Faith and the 2012 Presidential Candidates
Voters in swing states like Virginia and North Carolina might already know that the dates of the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention are quickly approaching. In anticipation of these two events, the National Cathedral in Washington has published a piece in its quarterly magazine regarding the faith of prospective presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Story found here.
When dealing with the respective faiths of anyone running for public office, it is necessary to lay some ground rules. When addressing the religious beliefs of a political candidate, it is necessary to remember that the Constitution strictly forbids the requirement of a religious test. Section VI, paragraph 3 reads
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
While intrinsically religion has nothing to do with how well an individual governs, analyzing someone’s faith can be an excellent way to see how he or she reasons through problems. The President of the United States certainly has to deal with a number of problems on a daily basis. Someone’s faith can both help and hinder their ability to take on the enormous power and responsibility of the position.
Rather than scrutinize Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s answers for theological inconsistencies, I believe the candidates’ response to one particular question should help best frame how each candidate understands their faith within their moral decision-making process.
What is your favorite passage of Scripture, prayer, or other words of wisdom?
Certainly one could criticize boiling the faith of an individual down to their favorite passage of Scripture, but I believe it shows the pulse of where and how an individual understands their place in life. Ask this question to any number of college students, and I believe you would find that quite a few select Jeremiah 29:11 — it speaks and resonates with them as they make important life decisions.
President Obama responded to the question with Isaiah 40:31 and Psalm 46.
31But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
How should voters see these words informing the character and moral reasoning of the President of the United States they desire to see in the White House? Do these words embody the type of person the United States needs in office? If yes, do you see these words embodied in President Obama? Do the policies and actions of President Obama reflect the moral reasoning of these passages?
Governor Romney answered the question selecting a passage from the Gospel of Matthew (specifically 25:35-36, context provided).
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
How should voters see these words informing the character and moral reasoning of the President of the United States they desire to see in the White House? Do these words embody the type of person the United States needs in office? If yes, do you see these words embodied in Governor Romney? Do the policies and actions of Governor Romney reflect the moral reasoning of this passage?
As voters begin to make up their minds, hopefully these questions will help voters think about the relationship between the candidates’ faith and policy.