Sunday, September 2, 2012

Politics, Peril, and Pastoral Integrity

The candidacy of Mitt Romney presents a unique challenge to conservative Christians in general and members of the clergy in particular. As a conservative who first got politically active during Ronald Reagan's re-election campaign (I was 14) and has followed politics and been active to various degrees since then, I do not want to see Barack Obama re-elected.  While not my first choice, Mitt Romney is the nominee and is the first Mormon become the candidate of a major party and as such, questions will be asked about his religion. I have no doubt that Romney is a good, moral, and decent man, a loving father, and a smart businessman. I'd be happy to have him as a next door neighbor -- the same is true of most Mormons whom I have known through the years -- many of whom I count as friends. I have used the Family Research Center at the Latter-day Saints church in Charleston and have found it full of information with a friendly and helpful staff.

Almost exactly two years ago Glenn Beck -- also a practitioner of the Mormon religion --  assembled his Restoring Honor Rally on the National Mall in Washington. The Rev'd Dr. Russell Moore wrote the best Christian response to that event, "God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck" and I wrote a couple of blog posts as well, which you can view here and here. Most of what Moore and I wrote about Beck also extends to Mitt Romney. Over the next few months the temptations to suggest that Mormonism and the orthodox Christianity are compatible will be great for conservative Christians who are inclined to support Romney -- one certainly doesn't want to stir up controversy about one's own candidate -- and those of us who are ordained will likely be asked about Mormonism. The temptation to portray them as just another branch of Christianity will be considerable.

It's imperative that Christians -- and especially clergy -- not yield to that temptation, even if we support Governor Romney. In a day when fuzzy theology dominates greater clarity is needed. This doesn't mean that a Christian ipso facto shouldn't support a Mormon candidate for President? No, but it does mean that when the subject arises we do not need to gloss over the very real differences that exist. Particularly as a priest, I will one day stand before God and give account as to how faithfully I proclaimed His Word and shepherded His flock; I will not be asked how faithfully I supported any party's nominee. Ultimately no election is worth compromising the Christian faith.

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