The Perfect Religious President

There are so many discussions swirling around evangelicals’ best choice for president that it makes your head spin. To make sense of it all, I offer five qualities of the perfect religious president.

The perfect religious president should have an active faith that is detached (or as detached as it ever can be) from their role as a candidate and politician. In other words, don’t fall for someone who feigns newfound religiosity in time for the primaries. Jimmy Carter (not my favorite president, but a man of sincere belief) and George W. Bush are good examples of sustained Christian commitment – their active faith came well before, and has lasted well after, their campaigns for president.

The perfect religious president may talk more or less about his or her own faith, but what they do say should be well thought out and pertinent. Here George W. Bush scores lower, because his comments on faith tended to come off as bungling and off-the-cuff. Ronald Reagan did not seem to be very active in his Christian commitment, but his comments about faith were often pitch-perfect, especially for an evangelical audience. Some have criticized Marco Rubio for being overly eager to speak about his faith, but few would question the effectiveness of his answer to this Iowa atheist.

The perfect religious president is judicious in the faith leaders he/she associates with. Think of the damage done to John McCain for receiving the endorsement of John Hagee, to Ted Cruz for having David Barton as his Super PAC leader, and to Donald Trump for buddying up with prosperity gospel preachers (check that – nothing damages Trump’s campaign, no matter how unseemly).

The perfect religious president speaks compellingly about the public issues that matter most to people of faith. For example, the highlight of Carly Fiorina’s campaign was her passionate condemnation of Planned Parenthood for what was revealed in the expose videos.

-Counter-intuitively, the perfect religious president need not be all that religious, if he/she will just be straightforward about their beliefs, and why they matter. If you’re not very religious, just tell us. Bernie Sanders has done well on this score, and I like his honesty more than that of some who “get religion” right before the Iowa caucuses.

Certainly evangelical Christians would prefer, all things being equal, to vote for a candidate of faith, rather than someone who is an agnostic or atheist. But we’re not electing a national pastor. On this issue, integrity matters most. If you can’t be honest and sincere about your faith, when will you tell the truth?

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  • kierkegaard71

    Of all the deep social, religious, moral, and economic problems perplexing America, I don’t think the idea that Ted Cruz associates with a man who thinks the US is a Christian nation is one of them. It matters for elites, not for regular, God-fearing people.

  • Mark Moore

    I would rather not have a religious president. I would prefer a president that looks at the evidence regarding whatever situation he is trying to handle.

  • RustbeltRick

    “The perfect religious president speaks compellingly about the public issues that matter most to people of faith.”

    That’s the tricky part. Ask a conservative and a liberal to name the top five national problems that need to be addressed and you’ll get wildly different lists. Or even if they stumble on a common topic (“education”), the solutions will be light years apart. I think we are increasingly following vastly different narratives as a culture, to the point that we’re nearly ungovernable. The perfect conservative president is a disaster for liberals. And vice versa.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Except what harm do liberal policies do to conservatives? Other than anger them that they aren’t winning the culture war? All of this anger at Obama, and besides the few that had to give up their POS health insurance plans, what actual negative effect has the policies the President supports had on their life? Their taxes haven’t gone up; job growth has been continual, vastly more have health insurance etc.

    Whereas conservative policies . . cutting education, gutting food stamps, cutting pollution controls, sending ground troops into Syria . . .affects the lives of millions of people in significantly negative ways. That is the kind of stuff people are upset about in the Bible . . .greed, war .. the big stuff; not BS culture war issues.

    And the fact that someone would likely reply to me and say they now worry about ISIS and it’s Obama’s fault . . shows the complete disconnect from reality the GOP base has.

  • RustbeltRick

    Agreed. The disconnect from reality is intentional and strategic and the result of a sophisticated misinformation effort. Getting so many to vote so often against their interests is both impressive and depressing.

  • cken

    A person of any faith even Hindu or Muslim could meet those qualifications. In 2012 evangelicals and senior citizens by not voting elected a Muslim leaning president rather than a Mormon. We all need to stop voting based on one or two social or religious issues.

  • RustbeltRick

    Obama is a Christian. His conversion to the faith has been detailed in his writings and in interviews.

  • cken

    Of course it is necessary or at least advantageous to be a Christian if you want to run for political office in the U.S. Based on his upbringing, his childhood indoctrination if you will, in his heart he is still a Muslim. I think statements and action while in office confirm that. So in my opinion his documented conversion is about as real as his birth certificate from a hospital that didn’t exist when he was born. But hey it doesn’t matter anymore we will soon be rid of him.

  • Paperboy_73

    I’d argue that his Presidency has been a direct reflection of his Christianity. His concern for the welfare of the poor and needy, his reluctance for war, his concern for good stewardship of the planet we were given. You may disagree politically with his means for accomplishing these ends, but they are undoubtedly aims which are consistent with Christ’s message.

  • cken

    Haven’t seen his concern for the poor and the needy. His reluctance for war was because he vowed never to raise a hand against his Muslim brothers. On an international basis he has made us look weak.

  • Jeff

    And yet he has repeatedly raised his hand against Muslims from day one.
    He authorized drone attacks that killed more Muslims (a great many of them innocent civilians) in his first four years in office than Bush’s drone attacks did in eight.
    He okayed the killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and his son overseas in what was most likely an illegal operation.
    I agree that he’s been a disappointment as a president (I think all of them in my lifetime have been disappointments), but it isn’t because he’s shown any deep concern for ‘his Muslim brothers’.
    It’s because he hasn’t shown any concern for much of anything other than being the anti-‘W’ to his liberal crowd.

  • Paperboy_73

    And Jesus definitely commanded that we should never look weak.

  • cken

    No He didn’t, but like dogma and creeds man dictated it.

  • Andrew Dowling

    The Obama Administration has killed thousands of Muslim fighters you truly have no idea what you are talking about . .

  • philipjenkins

    “Rid of him” unless of course he ends up on the US Supreme Court….

  • cken

    Won’t happen. It’s not his personality. He isn’t qualified. He would never get through the Senate.

  • Bonnetblue

    Should Obama be nominated for Supreme Court, he would then have to release all of his records that were sealed! Wouldn’t that be revealing!!1

  • Sven2S47

    He’s as Christian as a jihadi.

  • RustbeltRick

    The unhinged Obama hatred reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws, or of long conversations with my aging, paranoid father. Ah, good times. Thanks for stirring up the memories.

  • DanH

    Leftists. . . disagreement and disapproval are “hatred.” Any post they don’t like is a “rant,” the person is “unhinged.”

    It’s called “projection.” Because they hate anyone who disagrees with them, they assume the people they hate are just the same.

    Amazing that such people constantly congratulate themselves for being “tolerant” and “inclusive,” then in the next breath scream about the “hatred” of anyone who doesn’t think like them.

  • RustbeltRick

    The jihadi comment is fairly described as unhinged, yes.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Calling Obama a Muslim is not “disagreement” that’s called lying. Adhering to talk radio conspiracy theory drivel is not a “difference of opinion” because it’s not a valid viewpoint anymore than is declaring eggs come from cows.

  • Sven2S47

    Sure, glad to help.

  • philipjenkins

    This is meant as a genuine question, in search of an answer. I am anything but a fan of Obama, and agree with him on very little. But I don’t understand the source of the claims that he is a crypto-Muslim. As I understand it, he may have passed through a Muslim school in his childhood, but that in itself is no basis for claiming him as a secret Muslim today, or “Muslim leaning,” never mind a jihadi. (Please correct me on the school thing if I am wrong). Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. So what, if anything, is the source of these claims? I’m curious.

  • Sven2S47

    I didn’t say he was a Muslim. I said, “He’s as Christian as a jihadi” – meaning, he is not a Christian. I don’t think he has any religion at all, other than worship of self. Most politicians are like that, but he is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime.

  • Croquet_Player

    Obama drinks alcohol, eats pork, doesn’t wear a beard, had his children christianed as babies, married a Christian woman, attends church, and gave a strongly Christian-themed eulogy in public at a Christian church. Calling him a Mulslim isn’t just wrong, it’s utterly delusional. Try to get a grip on reality. Paranoia and outlandish conspiracy theories aren’t a good look on anyone.

  • http://twitter.com/cpmondello Corey Mondello

    Well at least he is not part of the American Taliban like Ted Cruz

  • Andrew Dowling

    “For example, the highlight of Carly Fiorina’s campaign was her
    passionate condemnation of Planned Parenthood for what was revealed in
    the expose videos.”

    You mean Fiorina’s shameless outright continual lying about the videos and what they contained? http://news.yahoo.com/carly-fiorina-continued-lie-planned-023400025.html

    You need to be honest and state that the faith of most Americans is shallow and aligns with their own political tribalism. Cruz’s victory speech last night was like a Hollywood caricature of your bible thumping Christian Coaltion-aligned politican from 20 years ago . . . “first off . . .all glory to God” . . audience goes nuts. My goodness . . that’s all it takes? “I’m on the Jesus team! Whoooooo!” . . ?

  • http://twitter.com/cpmondello Corey Mondello

    GW Bush a good Christian? U have got to be kidding