If you run on religious issues, then your religion is fair game. I am a secularist Orthodox Christian and I believe that a candidate for public office religious background is private, unless that candidate interjects it into the campaign. The problem I have with the Republican presidential candidates who are running on moral issues is that on the one hand they parade their religious convictions when it is convenient and when it causes uneasiness it is all of a sudden out of bounds. It reminds me of the Dick Cheney lesbian daughter deal, it is ok for Mr. Cheney to discuss the evils of homosexuality as long as it is someone else’s homosexuality, it is an invasion of privacy for someone to discuss his daughter’s sexual orientation.
Today, in the closing weeks before the Iowa caucus, Mr. Huckabee is energetically selling his religious credentials, saying voters should pick a candidate who speaks “the language of Zion” as a “mother tongue,” and running television commercials flashing the words “Christian Leader.” He talks eagerly about theology issues in political debates (displaying his TV-trained ability to speak in exact 45-second segments) and cites Scripture on the trail.
In Iowa, where he and Mr. Romney are locked in a tight race, Mr. Huckabee has capitalized on conservative Christian animosity toward Mormons, pointedly refusing to dispute the common evangelical characterization of Mormonism as a cult. NY Times
I placed this quote in the diary because to me it highlights this principle in two ways. First it shows how when it is convenient these candidates will seek to be the “great shepherd” of the flock as in Mr. Huckabee’s case, but then when that religion is questioned as in Mr. Romney’s case then it is off-limits. The other interesting part of this quote is how it depicts heart of the modern evangelical movement in America, Mr. Huckabee is willing to cannibalize another “so-called” Christian for his own political gain. The old my God is bigger than your God mentality. Instead of using his soapbox to promote tolerance and unity of the Church, he is accepting of intolerance and bigotry within the body. If Mr. Huckabee is so willing to sacrifice a fellow Christian in the primaries what will he do in the Oval Office?
For better or for worse, we live in a secular society. The founders of this nation insured that it would be, so technically what an individual candidate’s religious affiliation is should be private. I believe that it is important to know what a candidate does or does not believe, but that belief should not qualify nor disqualify anyone for office. The problem is when you make religion and moral values campaign issues you do more to divide the country than to unite it. We do not have a state Church, nor do we have a monolithic religious body. Instead we have more different denominations and religious orders than any country in the world, so when one group comes along and claims supreme truth it tends to alienate the other groups. This may be fine for the individual group, but when you are running to lead all the groups it can be problematic.
If we have learned anything from the “compassionate conservatism” of George Bush, it should be that what a person says in public is irrelevant in comparison to what he does in private. Too often those who espouse their religious convictions publically are having a difficult time adhering to them privately. We all want to be judged on what we say and not on what we do. It is easy for candidates to espouse certain values publically (Larry Craig) and yet live a completely different way. I don’t really care what you say, I do care what you do. There seems to be this disconnect between speech and actions and it is not just confined to Republicans, they just seem to be better at it.
In his “Kennedy moment” Mr. Romney made the following quote, which I find terribly misleading and self-serving.
“I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith, nor should he be rejected because of his faith,” Mr. Romney told the invited audience at the at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Tex. NY Times
The truth of the matter is Mr. Romney, yes you do define your campaign in religious terms and so to come out now that your religion is being questioned and say otherwise is a lie. When you campaign as a religious conservative and court that voting block then you are casting your campaign in a religious light. It’s funny how when he was leading in the polls he did not find it necessary to divorce his religion from his candidacy, but as soon as he begins to fade now he wants to be treated as a secular politician. I’m sorry sir, you can’t have it both ways.
It seems that once again Mr. Romney wants to reinvent and recast himself to gain political traction. Mr. Romney has no trouble creating himself into whatever he thinks will get him elected. I would have more respect for him if he remained true to his core beliefs, but with these guys they have no core beliefs to remain true to. It is all about getting elected at whatever cost.
From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth; from the laziness that is content with half-truths; from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth – oh God of Truth deliver us!- Unknown