Faith and Politics, pt. 1

I just read two great pieces on Christians and politics. One is by Francis Beckwith, once president of Evangelical Theological Society but a recent convert to Catholicism. He writes about Mitt Romney and the ‘Creedal Mistake’ as well as the ‘Kennedy Mistake’. About the Creedal Mistake he writes,

This mistake occurs when a Christian citizen believes that the planks of his creed are the best standard by which to judge the suitability of a political candidate. For example, suppose a Presbyterian votes for one of Romney’s primary opponents solely on the basis of the governor’s rejection of the Nicene Creed. An elder who did this would not truly understand the purpose of creeds: to provide church members and the world at large a summary of beliefs that one must embrace in order to be considered an orthodox member of that body. Creeds are not meant to measure the qualifications of a political candidate in a liberal democracy.

He also, and I love this, quotes Martin Luther, “I would rather be ruled by a competent Turk than in incompetent Christian”. I think most of us would agree with this.

He goes on in the article to address the ‘Kennedy Mistake’. Here, I think he is speaking about something a little more controversial, certainly among secularists, but even among us Christians. What is the Kennedy Mistake? Basically, it is acting as though your faith will have no bearing on your worldview or your political decision making. He writes,

Romney, in order to pacify secularists and traditional Christians, may be tempted to emulate Kennedy and claim that his theology and church do not influence or shape his politics. But this would be a mistake. For it would signal to traditional Christians that Romney does not believe that theology could, in principle, count as knowledge; but this is precisely the view of the secularist who believes that religion, like matters of taste, should remain private. Yet if a citizen has good reason to believe her theological tradition offers real insights into the nature of humanity and the common good—insights that could be defended on grounds that even a secularist cannot easily dismiss—why should she remain mute simply because the secularist stipulates a definition of religion that requires her silence? Why should she accept the secularist’s limitations on her religious liberty based on what appears to many of us as a capricious and politically convenient understanding of “religion”?

Obviously, I am not a Mormon and disagree with most Mormon theology. However, I would much rather see a forthright admission of Romney’s Mormon worldview, or of Huckabee’s Christian worldview or of Guliani’s more secular worldview than political speak any day.

I’ll get to the second article later. It’s by Piper, so be sure to come back!

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