Are you struggling with whom you are going to vote for in November? Are you being tempted to simply just stay home and not vote because you can’t vote for the incumbent, and you can’t bring yourself to cast a ballot for a Mormon?
Yesterday, Baptist Press ran an excellent article summarizing the crucial conversation held at yesterday morning’s chapel at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The panel was called The Mormon Moment?: Religious Conviction and the 2012 Election, and the article on it from Baptist Press was called “Panel asks: Can Christians vote for a Mormon?” The actual panel from SBTS is below for you to watch. Please watch it! I’ve also included the entirety of the Baptist Press article below in italics. Please, please read it!! If you only have time for the video or the article, read the article.
“Panel asks: Can Christians vote for a Mormon?”
–Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press, with reporting by Craig Sanders of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.–
Addressing an issue on the minds of many evangelical voters as a Mormon runs for president, a Baptist seminary panel said Tuesday that evangelicals must jettison — for the good of their faith — the idea that the White House occupant must be a “religious mascot” for Christianity.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted the panel discussion, less than two months before American voters will choose between President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who is Mormon.
|“We are going to have to give up — on both sides — the idea of president as religious mascot.”
“I heard someone in recent days say, ‘I would never vote for anyone who is not an authentically professing evangelical Christian,'” said Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary. “Well, if that’s the case, then as far as I can see, you have about three candidates in the last 100 years or so … that you could possibly vote for: William Jennings Bryan, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.
“The question is not John 3:16 in terms of reading the regeneration of the person’s heart,” Moore said. “The question is Romans 13: Does this person have the kind of wisdom to bear the sword on behalf of God’s authority that He has granted to the state? And can I trust that person to protect society? That’s the fundamental question.”
American Christians too often, said seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., have seemingly assigned a “priestly role” to the White House, hoping the president will represent and promote the Christian faith. But that is a uniquely American idea, Mohler said, and unhealthy for Christianity.
“I had a pastor say to me, ‘You just can’t be faithful and vote for someone who represents such things or believes such things [as Mormons believe],'” Mohler said. “And I said, ‘What if you’re a Christian in Utah? Do you just not vote? What if your decision is between two Mormon candidates?’
“Throughout most of Christian history, folks haven’t struggled with this question because they didn’t have the luxury of struggling with it. … The separation of the priestly role from government is something that has to happen in the minds of American evangelicals,” Mohler said, warning against viewing government as an idol.
Moore agreed, saying U.S. Christians have been guilty of trying to Christianize American history.
“So many evangelicals want to go back and claim Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and John Adams as orthodox, evangelical Christians,” Moore said. “The problem with that [is that] Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were great men who did fantastic things for our country, but once you start claiming them as orthodox evangelical Christians, you’re not elevating those men, you’re downgrading the Gospel into something that fits whatever they happen to hold. And you wind up with [modern-day] politicians who learn the language of evangelical faith in order to use it, in order to manipulate people into supporting them.”
The four-member panel said Americans on multiple occasions have elected candidates who did not hold to evangelical beliefs. Among them were Unitarian William Howard Taft and Catholic John F. Kennedy.
“We went through this back in the ’60s with John Kennedy,” said Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Seminary. “They thought, ‘Oh, if we elect a Catholic, then the Pope will just have a hotline and tell him exactly what to do.'”
The panel, though, said evangelicals still face tough questions about potentially electing a Mormon for president — mainly whether a Mormon president would boost the image of Mormonism around the world.
“How do we think of that in terms of world missions?” Mohler asked. “How do we think about this in terms of missions on Third Avenue in Louisville, Ky.?”
Greg Gilbert, pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., said it’s a “difficult question.” Mormonism clearly isn’t part of orthodox, historical Christianity, panelists said.
“It may not be a kind of atomic moment where the whole nation wakes up and thinks, ‘Oh, I like Mitt Romney’s tax policies; I’m going to take a look at the Mormon church,'” Gilbert said. “I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen.”
Instead, Gilbert said, a Romney president would give Mormonism more “respectability.” In that scenario, Gilbert said, it would become “increasingly important” for Christians “to clarify” the differences between orthodox, historical Christianity and Mormonism.
Mohler said he hopes Christian voters will think with deep theological concern and receive guidance from their pastors to help them make sound decisions.
Said Gilbert, “This is an educational moment for evangelicals, and it could turn out to be a healthy thing for the church if they can learn to think more carefully about how to agree with a person’s policies while disagreeing with his theological beliefs.”
Moore said the Bible includes multiple stories of how God uses non-believers for His good. Among them is Persian King Cyrus, who allowed the Jews to return to Israel following their captivity.
The question Christians should ask, Moore said, is: “Between these two people — President Obama and Gov. Romney — who is going to do the best for the common good and in protecting the United States of America and all the other questions that we’ve got to keep in mind.”
Moore added, “We are going to have to give up — on both sides — the idea of president as religious mascot.”
An Obama-Romney campaign, Moore said, is a “good thing for American evangelicals.”
“It enables us to simultaneously honor the king,” he said, alluding to 1 Peter 2:17, “and to boldly proclaim the Gospel — in a way that we see happening all through the Book of Acts. We are able to love and pray for President Obama while we disagree with him on life and religious liberty and marriage and some really important things. …
“And if a President Romney is elected, we’re the people who ought to be able to say, ‘We respect and honor this man as president. We’re able to … serve with this man as president, and we’re the people who are willing to — if we’re invited into the Oval Office — say, ‘President Romney, here’s where we agree with you; here’s what we like about what you’re doing. And we sincerely want to plead with you to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Closing out the discussion, Mohler reminded attendees: “Above all we have a Gospel responsibility, that we are first and foremost citizens of the heavenly Kingdom and our concern is that others will become a part of the Kingdom through the proclamation of the Gospel.”
To read the article at the Baptist Press site, click here.
I’m really interested in what you think about this whole thing. Please feel free to log a comment below so that others may be helped in how you are thinking this through in your mind. May you vote and vote well!
I have, for many years, been troubled as I have listened to politicians and their followers speak about God from their point of view. Most have talked about prayer and a belief in God, but have not really exhibited what I would call serious, fundamental Christianity. Some, in spite of this, have served quite admirably as president of the United States. So, my question is, does it really demand that that a person be a practicing, devout Christian to be president?
Personally, my answer is, maybe not. It is not a high-priestly position. It is not pastoral. He is not depended upon to be the national evangelist. I am glad of that because, frankly, none that I am aware of have been and I have lived during the lifetimes of presidents from FDR until now. Some have made more sense, in my opinion, when they have spoken about their convictions than others, but I can’t say that any have really demonstrated what it appears some want out of a president and that is to be a spiritual leader in addition to a leader in administrative areas, etc.
I also would say that being a Christian doesn’t necessarily qualify anyone to be president either. I, as are many of you, am a conservative, Bible-believing Christian. I am thankful for that and although I say this very carefully, I am proud of the cross of Christ and His grace extended to me. Having said that, however, I am not remotely qualified to lead a nation with the complexity of the USA. My personal family is a challenge to me.
Therefore, again in my opinion, there are issues of philosophy and morals and ideas of freedoms and life in general that make a big difference in how I plan to vote. Although I will not vote for Mr. Romney because he is a Mormon, I will not vote against Mr. Obama just because I think he is a Muslim. There is, however, a great divide between them in what they think of life (i.e.: abortion, etc.), individual freedoms and a series of other issues that will make me say that I could vote for a Mormon if the situation demanded it. I will not stay at home and not vote, so I have a decision to make and I will.
I will not, in this response, tell you who that may be, but trust me when I say that I will vote for one or the other and it cannot be because I think either of them will be our spiritual leader (they won’t be).
Just as an aside, Ben, if you want to talk about this personally, I will talk with you and maybe even reveal who I will be voting for if you are interested. I will vote with no shame, but with great prayer and supplication for the man who wins regardless of how it turns out. I always have and will continue to do so.
Most excellent point of view, Bro Bill! Thanks for jumping in with your insight!
I think this article makes a great point. While Romney may not be a Christian, at least his morals align with those of evangelical Christians which may help guide his decisions.
First of all my King and my Prince of Peace is Christ Jesus so I have won my election at some 9-10 years old or so when I was saved.
The article does make a good point but there to I feel obligated to try to be more like Christ Jesus in a rightous
way. Jesus was perfect and I am not. I know only the words Romney says is more on a Christian view point. What he would do if elected is to be seen. I can not judge him as Christian or un Christian.
Abortion of living birth, not keeping Gods comandments, A non Christian lifestyle is not the teachings Jesus left us with when he asended in the clouds.
May we all cast our vote in what we consider pleasing to God.