Thursday, December 13, 2007

Render Unto Ceasar

I have a serious problem with the ultimate credibility of both Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, which has nothing to do with their politics. It's with what both claim to inform and shape their politics, their faith.

Both are more than willing to cite the importance of the Bible, and both are proud of their significant religious ordinations; both are hold ordinations in their respective faiths, and Romney is the equivalent of a Christian Bishop.

Furthermore, it seems to me that any fair-minded person, in reviewing the accomplishments of both men, which are honestly significant and important, than it's evident that they have, within the limits of human nature and circumstance - strived to honor the spirit as well as the letter of doctrinal guidance. These are not bad things. Indeed, in many ways, both men illustrate the impact of religious culture in society in it's best light - and I say this while taking direct issue with much of what each stands for, religiously and politically.

But if we are to praise men of faith who do their best to honor the words of Christ as they understand them in the world, we must heed Matthew 6:24 :

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

In context, Matthew chapter six is purportedly the direct words of Christ and is indisputably the foundation of some of the oldest and most basic Christian doctrines. In other words, it's pretty much a litmus test for people who say they are Christians, or (in Mitt's case) that their faith derives from and amplifies Christianity.

While my understanding of Mormonism is weak at best, I know of nothing in it that would dispute this passage. And aside from anything else, the words stand for themselves; they are persuasive due to them being a matter of common sense, one that is well understood within common law, which would express it as "conflict of interest."

If this were the only leg to my argument, though, it would not be worth uttering, for of course the issue goes to motive, and motive we cannot know. No, the more critical issue is this:

Both men, in taking direct ordinations and embracing certain spiritual obligations and duties, have accepted what is generally understood by persons of faith to be a higher, overriding duty. And - in the case of BOTH Mitt's Mormonism and Mike's Southern Baptist faith, there are going to be times when it will not be possible to come to an honorable compromise between the prior charge of the priesthood and the later oath of office.

The only way either could legitimately take the oath would be by renouncing their prior ordinations. But then, that would not really reflect well upon how seriously they took the duties and obligations they had sworn before their visions of God to uphold.

It seems to me that as things stand, the only way I can assume that either will "faithfully execute the office of the President" is if I assume that they were keeping their fingers crossed when they made their earlier promises, for the honorable exercise of their offices requires them to put the interests of the faithful and of their faith ahead of anything else, to a far greater and more stringent degree than is required of someone who is merely a congregate in good standing.

If I assume they are both men of faith to the degree I am expected to believe, if I assume they are sincere in their beliefs, if I assume they are faithful to their various religious doctrines which both claim overriding divine authority, I must then assume that in conscience and in practice that doctrine and faith will trump Constitution and Law every single time. And, as both support amending the constitution itself to take rights away from gays who are doctrinally excluded from marriage within either faith, we clearly see how this conflict resolves for each.

I don't ascribe this to some nefarious hidden agenda, I ascribe it to perfectly sincere faith, executed by men of conscience to the best of their ability. Believing as they both do, there is no other path of conscience.

Which means, alas, that neither man should, in conscience, be running for political office, knowing full well that they cannot and must not serve two masters.

The only question is this: which one will they choose to betray?

The President must be president for all citizens - not just citizens of a particular faith or range of faiths. The President is the safeguard of our liberties - not the figure that would impose duties upon us by fiat. We are offered two men from two very authoritarian religions who, we must assume, believe not only that it's proper that moral standards be imposed, but who each hold offices that make them responsible for doing just that.

I'd have a problem with that even if I were a member of such a faith - and I rather think that my objections would be even more profound if I held a similar ordination in a similar faith.

That is why the founders somewhat reluctantly agreed that there should be a separation of Church and State and forbade the establishment of any religion, even the rather inoffensive Deist faith.

Because a man may not serve two masters - and neither may a government.

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James R MacLean said...

I'm really impressed by the wisdom and insight of your posts. I've just spent a couple of hours reading your site, and man, it is really, really a refreshing pool of good ideas.

I consider myself to be a religious person, although I don't regularly attend church. I have a problem with insisting on a belief system that purports to describe the whole of reality. Such a thing cannot exist, and it occurs to me that the idea that such a thing could exist is a form of solipsism.

Bob King said...


I agree, adding that such a description would BE the thing. Of course, that leads us to bemused consideration of Genisis 1:1 at a higher and more sophisticated level of incomprehension.


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