A Little Religious Knowledge About Our Pols Goes A Long Way (4.10.12)
Psalm 46,6: "The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts."
It's not like I want to know Rick Santorum's favorite saint, or see his old confirmation photos. I'm not asking if President Barack still keeps in touch with Rev. Wright (or if First Lady Michelle insists on praying before meals). Or, if Speaker Newt met his wife, like so many do, in church (or in synagogue or the mosque).
It's just that in some cases I still want to know something more about the religious faith of the person who will soon have the privilidge of hastening Armageddon (or not, and minding Iran), or perhaps listening to God instead.
To know a little something about a person's faith helps us to get to know them as human beings.
Just as we all expected a little narrative as to why the whole Wall Street world failed and was bailed out in 2008 so as to save our political and economic bearings, now as to voting in November 2012, how about a little spiritual or religious narrative, not to demonize any candidate, not for any doctrinal gatekeeping, but so that we, as a nation, can also save our cultural and spiritual bearings.
So we might have some idea of the core values of the person we are voting for and those values might be able in some way to unify us.
And who knows (by God) this added knowledge just might help us choose this November.
We know more than we think about the religious faith of the Presidential candidates:
What About Newt?
He recently became Roman Catholic, as is his third wife. I'm happy that Newt followed his courage rather than his fears. In stepping up and running, with more baggage than a Yankee in the deep South, he showed some real grit. He does have a major role to play in the future of his party, at least intellectually.
This race is forcing him to take a look at himself. I can hardly believe it, but by God's grace, my heart goes out to him. And sooner or later, he's going to find enough Jesus to be comfortable in his own skin.
He could fill the office. God has blessed him for his ardent support of Israel, but he seems to over play the irascible King Saul to the younger and apparently more noble Rick Santorum's David.
As Saul, a man that looks to man's power, he will likely endorse Romney.
Or, he could remember his successful populist parry against Gov. Romney's business bane, and endorse Senator Rick Santorum, before the Pennsylvania primary April 24. My advice? Newt: Do what God says!
I'd like to hear more about Newt's faith, not less; it humanizes him and stands him in good stead whatever his future.
What about Rick Santorum?
He's a lifelong Roman Catholic, who belongs to the unrecognized evangelical wing of his church. He's the Catholic guy in town that talks and prays like the Protestant pastors, who tend to like him more than his own kind. He has real zeal in the belly and a beautiful family.
But he has broken the last dogma (an illusion if ever there was one) of American life, that one's personal faith does not to spill over into one's public life.
As someone in the faith business, he's fresh political air, like he even believes what he says. How quaint. How much needed.
Pray with him for the health of his young daughter.
What About Nikki Haley?
She was born a Sikh (Sikhs are monotheists, reject the caste system and priesthood, forbid magic, idolatry and pilgrimages), and at some point she became a Christian.
I don't know much more than that about Nikki's faith.
But when a doltish British reporter from Time magazine (why are there so many British "journalists" here?) recently went gonzo cheeky and asked her if she tips Sikh cabbies in New York City more than other cabbies, she naturally giggled, regained her composure, and then said with a smile "No, I tip everyone the same." It was graceful and humble and revealing all at the same time.
Ok, Nikki I want to know more, but I'm comfortable with you right now.
What About Barack Obama?
At one point in his life he chose Rev. Wright as pastor, as a strong father figure likely, not because he agreed with everything he preached. That's cool.
He worshipped at a church deeply imbued in civil rights and black protest and political involvement, and teaching, that valued education, and engaged in some occasional and poetic hyperbole, just like many city churches in Connecticut.
I admire these values, and so do a lot of other people. And need we say that our nation was born in religious protest, and then there was the protest of the civil war, that has engaged the deep faith values of our whole nation ever since?
We learned more about Barack Obama from the Rev. Wright narrative than one hundred photo ops at funerals, around the flag at holidays, and sitting at the head table at church dinners. The President tried to stick by a friend.
Perhaps, like so many other Americans, he doesn't attend church regularly. But, he's half way to preaching in all he says and does.
Whether we agree with him or not, we get it. He's shared enough about his faith and life that we know enough to choose to vote for him, or not.
What About Sarah Palin?
She came of age in an Assembly of God church in Wasilla Alaska- so she has some understanding of the Holy Ghost, and the power of the call of God and positioning of God (she changed to a non denominational-non pentecostal- church in Juneau in 2002).
She carried to term a handicapped baby just prior to her selection as John McCains Vice Presidential candidate for she knew God knit every one of us together in our mother's womb.
Is the USA ready for a very attractive, in your face, speak from the heart, born again Christian woman with Pentecostal roots to be President?
When and if the media ever back off her case, and move onto another favorite target, or God makes a way for her, she will again be a real force in Presidential politics, not to be underestimated.
We know plenty about her faith- and she's going to mature in her views.
What About Ron Paul?
He's got enough righteous indignation to demmand that the Federal Reserve be audited- so Praise God he's got some kind of faith.
He occasionally still speaks of constitutional rights. If he ever got close to the presidency, we'd learn more.
What about Mitt Romney?
Now Governor Mitt tried to put the issue of our apparently endless curiosity about Mormonism to rest during the last Presidential cycle with a brief speech ("Faith In America") at the George H.W. Bush Library in Texas on December 6, 2007. After saying that he was a practicing Mormon, he made two points.
Firstly, "I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God."
As a civil American, and a seeker after God, I want to play religious fair and nice here. But this statement defies all historical reality and suggests that Mitt never met any church in his days in the religious trenches from 1981-1994 in Massacusetts (as a Ward Bishop and Stake President) that was going in the wrong direction? What about the Book of Revelation wherein much of all religion leads folks away from God?
Secondly, he evoked the spirit of Sam Adams at the 1777 Constitutional Convention: "Then Sam Adams rose and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot."
So, to sum up, Mitt told the us that all religion is good, and if you add a dose of good old USA patriotism, it's even better.
In other words, it's now time for us non Mormons to stop asking questions, because Mitt's firstly a patriot, and you can obviously trust a patriot regardless.
Is the USA Against Mormonism Per Se?
I don't think it's that the good ol USA is against Mormonism per se.
It's that perhaps Mormonism itself, as an institutional church, has not given us enough to go on.
You can turn on a TV or a radio and hear all you would ever wanted to know from local and international faith leaders about most every type of faith, you can buy catechisms and read bible introductions and learn the distinctives of almost any church at a glance, but Mormonism seems to say "we only tell our beliefs in stages, and after you have long become a part of the team."
This stance is likely part of Mormonism's hard won religious freedom in the USA, after 182 years of prejuidice and historical rejection.
But let me also say something in this same religious freedom vein. I have read the book of Mormon cover to cover, been "evangelized" for months by Mormon missionaries, attended a service, debated Holy Spirit doctrine, viewed a church produced DVD of Joseph Smith's life story and American Restorationsist beliefs, seen Brigham Young's Hollywood hagiography, sat down to a summer picnic across from shiny and God fearing Mormons, and asked all the hard questions, and yet I still haven't learned enough about Mormonism to recommend it to folks.
Likewise, nothing in my present knowledge of Mormonism leads me to better understand where Mitt Romney is coming from politically and spiritually, even though he's a pastor like myself, a man apparently called from a young age to publicly lead in his church.
Perhaps, like a whole lot of folks, I just don't get Mitt, and it's got nothing to do with Mormonism.
Or, I just don't get Mormonism, and it's not got nothing to do with Mitt.
Or, I just don't get the whole Mitt-Mormonism blend, that seems (correct me if I'm wrong) to spill over into why he has trouble telling us anything faith based-humanity based about his life story that would make us want to vote for him.
Yet, I'm being asked to do two things that clearly don't go together: not ask any more questions about Mitt's personal faith or Mormonism, and to vote for him.
I need little more faith narrative before that's going to happen.
It's not that I expect to doctrinally agree with Mormonism or expect Gov. Romney pass some un-American litmus test, but by studiously not talking about his faith, or seeming forced and unhappy when he does, he doesn't give himself a chance to reveal some bit of human-spiritual knowledge about himself that might make us say "I could vote for that guy", as the other candidates already have.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...