“I’d rather be ruled by a wise Turk than by a foolish Christian,â€ so goes the saying wrongly attributed to Martin Luther, 1 a saying that’s not too far removed from the present presidential pursuit of Republican Mitt Romney, a Mormon. Would Romney be a wise “Turk,” a ruler wiser than the other “Christian” candidates?
A number of evangelical leaders have recently endorsed Romney’s candidacy, but there are also many who say they won’t vote for a Mormon because his religion is a cult. Richard Land, a prominent Southern Baptist official, says that he needs to assure evangelicals that his Mormon religion would not dictate his administration’s policies if he wants their support. National Review says that he needs to refocus voters away from his religion with a major policy speech just as John Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, did in 1960.
Should my vote then as an evangelical be based on a candidate’s view, for instance, of the hypostatic union or justification? Jordan J. Ballor of The Acton Institute, in a well-balanced analysis of this issue, says no, and concludes that “evangelicals would do well…. to judg[e] all political candidates not firstly on their religious creed but on the soundness of their view of the role of civil government.” Still, Joel Belz of World Magazine says he’s not persuaded that Romney would tell the truth because his “religious upbringing, of all things, suggests that the truth is a negotiable commodity.”
Ballor contends that the criteria for choosing a president should not be his religious beliefs, but rather his loyalty to the rule of law according to the American Constitution, such that he would not “threaten to undermine or destroy the proper exercise of [American] government.” Thus, a Communist, a neo-Nazi, or a Muslim would not qualify as president because the fundamental tenets of these three candidates are contrary to the Declaration of Independence’s “inalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and to the Constitutional guarantee of the freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition. But would a Mormon be disqualified as well using this criteria?
Republicans have less than three months to decide whether to make Romney their nominee. Should they do, the rest of the nation has about a year to ponder the question of who would be a better civil magistrate: “a wise Mormon” or “a foolish Christian”? (No, I’m not implying at all that the Democratic nominee would be “a foolish Christian”!)
Would the religion of a president have any bearing on his policies? If so, can you think of specific examples of religious doctrine that would affect a president’s government policy?
- Contrary to this misinformation, Luther was very concerned about Islamic rule, â€œI would very much regret the rule of the Turk; indeed, his rule would be intolerable in Germanyâ€ (Lutherâ€™s Works, vol. 46, p.| 198). ↩