Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rod Dreher on Romney and Faith

Rod Dreher is a social conservative and a Christian (Orthodox) believer. He had a column on the entire issue of faith and politics in America that is well worth reading. Here are some highlights.

First, while he believes that Mormonism is not Christian, he does not believe that social conservative Christians should use this as an excuse to reject Romney:

1. Mormons aren't Christians. I don't mean that as a criticism, only as a descriptive phrase. When Mormons claim Jesus Christ as their savior, there's no reason to doubt their sincerity and good will, or even to deny that they are in some way followers of Christ. Yet Mormonism rejects foundational doctrines of traditional Christian orthodoxy, such that it is impossible to reconcile with normative Christianity.

. . .

3. Theologically, this is a big deal. But politically, so what? Mormons vote like Southern Baptists and come down on the same side of most issues of public morality like conservative Christians do. If you're a socially conservative lawmaker, wouldn't you rather have a Mormon in your legislative foxhole than a Kennedy-style cafeteria Catholic or progressive mainline Protestant? I'm no Romney fan, but is there really no meaningful political difference between Good-Mormon Mitt and Bad-Catholic Rudy, to say nothing of Liberal-Protestant Hillary?

4. There are plenty of good reasons for conservative Christians not to vote for Mr. Romney, but his religious beliefs are not among them. Do Christians want to be in the position of rejecting a candidate whose political views and moral values they agree with, solely because they don't like his religion? On what grounds would they condemn secularists for rejecting Christian candidates?

5. "If Mitt Romney believes what Mormonism teaches, no telling what he'll believe," say more than a few conservative Christians. Oh? Non-Christians have to overlook the fact that Christian candidates profess to believe that God became man, was murdered and rose from the dead. They have to ignore the fact that some Christians believe that same God-man mysteriously appears as bread and wine under certain circumstances, and others believe that the universe was created in seven literal days. The content of a religion's doctrinal teaching is not a reliable guide to the overall judgment of one of its adherents.



Rod then addresses Romney's argument that freedom requires faith. I think that he comes to a conclusion far more nuanced than Romney's:

8. Does freedom require religion, as Mr. Romney asserts? Superficially, no, unless you wish to argue that post-Christian Europe is unfree, which is plainly nuts.

But we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss John Adams' observation that the U.S. Constitution is made "only for a moral and religious people" and will not work for any other. His point was that maintaining political liberty requires a people capable of governing themselves and restraining their passions for the greater good. He might have said "moral" people, and left it at that, because in his day and in ours, one can find morally upright men and women who have no religious faith and believers who are morally corrupt.

9. But the crooked timber of humanity is frail indeed. If God doesn't exist, then by what standard do we decide right from wrong? If a society recognizes no independent, transcendent guardian of the moral order, will it not, over time, lose its self-discipline and decline into barbarism? The eminent sociologist Philip Rieff, who was not a believer, said that man would either live in fear of God or would be condemned to live in fear of the evil in himself.

10. Adams' pronouncement raises the question: "Whose morality, and whose religion?" The American constitutional understanding of the rights of man and human dignity come out of both the Enlightenment and Judeo-Christian tradition. The American constitutional order, and the American civil religion, is inexplicable outside of both, together, in creative tension. Religion is not sufficient for securing liberty, but religion, restricted by boundaries required by a pluralist democracy, is necessary to maintain it.

11. Mr. Romney, as a Mormon, may not be a Christian, but his values are deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Christians who judge a candidate's fitness for the presidency based on his particular profession of faith should reflect on the quality of governance our devoutly evangelical president has provided over the last seven years. Martin Luther is supposed to have said that he would rather be governed by a wise Muslim than a foolish Christian.

Smart man, that Luther. For a heretic.


Read it all here.

Clearly, my atheist friends would not agree with Rod's ultimate conclusion. I would argue, however, that even American atheists are part of the "Judeo-Christian tradition." They don't believe in a God, but they largely accept the same values that arose in this tradition.

And to paraphrase Luther, I would rather be governed by a wise Atheist than a foolish Christian.

2 comments:

tieminator said...

I am supporting Ron Paul for President, and am a Mormon. Most of my friends are not members of my church, and I often have attended meetings or vacation bible schools with them and their families. I have the utmost respect for all of these people - how they lead their lives, and their devotion to Jesus Christ. However, one experience I had a few years ago serves to illustrate why Mormons believe we are Christian, and why we have trouble understanding why some people do not believe we are Christian. While attending vacation bible school with some friends in Raleigh, North Carolina, the pastor divided the adults into two classes - the "advanced" bible class, and the "beginner" bible class. My wife and I both served Mormon missions as young adults, and though a little leery decided to attend the "advanced" Bible class. It turned out that of the 40-50 adults, 6 people, including us, went to the advanced class. The class over the course of the week turned out not to be about the bible, but about the creeds of the Christian churches.

The first creed discussed was the Apostle's Creed, which states:

=-=-=-=

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

Amen.

=-=-==

The teacher, who was not the pastor, then asked each student around the table what they thought of this creed. One expressed some reservation about Jesus "rising from the dead" and the part about "the resurrection of the body", in that it implied that Christ arose with a body and that there will be a physical resurrection. Another did not believe the portion of the creed that indicated that Christ descended into hell. Another questioned how he could sit at the right hand of God if he was God.

My wife and I were the last ones to speak. Both of us answered that we felt the creed reflected the biblical teachings of Christ and the Apostles correctly, and we believed in the creed 100%.

My point is that many people "cling" to the different beliefs of Mormons from other Christian churches, while ignoring the fact that the core Mormons beliefs match the creeds of the early Christian church closer than the beliefs of their particular sect.

Even the controversy about Mormon belief/disbelief in the Trinity is enlightening. Mormons believe in the Trinity, although not in same way as most other Christian sects teach the Trinity. Mormons believe that the three members of the Trinity can be referred to as one God, as they are one in purpose, and never vary from one another in thought. Indeed, Mormons believe that if you have seen Christ you have seen the Father, because they look, act, think, and do exactly alike. The only difference between the beliefs, which is entire exagerrated, is that most other Christian sects believe the three members of the Trinity are three manifestations of the same being. But if the three are separate beings but think, act, and do as One, isn't the net result the same thing?

There are many beliefs in different sects that outsiders could call "bizarre", but at the core, Christians, including Mormons, believe the same basic things. Some examples of "bizaare things" that are either shared beliefs that Mormons have with other Christians, or are believed and taught by other sects, are:

Transubstantiation - (not a Mormon belief)
Virgin Birth - (a Mormon belief)
Worship of Saints - (not a Mormon belief)
Earth created in 6000 years - (most Mormons don't believe, but no official Church stance)
Infallibility of the Bible - (not a Mormon belief)
Faith Healings - (a Mormon belief)
Prophecy - (a Mormon belief)
Speaking in Tongues - (a Mormon belief)
Jesus casting evil spirits into Pigs - (a Mormon belief)

JimII said...

And this is why I don't like it when people say Mormons aren't Christian. I question, or outright reject, most of tests of faith suggested to make Mormons non-Christian. So applying that standard to Mormons means that I can no longer call myself Christian.

And while I do not believe in the virgin birth, the infallibility of the Bible, transubstantiation, or faith healing, my life has been too profoundly transformed by the life and love of Jesus Christ for me to accept being labled non-Christian. I assume my Mormon brothers and sisters share this passion.