Obama, Romney and a Conservative Evangelical Counter-Cult Expert

Photo by ilmungo on Flickr

I love politics.

I grew up in Sacramento, CA running the halls of the State Capitol Building where my mother worked for various legislators for nearly 25 years. I still have aunts, uncles and friends who are heavily involved in politics and I have always believed that public service is honorable calling. The intricacies of the system, the importance of relationships, the development of strategies and the struggle to find common vision has always been inspiring and exciting to me. Sure, I lament the fact that distrust seems to be the default opinion of politicians and, yes, politics can be excruciatingly frustrating. But in the end, the beauty of our democratic system is that it holds in tension the great diversity of our country as we strive to peacefully move forward as one body.

So, as you can imagine, I also love Presidential election season.

And yes, I am a Christian.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an intriguing article by a fellow Patheos writer, Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary. In his article, Why This Conservative Evangelical Counter-Cult Expert Will Vote for Romney, he addresses a question that I’ve wondered about since Mitt Romney, a Mormon, won the right to face President Barack Obama in the 2012 Presidential Election, “Who will Conservative Evangelical Christians vote for?”

Now I am not surprised that he comes down on the side of Romney. As he stipulates, Romney is a not a principled conservative and since I don’t think Obama has endeared himself to many Conservative Evangelicals over this first four years, there is prob not much of a chance that Obama will see an increase in the Conservative Evangelical vote. Still, Romney is a Mormon and there are many who think this is bad. As Groothuis says…

However, Mormonism as Mormonism is heretical. No one should be a Mormon. It is “another gospel” (see Gal. 1:6-11). I learned this in 1977, when, as a young Christian, I read Walter Martin’s modern classic, Kingdom of the Cults. Nothing since has convinced me to the contrary.

And clearly he sees President Obama much differently than I…

Obama, while not a Mormon, has no credible Christian testimony. Consider his twenty-year membership in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s racist, ultra-liberal, Nation-of-Islam-supporting church. Ponder his stance on abortion and same-sex marriage . . . Obama is far more sympathetic to Islam than he is to Christianity. I did not say that Obama was a Muslim, but that he is deferent to Islam and seems oblivious (or indifferent) to the dangers of Sharia law (see Robert Spencer’s Stealth Jihad). This is urgent, since Sharia law is already being implemented on American soil.

Safe to say that Professor Groothuis and I have probably never voted for the same presidential candidate. Still, there are some arguments in his article with which I deeply resonate. He challenges the strategy of opting out of the voting process as some kind of protest, he claims fundamental differences between the two two parties and he calls people to use their faith as a lens through which they exercise their political power. The part of the article, however, that really convicted me was his perspective on the office of President and the role of religion in government.

If Romney is elected president, it would give Mormonism a platform it has never enjoyed before. That is bad, very bad. However, the president is neither Theologian-in-Chief nor Pastor-in-Chief. He is Commander-in-Chief. Moreover, Mormons have every right the Constitution affords our citizens, and conservative Christians can and should be co-belligerents with Mormons (and others) in political causes. Ecumenism religiously is another matter entirely.

So while I vehemently disagree with most, if not all, of his assertions about the nature of the Christian faith, the Democratic party and President Obama, I very much agree with his overall understanding of the relationship between personal faith and the political process: the United States is not a church and the President not a Pastor.

Church and State must be kept separate, but faith and politics must be held in tension.

So for those who disagree with folks like Professor Groothuis about where our country should head I would offer the same kind of arguments about why you should vote for President Obama:

  • Voting is our civic duty;
  • Opting out of the process is a waste;
  • There is a difference between the core principles of the two parties;
  • Obama is better than the alternative;

I close with one last quote from Professor Groothuis’ article.

But we should remember that politics is not the church. It is the art of the possible. Often we must choose the lesser of two evils, which is also the evil of two lessers. We reside in a fallen world. Get over it . . . You are not appointing a pastor but voting for a president. A vote is neither a letter of reference, nor an unqualified endorsement, nor an act of worship. A vote is the exercise of the franchise, one part you play in our Republican form of government. It is a right, a responsibility, and a privilege that should not be squandered.

On this I couldn’t agree more.

Obama/Biden 2012

A Dad’s Response to the Killing of Osama Bin Laden

A few days ago when it was announced that  Osama Bin Laden had been killed, I, like many others, found myself torn. On one hand, there was great relief that this person, a symbol and perpetrator of destruction and violence had met his demise; and, on the other hand, there was great discomfort with the triumphalist celebrations that were happening all around the country.

Facebook and twitter were blowing up with opinions about Bin Laden’s death and the consequent celebrations . . . and not far behind those were the opinions ABOUT the opinions. Understandably passions were running high and the tone quickly became a little ugly. I am sure that I did not help when at one point I twittered and facebooked

I hope someone soon has the courage to give a nuanced Christian response to Bin Laden’s death that adresses enemies, revenge and hate.

After a tracking the online conversations for a while it became clear to me that I was simply not ready to offer anything meaningful or that it was time to attempt to do so, so I ended the night with this tweet,

While not always my intuitive response, I think I will choose silence and sleep . . . for now.

But then the next morning, as the news was playing in the background – on ESPN mind you – my seven-year-old daughter asked me “Daddy, why are those people cheering that someone was killed?” Doh. It’s times like these that this pastor, who happens to be a father, would really like punt in my direction as so many other parents had done in the past, “That’s a good question, maybe you should go ask our pastor.” Chickens.

Far from that nuanced response that I had hoped for, here is what I basically said, “Well sweetie, do you remember us talking about the World Trade Centers in New York being destroyed by the airplanes and a lot of people were killed? The person who played a big roll in that, and probably planned the whole thing, was killed by the United States. There are many people that are really glad that he is dead and will not be able to hurt anyone else. There are also many people who think he got was he deserved for killing so many people. Some people are REALLY happy and this is how they are showing it.”

The look on her face made it clear that my heart was not in it as I explained the situation. She would be correct. Intellectually, psychologically and socially, I get why the celebrations took place, but it was clear that I did not agree. My wife summed up what I was feeling, when she tweeted,

I cannot celebrate the killing of another human, no matter who that is.

Again, I know that Bin Laden’s death was, in many ways, inevitable and that there is still a great deal of pent up rage and fear about what happened nearly 10 years ago. But, even so, in my gut, no matter the evil, responding to such result in the way that so many did, took away from the gravity of what originally happened. When someone is brought to justice after such a heinous act, I simply do not believe that rejoicing as if we just won the World Series is the way to respond. Relief for the end of one part of a painful story and remembering those lost sure, but not dancing in the streets.

I simply think we must be better than that.

I also know that emotions are high about this and there are assumptions made about anyone who dares to state an opinion. But if we are to get anywhere as a society, we must all keep living what we believe to be true and right, especially during times like these. Taking the higher road in times of conflict and being gracious in the face of evil are important postures that I hope my children embrace and live. I am glad they felt uneasy watching the celebrations over the killing of Osama Bin Laden, because in my opinion we all should have.

Please be sure to check out my Facebook status update for more responses.