Leave it to a liberal, Southern Baptist, Obama-loving Facebook friend (no, that’s not an oxymoron ) to point out Mitt Romney’s biggest lie in last night’s Town Hall Debate. After watching the debate and the post-debate spin (mostly on Fox News), it was obvious that President Obama probably won the night (although not by a knock-out). We all watch these debates through our own personal lenses — with our partisanship, experiences, background, and biases — and come away from the event trying to minimize the mistakes of “our” candidate and magnify the miscues of “their” candidate.
For Evangelical Christians — including, but not limited to, Southern Baptists — we should be viewing this election through not only a political lens, but through a theological one as well. At the outset, let me clearly and unequivocally state that I fully support the Constitution’s prohibition against “religious tests” for public office:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. (Article 6, Clause 3, United States Constitution)
In a Democratic Republic such as the United States of America, that is as it should be. Christians, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Agnostics, and Atheists should be allowed to run for public office without having to pass any kind of “religious test.” Southern Baptists (and Baptists in general) should, perhaps better than most, understand this principle. For those who have forgotten their history, Baptists would not have been able to pass the religious tests that would have been administered in most of the states (Rhode Island excepted) in the first place.
However, just because a religious test is not required to qualify to run for office, that does not mean that voters cannot use their own religious tests when casting their vote for a particular candidate. Since John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to be elected President, some Americans — usually Democrats and/or liberals — have often tried to act as if a Presidential candidate’s religion or faith is irrelevant. Of course, voters who are religious or non-religious will often take into account a candidate’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) when deciding between two or more competing candidates.
This election, much like the election of 1960, asks voters — particularly Evangelical Christians — to act as if Mitt Romney’s religious beliefs are irrelevant, either by ignoring them altogether or severely minimizing the influence that his religious beliefs will have on his governance. When entering into the voting booth, some conservative, Bible-believing Christians will not think twice about pulling the lever for Mitt Romney. Whether or not voting for Mr. Romney is a mistake (it will be one that I will make), I do believe that it is a mistake for so-called Evangelical Christians, particularly Southern Baptists, to not think twice about Mr. Romney’s Mormonism.
Why? Because it was conservative Christians — especially during Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal — who loudly and publicly argued that the President could not separate his “private morality” from his public responsibilities. It was often argued that President Clinton no longer had the moral authority to hold his office because of his actions which gave rise to the scandal. I would wholeheartedly agree that the President — Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative — should have a private moral character that is consistent with his public leadership in the highest office in the world.
For Christians to now argue that a President’s morality — indeed his faith and sincerely held religious beliefs — can somehow be divorced from the way he governs is, in a word, hypocritical. Just because folks happen to like Mitt Romney’s public policies should not give him a pass on his faith and religious beliefs, especially if those who are tying to give him such a pass were not inclined to give Southern Baptist Bill Clinton a pass in the 1990’s.
For all there is to like about Mitt Romney and to dislike about President Obama, I can’t give Gov. Romney a pass on what turned out to be his biggest lie of last night’s debate:
“We’re a nation that believes that we’re all children of the same God.” (article here)
No, Mr. Romney! Our nation does not believe what you stated. I do not believe what you stated. Most Evangelical Christians — including the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists — do not believe what you stated. And, most importantly, the Word of God — which is the 66 books of the Old and New Testament only and does not include any further “revelations” or “books”) most assuredly does not teach what you stated. While it is true that the same God — Yahweh, known as Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit — is the Creator of the universe and the One who Creates all people, that does not mean that our human existence automatically confers on us the status of “children of the same God.”
Jesus, Himself, tells us that we are either “children of the devil OR children of God”:
Jesus said to them: ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but He sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? Is it because you cannot bear to hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character.'” (John 8:42-44, ESV)
How does one become a “child of the One, True God?” In and through faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone:
But to all who did receive Him (Jesus), who believed in His name (Jesus), He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
I am well aware that we are not electing a “theologian-in-chief” on November 6. If we were, Mitt Romney would most certainly not be getting my vote. However, for Evangelical Christians in general and Southern Baptists in particular to not think twice about the false religious beliefs of the man who would be President — the most powerful position in the world — is to abdicate our responsibility to “speak the TRUTH to power,” even if that power is “our” candidate and that TRUTH conflicts with “our” candidate’s religious beliefs. And, it would be hypocritical to boot!