... We Catholics, I thought, are different. We’re not threatened. But now, a Catholic whose opinion I value greatly – Jimmy Akin – has stated that we do need to consider Gov. Romney’s religion during the primary. He said it twice in columns over the past few weeks. Akin appears to agree with Pastor Jeffress, who stated that when given a choice between candidates, perhaps we should pick the Christian over the Mormon. Akin goes even farther than Jeffress when he says that electing a Mormon president would “do an enormous disservice to the cause of Christ in America.” (emphasis Akin’s)

Before I continue, I should preface the rest of what I’m about to say with the following information: I am a Catholic, and I’m married to an LDS woman. My kids are being raised in the LDS church. I live in southern Idaho, about 100 miles north of Salt Lake City. There are more Mormons per capita here than anywhere in the world. Can I pass myself off as a Mormon “expert?" Probably not, but I have lived in Mormon culture for 15 years so I’ve got some experience. Most of the people I interact with every day are Mormon. Today, I went to Mormon sacrament meeting (as I do occasionally) to see my youngest in a primary program.
I figure Romney's values are going to be very much like mine for family, faith, and so forth. Not that I care about Romney really, but to argue about his religion shows a certain small-mindedness, it seems to me. It brought forcibly to mind the Gospel reading from today's Mass.
Gospel Lk 13:10-17

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
"Woman, you are set free of your infirmity."
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
"There are six days when work should be done.
Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day."
The Lord said to him in reply, "Hypocrites!
Does not each one of you on the sabbath
untie his ox or his ass from the manger
and lead it out for watering?
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day
from this bondage?"
When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated;
and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.
The leaders don't care that the woman was healed. They don't even argue that it wasn't a miracle. They are worried about what day it was done on. Talk about worrying about a splinter in someone's eye while ignoring the plank in their own.

More than someone's religion, I care about what I can see of their previous actions and the fruit harvested from it. If Barack Obama as president has taught me nothing else, it has taught me that much. As he did before, he has gone on doing.

The first century Christians didn't get a vote and lived under pagan rule. Yet they changed the world by how they lived their faith. So if we can vote and we're not changing the world then it seems to me that worrying about someone else's religion is straining at a gnat.

What we should be looking at is ourselves in the mirror, not at the religion of the person who is leading us. How are we living as Christ's followers ... and how are we changing the world?

So, first things first. Should Catholics vote for a Mormon for president? I don't know. Can he do the job?

Second, will he do the job the way I want?

I'll worry about his faith later.

15 comments:

  1. I think it is misbegotten to refuse to vote for Romney because he's Mormon. Whether or not their theology is "proper" or "Christian," anyone in the United States is free to run for the Presidency and should be evaluated on his/her background, character, and policies, not on religion.

    I realize that religion does go to character, but I have not seen anything in Romney's character that would disqualify him.

    I think this verges on bigotry. I also wonder if this sort of "purity" test is representative of the best that Catholicism in the United States has to offer.

    (signed) X-ray Vision

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  2. To not vote for a Mormon because of his religion frankly is wrong, if not even immoral. There was lots of Catholic bashing in the past. The president of the US has nothing to do with religion. If he shares your values then you vote for him. Mormon values are extremely family oriented. The Mormons I have known are among the most upright people I have ever met. While I may feel they are far afield of Christianity, it has nothing to do with the presidency.

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  3. Thanks for passing on the links. Akin has a bias against Mormonism that reads bigger than a bias against abortion. While I might prefer a Santorem or even Gingrich who isn't that trustworthy really, but was effective, Mr. Romney is electable and I don't think either of them is. Pragmatism within moral bounds is not wrong. Opting out of an election that has huge life and death consequences for the unborn in this country and around the world is abnegation of Christian duty.

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  4. As a Catholic, I'm accustomed to voting for heretics for President.

    A candidate's faith is important, but I'd rather vote for a Mormon, Jew or Atheist whose beliefs teach him reverence for human life from conception onward, regard for human dignity and freedom, and respect for others' opinions, than for a Catholic (such as a Biden or a Pelosi) who claims to be devoutly Catholic, and who "therefore" demands federal funding for abortion on demand, strict regulation of free markets, recognition of same-sex relationships as legally equivalent to marriage, and a coercive public "healthcare" system that prefers euthanasia for some patients.

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  5. Thanks for the link, Julie.

    And these are great comments! You folks are tops.

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  6. As Paul... said above, "I'm accustomed to voting for heretics for Presidents." So true. In the whole history of presidential general elections we've had only Al Smith and JFK (both before my time). But it's precisely because we are so used to voting for non-Catholics that most people are missing the central issue which Jimmy Akin raises - that Mormons are polytheists claiming to be Christians. My view was the same as those above - I voted for Romney in the 2008 primary - but I had not considered Jimmy's angle on the situation. Before you make up your mind, read Jimmy's article (http://www.ncregister.com/blog/should-america-elect-a-polytheist-who-claims-to-be-christian#ixzz1U5knTZZn) and thoughtfully consider the actual question he is asking. He's not disqualifying Romney on the basis of his religion. In fact, he writes: "Note that I’m not in principle opposed to voting for polytheists. I could see, for example, voting for a pro-life Hindu over a pro-abortion monotheist. But a Hindu does not claim to be a Christian and thus does not risk confusing people about the core doctrine of Christianity the way Mormonism does." Also note that he is posing a question rather than reaching a conclusion in the article.

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  7. Hi Bobby G,

    I wrote the post that Julie refers to in response to the Jimmy Akin column you mentioned, plus another one he wrote this week. My post is here:
    http://www.rivetsandtrees.com/?p=705

    As for the whole Christian/non-Christian thing, that's a whole different issue. I do think it's irrelevant to this discussion, unless you think that Mormons are intentionally trying to deceive people about what they believe.

    I don't think that's the case, myself. Mormons around here are genuinely perplexed by the argument.

    If you look at the Webster definition of the word "christian", it says "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ". (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/christian) Since Mormons talk about Jesus Christ ALL THE TIME, they say, how could people say they aren't christians?

    Jimmy Akin, of course, is using the word "christian" to mean a person who subscribes to the group of teachings that almost all christian churches have in common. Mormons, of course, do not believe many of the things in that group of common teachings.

    So I understand both sides of this. Mormons are not being deceitful using the word. Assuming you're Catholic; nobody (not even a Mormon) is suggesting that our churches are equivalent. That people are confused is irrelevant.

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  8. Scott D,
    You write "that people are confused is irrelevant." Jimmy is saying that this confusion is the very thing that makes it relevant. He is saying that by merely being President, even if he speaks nary a word about religion while in office, Romney will sow some unforeseeable level of confusion among Christians about the nature of Christ and the Holy Trinity. And because the very nature of God is a core doctrine of the Christian faith, it makes this an issue worth considering when we cast our vote. I agree that we should consider it on that basis, and like Jimmy I am undecided as to whether it would cause me to not vote for Romney in the general election.

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  9. Hi Bobby G,

    Again, I refer you to my original post. In there, among other things, I quoted the Vatican's Declaration on Religious Freedom, which clearly states that we need to respect the religious freedom and dignity of others.

    Considering the denial of 5.1 million Americans your vote for President only because their success might confuse people? That is an example of respecting neither.

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  10. Let's face it. If religion comes up with a Mormon president, the thing people are going to talk about is polygamy or rewriting the Bible.

    Honestly, if there were public debate or even private conversation among Christians about the nature of the Holy Trinity because Romney were elected, I'd almost welcome it.

    You seriously would not believe what I've had people (good, educated Catholic people) tell me about the nature of the Holy Trinity that is not at all in line with Catholic teachings. If it were brought up then refutation and education could happen more readily. It shouldn't take a bottle of wine at a party ... and that's what I've had happen (yes, those are the sorts of parties I give ... wine and theology ... it REALLY is much more fun than it sounds!) :-D

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  11. Non -vote, abstaining from vote puts you in company with Obama. His most common "vote" in IL Senate?

    No offense but it is wimpy and not doing your duty as citizen and Catholic Christian.

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  12. Dear Julie,

    As usual, very well said. (You can see by the age of this comment that I am only just catching up on blog reading). Thank you.

    shalom,

    Steven

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  13. Everyone has probably moved on to more recent topics but I will add a last comment, at least my last...

    I only piped in because it seemed that Jimmy's premise was being dismissed out of hand. He's super-smart and has not a bigoted bone in his body as far as I can tell (I'm fortunate to know him). I do think his hyper-clinical, for lack of a better word, approach unfortunately can come off as insensitive to some. Try to take Romney and Mormonism out of the equation in favor of a generic polytheist candidate x for the purpose of Jimmy's thought exercise (which is really all it is - remember though he does indicate a likely conclusion, he ultimately is merely posing a question). His main point is that the nature of God is so central to being a Christian, that it ranks in gravity with the issue of abortion. Thus, when allocating one's vote, one might wish to consider how electing a polytheist to our highest office will impact how people understand God's nature. Personally, I haven't quite got there with Jimmy with regard to whether the issue even ranks in gravity with abortion, much less whether the possible implications of a polytheist-in-chief rank in the same universe as the devastation wrought by abortion. But I know that Jimmy knows WAY more about this stuff than me, and I know that I (and I think modern Christian culture in general) suffer from an over-familiarity (lack of reverence/awe/fear) with God and His Name and His Nature. So I am willing to take a step back and consider my position in light of an idea I hadn't considered before. That's all.

    On the general topic of religion in campaigns...
    Of course we shouldn't allow Mormonism to become an in-house wedge issue that can be used to divide and conquer us, but neither should we stifle thoughtful discussion on it's implications. Heck I think the issues surrounding JFK were, and are, valid and have not been put to rest in my mind even as Catholic. What would a President Santorum do when considering preemptive war? Nuclear reprisal? Without question, the responsibilities of a president are likely to intersect at some point with Papal jurisdiction. Thank goodness I will never be president because I would find it difficult, as a Catholic, to defy the Pope on a moral issue. Mormons and Catholics, I think, are fairly similar in the deference they are supposed to pay to their respective hierarchies. Just sayin' its a valid area of discussion but it seems that most people, especially Catholics, tend to fast forward to a conclusion that a candidate's religion doesn't matter so long as his policy positions are favorable. I mean no disrespect to anyone.

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  14. Bobby, I thought you commented in a thoughtful fashion and I was interested in your comments. Of course, we may or may not agree ... but the commenting was appreciated and welcomed. Thank you! :)

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  15. Shouldn’t one’s background, character and policies reflect ones belief system? Is not that the definition of integrity? If a man claims membership to a religious order but does not allow the beliefs and dogma of that religion to permeate every aspect of his life then he has done his faith a great disservice and may even earn the title hypocrite. All Christians and Jewish denominations should consider the affront to God a polytheist’s religion represents. A religion that denies the divinity of Christ, believes that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separate Gods and that the faithful “Mormon” can one day rule a universe as a deity can clamor all they want about being Christian but that does not make it so. Ultimately, if Romney is the Republican candidate then I will have no other choice but to support him? However I will seek the Lord’s forgiveness promptly.

    SP

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