What role does your faith play in determining who you vote for for president of the United States? What role should a candidate’s faith play in determining his or her fitness for office?
Our country is just about three months away from conducting a presidential election. The Republican National Convention begins next week and the Democratic one the week after. Once again, we Christians begin asking the hard questions about politics and faith.
A majority of Americans believe it important that the president be a religious individual. Though the United States Constitution sates, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” this only prohibits federal and state governments (and presumably local governments as well) from requiring persons holding public office to hold particular religious beliefs. This does not prohibit individual voters from taking a candidate’s religious beliefs into account when making a decision about whom they will vote for.
In fact, a candidate’s religious beliefs and practices, are very important for a voter to consider. My sense of this is based upon my own experience of how my faith affects the decisions I make and how I live my life. Nearly every decision I make is somehow shaped by my desire to follow Jesus Christ and by the things that he taught.
So, what do we know about the faiths of Mitt Romney and President Obama? Both men claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. President Obama came to faith and was baptized in a United Church of Christ (UCC). The UCC is a mainline Protestant denomination. I have several friends who have spoken with the President about his faith, and they contend that his faith in Christ is authentic and an important part of his life.
Mitt Romney comes from the Mormon tradition. In several areas Mormon theological convictions differ from mainstream Christianity but they share in common with mainstream Christianity a desire to follow Jesus Christ. My experience with most Mormons I've met is that they are, like mainstream Christians, earnest in their desire to follow Jesus.
My point is this: to the degree that each of these men is seeking to follow Jesus Christ they will seek to love God and neighbor. They will long to “do justice, and to love kindness,/ and to walk humbly with…God” (Micah 6:8). And they will seek to do unto others as they would done unto themselves. Both President Obama and candidate Romney claim these basic convictions and practices.
What I'm anxious to see, during the campaign this fall, is how each of these men applies the ethical convictions and highest ideals of their faith to the issues facing us as a nation.