Examining A Candidate's Religion?

Voters need to look at a presidential candidate’s religious beliefs and practices to make sound political choices.  Yes, I know; in America, thanks to God and the Constitution, no religious test can be applied for any office.   

But once a candidate is running it is important to assess the whole person and his or her commitments and behavior.  Mitt Romney can no more declare his Mormon religious faith off limits than can a Catholic.  To say that your faith would never affect your political performance-- as a hard pressed JFK once implied before hostile Protestant clergymen-- can appear as being either luke warm or dangerously compartmentalized in mind.   


Of course we should not forget how much anti-Catholicism existed in the 60’s.  I once heard a prominent Protestant Harvard Divinity School professor actually announce to a group that no one should vote for  Kennedy because he was a Catholic.   Will the mounting attacks on Romney and Mormonism reach similar levels of virulence? Probably.    

One proactive approach for religious candidates to take would be to confront the critical faith issuea head on.  They can set  forth those religious beliefs that most count in politics and affirm the primacy of God given conscience, the commitment to God given reason (including science,) and admit that every evolving faith community’s is engaged in a dynamic and complex search for God’s Truth.  Religious doctrines have evolved and are still evolving amidst controversies.  Catholics change, Mormons change, Baptists change and produce a variety of intra faith differences.  Also, adhering to a religious respect for conscience, practices within one’s faith community are not asked of everyone else.

Voters then can appraise each candidate’s religious views of conscience, reason and evolving insight and try to assess how they would affect their decisions in office.  These judgments ought then be weighed and balance with appraisals of personal characteristics of intelligence, prudence, courage, tolerance, justice and temperance.  Moral virtues and capabilities for the job are equally necessary for political leadership.     

As a Roman Catholic I naturally look for the candidate who personally exemplifies most completely, comprehensively and consistently the social justice teachings of the Church.  (This isn’t always the Catholic candidate.)   I  keep trying to be “shrewd as a serpent, innocent as a dove.”  It’s not enough to simply ask WWJD?  As a wise moral theologian once explained, we are asked “to go and do likewise.” This means asking what is the most Christ like thing to do, existing as your unique self, here and now in this particular situation—or in this election.            

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John Barbieri
7 years 1 month ago
''Your behavior is so loud that I can't hear a word that you're saying!''
The above is a far better guide to character than pretentious public statements of faith.

7 years 1 month ago
If "we" weren't supposed to ask about President Clinton's character, what - pray tell - was that impeachment trial in the Senate all about?

But the candidate's positions on numerous issues, and how he or she has voted or acted on them in rhe past, will always tell us much more about his religious faith than any position statement he issues (with consultation by two theolgians, a spin doctor and the campaign advisor) on his religion.
Vince Killoran
7 years 1 month ago
Sidney writes that "As a Roman Catholic I naturally look for the candidate who personally exemplifies most completely, comprehensively and consistently the social justice teachings of the Church.  (This isn’t always the Catholic candidate.)."

I guess this is true but the key word is "I"-not bishops or some voting guide handed out after Mass.  If not then we just have blocs of religious voters following instructions from the H.Q. (and I don't mean heaven).
ed gleason
7 years 1 month ago
I'm surprised that the national media has not picked up the official Catholic view of Mormonism . Mormon baptism being not legit and marriage prep texts talk of it as a cult.
Not at all different from evangelicals who have been battered at bigots. 
Should All employed theologians hide out from the media?


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