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03 January 2012

FollowUp 1: Robert Jeffress Mixing Church and State

Fox News yesterday featured an opinion column by Mr. Jeffress.  The title, Now Is Not the Time for Evangelical Voters to Settle, gives us the first hint that Mr. Jeffress has Fox assisting in his mixture of church and state.  He complains that too many participants in the Republican contests in Iowa and New Hampshire are looking first to who can defeat President Obama.
That approach puts voters in the uncomfortable the position of having to choose the least among evils when it comes to the three front runners at this date. And that’s a sorry lot to choose from.
One is a Mormon candidate who has been all over the map in his beliefs about abortion and same-sex marriage. Another is a Southern Baptist-turned-Catholic with three wives, two divorces, and numerous accusations of immorality who has been equally inconsistent when it comes to key issues. And then there’s the Baptist obstetrician with weird ties to neo-Nazis and anti-Semites, not to mention a foreign policy approach which blames the United States for the 9/11 terror attacks.
If one drops the references to specific religions, these would be okay talking points for a Democratic perspective.  With the religions in place Mr. Jeffress continues to misunderstand the way most of us consider politics, by issues and character not by religious labels.  If religion must come first, perhaps one should think of moving to a theocracy.
Although I personally endorsed Texas Governor Rick Perry in October, I would never attempt to tell my congregation for whom they should vote. Thoughtful people can make up their own minds.
Still, I do think there are some important points that evangelical voters should keep in mind as we move into the thick of the primary season. The first – and this is good news – is that we are not at the end of the shopping season, but the beginning of a long process designed to produce a palatable candidate at its end. While it seems like the campaign has been going forever, in reality it is just getting started.
So, thoughtful people can make up their own minds ... with a little push from Mr. Jeffress.  A long primary season.  Political pundits will have lots of material, particularly given the periodic revelations and gaffes that the Republican contenders have been displaying.
I would suggest that voters—especially evangelical Christians—follow a more principled approach in choosing the next occupant of the White House. We should be looking for the most competent, consistently conservative Christian with character.
Both President Obama and all Republican candidates meet the competence threshold. But this coming election is about more than just competence --a criterion which is highly subjective. -- It’s also about character and ideology and the future direction our country.
It should surprise no one that I believe the ideal candidate should be a Christian. That is not because I am a pastor, but because ours has traditionally been a Christian nation. Christianity has served America well. Even John Jay, the nation’s first Chief Justice and co-author of "The Federalist Papers," wrote, “It is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
The United States is not a Christian nation.  There were undoubtedly several of the Founding Fathers who were in favor of a Christian nation, but they were in a minority.  The evidence for my statement is the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams and ratified by a unanimous Senate in 1797.
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
I am Jewish and every President that I have voted for, whether or not the candidate won, has been a Christian.  That doesn't bother me.  The call to require that the President be a Christian does bother me.  I do not support Mr. Romney, but not because he is a Mormon ... because he has been saying that he is opposed to equality.

Regarding Chief Justice John Jay, he was opposed to Catholics holding office.  He also believed that Christian presidents would not start wars.  One can argue the merits of our only Catholic president to date, but I don't belief his religion would be a germane topic.  We have seen many of our Christian presidents start wars, notably the 43rd President who chose to go to war with Iraq while already fighting a war in response to an attack on our mainland.

I don't believe that a president of a different religion would be necessarily better or worse.  There are too many who agree with Mr. Jeffress that we should only have Christian presidents for one of any faith to win for a long time to come.  We can certainly use better criteria than the preachings from any religious pulpit.

13 October 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.

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