Monday, December 10, 2007

Mitt Romney is right...

"Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president. Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.

Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.

As governor, I tried to do the right as best I knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution. I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution - and of course, I would not do so as President. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.

As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America 's 'political religion' - the commitment to defend the rule of law and the Constitution. When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States ."
-Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney on "Faith in America"

...which is why I find it incredibly difficult to imagine that a Christian can be president.


Michael R. Cline said...

I still have no clue how the Bible is continually used as a "swearing in post." Especially in cases like this, where the office being taken runs largely counter to the contents contained within in.

"I'll never let my religious beliefs hold sway on my politicking..." but I'll pledge my office on a Book that shatters any idea of allegiance to the state over the church? I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Randy said:
FWIW, the assumptions contained in Mike's response and the post's closing line, while well-considered and obviously agreed to by many, seem to (perhaps understandably) beg the entire question.
Mike says,
"where the office being taken runs largely counter to the contents contained within in." This is huge and shocking news to countless thinking folks who even considered themselves classical Christians.
I'm no "the U.S. is God-breathed" type, but I can't believe the Bible and a reasonable and respected understanding of it is irrelevant to the kind of things our government has historically tried to maintain as guiding ideals, even central in terms of metaphysic. Subsuming the whole question to a differing understanding about war, etc. does not do the question justice, though that thinly-veiled suggestion of your positioning on the matter may not do you justice either.
As I said, FWIW,
glad for the coversation,

Ben Robinson said...


The question of war, while certainly a component of this type of discussion, is not the main reason I question whether President of the United States is a position a Christian should, or can hold. For me, this is a question of the relationship of the church to the state, and thus runs deeper than only the issue of war.

I won't attempt to discuss my various concerns with the larger issue. However, because you mentioned it, I will touch briefly on the "guiding ideals" you suggest the US has at least tried to maintain. I don't think it's possible to abstract "guiding ideals" from the biblical narrative that can be applied universally to governmental structure. I consider this to be quite well illustrated by the way in which America has understood "freedom" and "justice" as guiding ideals and then used the bible to underwrite their political legitimation. The problem is not with "freedom" or "justice" but who's freedom, and what justice are we talking about. The way in which Americans talk about freedom and justice is typically in abstraction. I think the Gospel challenges an American notion of freedom and justice, and freedom and justice for the Christian are only intelligible within the biblical narrative. Once they are abstracted from that narrative they become unintelligible because they no longer are a part of the community whose lives make such claims intelligible (i.e. the church).

I hate to merely defer to greater minds, but I would suggest Yoder's "The Christian Witness to the State" and Hauerwas' "The Peaceable Kingdom" as much more thorough accounts of what I'm trying to express. I think where you and I might have our deepest disagreement is regarding natural law (I say this because I seem to remember you mentioning an affinity for the natural law tradition in a previous post). Hauerwas' critique of natural law in "The Peaceable Kingdom" is a great primer for his basic critique of natural law and moral theology. Off the top of my head I think it's chapter 3 or 4.

Nonetheless, the word "difficult" in this post was very intentional. I do find it difficult to imagine a Christian can be president, but I find it difficult precisely because this is something I'm wrestling deeply with at the moment. Especially since presidential elections are not far off, this issue is something I am thinking about a lot right now. So my position is not "Christians can't be president" but truly is "I find it difficult to imagine a Christian can be president". Granted, I'm leaning towards the former heavily, but it's an incredibly complex issue.

Furthermore, I enjoy your replies to my posts. On various occasions you have prompted me to be much more careful with the words I use and much more clear in what I'm trying to say. Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Randy said:

Thanks for a thoughtful rejoinder. I am always helped by your openness, learning and erudition.

You said, "I don't think it's possible to abstract "guiding ideals" from the biblical narrative that can be applied universally to governmental structure."
I've noticed your use of 'abstracting' on another occasion and I am trying to get a handle on what you suggest here. Seems like hermeneutic is large in what you are saying. We are no doubt missing each other b/c, your thoughtful example notwithstanding, I find it quite plausible that one can, indeed MUST, abstract ideals for government -- even "governmental structure",if you don't push it too far -- from the Scriptural narrative. And it can be done without talking theocracy.
As I see it the distinction is in finding ideals, not various specifics -- which may be what you suggest from another angle when you speak of the problem being "whose justice?", etc.

On the whole I guess I'd back up to believing that there is strong tradition for integrating understandings from the religious category into political philosophy. Indeed, are you not doing that very thing when you suggest Christians may not be able to be consistent and exercise office in the political arena? I'd even say the integration is unavoidable, since religion as a category deals with things higher than politics. Can historic Christianity fit into the category I suggest? Surely it overlaps, and it certainly qualifies as a religion, rightly understood.

Once again, FWIW. I had hoped to come to WTS in March and possibly meet in person; alas, I probably won't make it this year -- no grand invitations to lecture on natural law or Christian warmongering.:) Thanks again for interaction and all the best in your studies.

You're right, natural law thinking plays large in what I am trying to understand.

Ben Robinson said...

Ha you should come anyway! Apparently Jurgen Moltmann is the keynote speaker, and while I am unsure if the rest of the conference will be of interest to me I think this might be a once in a lifetime chance of getting to hear Moltmann speak.

This is just a quick response as I'm headed off to bed after some tiring Greek, but I hope to respond to some of your comments in the near future. Perhaps what I might do is attempt to sketch what I consider Hauerwas' critique of natural law in a new post (at least his critique from his book "The Peaceable Kingdom"). That might give us great clarity on why we might talk past one another at points.

Seriously. Come to WTS. :)

Anonymous said...

I would be more comfortable if the politician were being sworn in with the Constitution personally, rather than the Scriptures.