In my most recent column, I lamented Gov. Mitt Romney yielding to pressure from some religious circles to reassure them that his Mormon faith wouldn’t taint his policies as president, in his speech “Faith in America.” There are more problems with this topic.Romney made this statement in his speech: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.” This was, apparently, meant to appease those who don’t consider Mormons Christians. But in making this “clarification,” Romney legitimized the very religious test he said he was refusing to make elsewhere in his speech. People of other faiths couldn’t make this statement.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is Jewish, can’t make this statement. Muslim Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) can’t make this statement. Indeed, the Qur’an explicitly disavows this Christian tenet: “And they say, ‘The All-merciful has taken unto himself a son.’ You have indeed advanced something hideous! The heavens are wellnigh rent of it and the earth split asunder, and the mountains wellnigh fall down crashing for that they have attributed to the All-merciful a son; and it behoves not the All-merciful to take a son.” (XIX: 91-93, Arberry’s translation.)May I presume that for those who required of Gov. Romney that he declare Jesus as the Son of God, that they would under no circumstances vote for Rep. Ellison (should he run for President), regardless of his policy proposals and evidence of his character and abilities? And likewise, would they under any circumstances vote for a Hindu, a Sikh, a Zoroastrian, a Buddhist, a pagan, or, for that matter, an agnostic or an atheist? Although the Constitution bars a relgious test for office, voters are under no obligation to follow suit, as is evident in the Romney case.
“What, vote for an atheist? Impossible! Only religion guarantees the proper character necessary to hold public office! And only Christianity specifically!” This is the criterion that Romney supported in his speech, even if indirectly. Yet, if we examine the issue closely, we can see that this test doesn’t actually provide evidence of anything useful. If we were to survey every elected official in the United States, from local boards of education to the White House, wouldn’t most of them affirm what Romney affirmed? So why does, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind” qualify anyone for public office? The most exemplary public servants, as well as those thrown in jail or expelled from office for various misdeeds — almost all make the same claim. So what does it tell us? By itself, nothing. I have met many people who believe Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of mankind. They’re a very diverse bunch; some I get along with very well, some I’d rather not deal with. Therefore, making the above declaration means nothing by itself. Indeed, some of the most Christian people I’ve met rarely make statements about their faith. “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” (Matt. 7:16) and I do.
I have also met people of other faiths, and no faith at all, and I’ve never found their declarations of faith — if they made any — to tell me anything about their character or my ability to get along with them. “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20) So don’t tell me things that mean nothing by themselves. I’ll vote for you based on your policies, your proven abilities and whatever I can see of your character. Those things tell me what I need to know about what you believe.