The Cottage on the Moor is a place where I'll keep a fire going on cold winter nights and a breeze flowing through the windows on steamy summer days. There will be a "cup of warm" waiting for you to stimulate your mind. I'll try to keep it fresh by adding something every now and then. So come often. I hope you find it worth your while.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
The Hazards of Political Ecumenism
Paul Ryan, in his acceptance
speech as the vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party chose to play
the “religion card.” Speaking of his and Mr. Romney’s faith, he said:
Mitt and I also go to different churches, but in any church, the best kind
of preaching is done by example, and I've been watching that example.
He went on to
Our faiths come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every
life, there is goodness, for every person there is hope. Each one of us was made
for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the lord of life.
reveal either a very shallow understanding of the two men’s faith communities
or an attempt to meld, for political purposes, two faith communities that hold
radically different creedal understandings. I suspect the statement is a blend
of both; ignorance on the part of Ryan about his Catholic and Romney’s Mormon heritage,
and a desire to placate a segment of the Republican Party that would like to be
assured that they are not deserting their fundamentalist “creeds” by supporting
those whom their forefathers labeled “Anti-Christ” in the case of the Roman
Catholic Church, and “cultic” in the case of the Mormon Church.
I want to say
very clearly that I do not believe either man’s religious affiliation
disqualifies him to be President of the United States. Article VI of the U. S.
Constitution declares, “. . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a
Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” So, until
we see fit to amend our Constitution in a way that reserves the right to hold
public office to people of certain faiths, it is the right of any natural born
citizen, thirty-five years of age or older, who has resided in the U.S. for 14
years to run for the office of President.
Many of the
people to whom I entrust my welfare – indeed my life – are people whose faith
traditions are different than mine; doctors, nurses, policemen, mechanics, food
servers, airline pilots . . . the list could go on and on. I feel no compulsion
to assure myself that all those who hold in their hands the power to preserve
my life or destroy it are Christians with the same “creedal understanding” that
I have. I could wish that all people were followers of Jesus Christ, and
worshipers of Yahweh God, but since that is not the case, and since it would
create world-wide havoc to attempt to make it the case by any means other than
persuasion, I accept the fact that there are millions of people whose faith differs
from mine, but who, nonetheless, can look on me with kindness and work for my wellbeing.
Why is it, then,
that so many feel they must, as Mr. Ryan attempted to do, show that, in matters
of faith we are all pretty much alike? Is he also willing to say that Mr.
Obama, though of a different political party, has essentially the same concern
for the wellbeing of our nation? Indeed, is he willing (or are those fundamentalists
who insist that all presidential candidates for their party be transformed into
“born again evangelicals” willing) to declare that his and Mr. Obama’s faiths “come
together in the same moral creed?”
Few of our founders would qualify for membership in a modern
Christian fundamentalist church. Many of them were openly skeptical of key
Christian doctrines held dear by “Bible believing Christians” of our day.
Still, they served their nation admirably for the most part. They understood
that religious divisions posed a great danger to the tranquility – perhaps even
the success – of our nation. And so they insisted that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a
Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” They had
faith that the American people, given the opportunity to assess the worth of a
candidate, would see in him or her, the moral character – or lack of it –
required to be a good leader. That moral character might come from a particular
religious upbringing or belief system, or it might spring from an agnostic or
even an atheistic background. In neither case should the source of one’s
beliefs qualify or disqualify them for public office; only the beliefs themselves.
Mr. Ryan is
wrong. His and Mr. Romney’s faiths do not “come together in the same moral
creed.” Any theologian of either of their churches will tell you that. I would
be at a loss to find any of the creedal
statements of the Christian Church that echo Mr. Ryan’s characterization of his
and Mr. Romney’s common creed:
. . . that in every life, there is goodness, for every person there is
hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of
the lord of life.
Further, as far as I can determine, the Mormon church is, like many evangelical and fundamentalist bodies, a
non-creedal church. One Mormon contributor to the Millennial
Star , a Mormon website expressed the Mormon position on creedal beliefs as
So, philosophy is not necessarily bad.
Doing theology isn’t necessarily bad. Creating creeds and dogmas IS bad, as it nails the coffin shut on receiving any
new light. (My emphasis.)
So what is my point? Simply this. We live in a religiously
diverse culture and nation. If we insist on blending our religious creeds and
belief systems – declaring them to be no different in essentials from each
other – for purposes as paltry as attracting votes to one candidate or another,
we are “casting our pearls before swine,” selling our “pearl of great price”
for a mere four (or eight) years of political power. No religion that takes
itself seriously would do that. It would be an admission that they have no
purpose in the world, that their “faith” is not a faith at all, but merely a
convenient gathering point for people of no particular faith.
Let us elect our leaders on the basis of their integrity and ideas
regardless of their religious affiliations. And let us continue to follow the
dictates of our hearts, unalloyed and uncorrupted by political aspirations,
honoring every man’s right to believe as he wishes until the sorting of creeds
and doctrines is accomplished by the God whom we profess to serve.